A 5 Minute Theology of Home Decor

Alison Mitchell | December 5th 2019

A quick look round any newsagent or bookstore will throw up books and magazines galore for creating the house beautiful. The right throw for your sofa. The exact colour for your lounge walls. The perfect splashback for your kitchen.

And a browse online links to 100s of “Christian” items for home decor too, from traditional Bible quotes (“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”, Joshua 24 v 15) to the more tongue-in-cheek such as: 

“Wash your hands

And say your prayers

Cuz Jesus and germs

Are everywhere.”

But is there a theology of home decoration?

Homely hospitality

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4 v 8-10)

Is this about home decor? Certainly the phrase “love covers over a multitude of sins” reminds me of a discussion at my church craft group last week. Our leader showed us a knitted throw she had just finished, and told us she was going to use it to hide all the junk in the spare room! 

But somehow I don’t think Peter is talking about knitted throws, no matter how beautiful. The “gift” in verse 10 may mean something physical, such as your home, or it may be a spiritual gift. Either way, they are given to us by God and to be used to serve others. And then we are charged to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”.

I wonder why Peter had to add the warning about grumbling? Do you enjoy welcoming people into your home? Or do you wriggle out of it where possible? It’s easy to see hospitality as something that only some of us are good at (mainly women); and to assume that those people find it easy. But there’s a cost to hospitality. It always takes time; it can take money; it may need planning; it stops us from doing something else. For even the most enthusiastic host, this cost may sometimes lead to grumbling. So Peter tells us to watch out.

How does home decor affect others?

Design magazines can give the impression that our homes need to be Instagrammable, up-to-date and clutter-free. But hospitality doesn’t require the latest designs or a minimalist room that shows no evidence of anyone living in it. It’s much more about making people feel welcome and relaxed (so it probably helps if there’s somewhere they can sit down).

As they look round our room, they’ll get a feel for who we are and what we like, whether that’s children’s artwork on the walls, books on a shelf, fresh flowers, or a ship in a bottle we spent months making.

Try looking around your own room with fresh eyes, imagining how a visitor would respond to it. Does it give a feel for who you are and what’s important to you? Is it clear where they can sit? Can they put a cup of coffee on a table without worrying about it?

And now imagine a non-Christian visitor. Is there anything in your room that reflects your faith and could form a conversation-starter? This doesn’t have to be a Bible verse on the wall, although it may be. It could be your Bible on a side table, a copy of the church newsletter, or photos of the missionaries you pray for.

How does home decor affect us?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4 v 8)

When Paul wrote these words to the Philippians I’m confident he wasn’t thinking about home decor—and there are many other ways we can help ourselves to “think about such things”. But the environment we live in is one of them. Here are just a few ideas. I’m sure you can think of many more:

  • Put Bible verses where you’ll regularly spot them. A good friend took one of my favourite verses, Genesis 1 v 16, and made a beautiful collage for me.

  • Display photos of your church family, reminding you to thank God for them.

  • Stick prayer letters on the wall by the sink so that you can pray while washing the dishes.

  • Look out of the window at the sky; then thank God for how he has made it look right now—yes, even when it’s raining.

  • Display flowers or a plant that point to the beauty and variety of God’s creation.

  • Have to hand any items for a craft or hobby that allows you to use your creative gifts and remember that you are made in the image of our Creator God.

  • If you have a mirror on the wall, attach Psalm 139 v 14 to it: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.

  • And I have one more, very personal, one to add. A Christian friend has recently helped me tackle a problem in my flat that I had thought insurmountable. Now, when I walk into that room, I don’t only enjoy the newly usable space. I’m also reminded that my friend has modelled Christ for me, graciously serving me when all felt hopeless. What a gift.

PS Those who know me will be chuckling at me writing anything about the home. They know how untidy I am. But that’s why I wanted to write on this subject. I hope it helps you - but I also really need it to help me - so that my home (though never perfect) becomes a tool I can use to serve God and welcome others.

Alison Mitchell

Alison Mitchell is a Senior Editor at The Good Book Company, where she has worked on a range of products including Bible-reading notes for children and families, and the Christianity Explored range of resources. She is the author of the award-winning Jesus and the Lions' Den.

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