The Parable of the Mortgage

July 3, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 12:27 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Theology

(Part 2 of 2)

After recently bashing the Parable of the Bicycle I figured it was only fair that I expose myself to some bashing in return. Here is an attempt at another analogy that I am formulating basically on the fly.

In this analogy we are adult children of a loving father. We want a home (mansion?) that is basically the equivalent of the home he has. He wants us to own the home in the same way he owns his. (I am assuming he paid for his and wants us to do the same). In order to purchase the home a plan is formulated that requires us to take on a large mortgage and to take a 24/7 job (that requires us to remain on the road) in order to make the payments. We agree to the plan.

The money we are making at our new job is not even sufficient to pay the interest on the mortgage for this new home. Based on our monthly payments we are in fact not purchasing the home but rather falling deeper into debt and further from ownership every moment. This is when our father steps in as planned from the beginning. He (and/or perhaps an elder brother that is making the final payment on his mansion?) steps in and generously agrees to cover the interest portion of our mortgage for us if we agree to put the rest into the principal. He will keep the debtors at bay if we agree to put all of our efforts into owning more and more of the house. We cannot buy lots of other desirable or tempting things in this process though; we must focus all of our resources on this goal. By paying the interest portion of the loan for us, our benefactor saves us from perpetually falling deeper into debt. It is up to us to utilize this interest-payment-offer to its fullest (and it really is a sweetheart deal) and knock out as much of the principal as we possibly can while the deal still lasts.

The home is exaltation, the job on the road is our probationary state(s), God is the benefactor, and justice/eternal law is the bank. This particular special deal lasts for as long as we live on this earth.

Now how the deal works after our physical death is not so clear to me. But it seems to me that this analogy is a closer representation of what we are dealing with when we discuss the atonement than the bicycle parable (though I tried to keep it similar). The debt is huge and most of us will still have a lot of principal to pay by the time we leave this mortality. I feel fairly certain that we will need to keep working on it for as long as it takes if we, like Christ, are to ever finish the job. I also suspect that we can in moments of weakness move backwards in this process and add extra debts (but even then our benefactor will be willing to help out under his debt consolidation plan). It surely is not an easy task to pay for this mansion even with the shockingly generous interest-payment deal we are offered.

But what else should we expect? Exaltation is not cheap.

(Note – Edits have been made based on constructive criticism in the comments)


  1. You could also teach this as the Parable of the Subsidized Student Loan…


    Comment by Justin H — July 3, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

  2. I was too busy last week to comment on the parable of the bicycle, but I did not see anybody raise the objection I have with it. The same objection applies to this parable.

    Given enough time and patience, the little girl could eventually have earned enough to pay for the bicycle herself. She might not have been a little girl any more by then, but so what. Same with your mortgage. What you are getting at was pretty transparant, but if I were coming at the subject cold, my reaction would be to tell you to either (1) get a second job, (2) adjust your expectations downward. Any earthly exemple I can think of fails for the same reason. Young teens occasionally buy their own bicycles. People somehow manage to pay the interest on million dollar mortgages. Works and patience are all that’s needed. This is not analogous to the atonement.

    Your parable also implies that you either did not know what the interest rate would be, or you did not know what your wages would be, and that you are powerless to change either. That part does not translate well. We may be powerless to change either, but we knew what both would be going in. Again, coming at the subject cold, I would label as irresponsible somebody taking on a mortgage knowing there was nothing they could do to pay even the interest. But I am not comfortable labelling everybody who chose to come to earth in the same way.

    Comment by Last Lemming — July 3, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

  3. I like this analogy better than the bicycle one – a few thoughts…

    1) Can we really get a house like He has? I know – He will give us everthing He has. But won’t his house (glory???) always be better?

    2) If our Father owns everything in the universe, why is he/we paying Interest? (And to whom is the Interest going)?

    3) This is kinda the opposite of the parable of the workers (hire a worker in the morning, midday, afternoon, all for a penny a day).

    Comment by Daylan Darby — July 3, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

  4. Discussing these things in terms of financial transactions is so limiting. I agree the Last Lemming. Both parables are flawed on their face in that all you need is more money. There is no aspect of repentance. Also, what sacrifice did the benefactor make to come up with the cash? Is the difference simply on of quantity of money? Shouldn’t there be a qualitative differnece as well?

    Comment by a random John — July 3, 2005 @ 5:39 pm

  5. Justin — Perhaps I’m showing my age with mortgage talk instead of student loans? But I think calling it a mansion works on several levels, including the scriptural promise of mansions.

    Last Lemming — First, see the sister post to this one I put up today. (They were one big post at first then I separated them.) Your objection that with enough time it could be done is basically the point I am trying to make. That as children of God we can do this with enough time and repentance. But the atonement enables us to use our agency to actually get ahead in this game.

    Some of your other objections are good ones. I will probably need to edit the post to fill some of the holes. I think you are right that the fact we can’t pay the bills was no surprise. We knew about the plan to get fatherly help before we embarked. I should also imply that the job we take is a truly full-time one (24/7) so that the second job objection would lose its’ teeth. The get a smaller house objection already has no teeth because that is like saying “don’t try to actually be exalted and be like God”. That doesn’t fly in our theology.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 3, 2005 @ 5:51 pm

  6. Daylan: Can we really get a house like He has?

    Not everyone believes that we can, but I do. The parable works best when we think of our goal as becoming someday what God is now. Yes he will be far ast that by then but at least it gives us a target. The fact that God coniues to increase in glory does put a kink in the mansion analogy though.

    If our Father owns everything in the universe, why is he/we paying Interest?

    The payment is the just punishment for our sins. I am saying that our sins here weigh us down so much that without the atonement we would never leave this probation better than we started. This is the payment for sins that justice demands I’m talking about here.

    This is kinda the opposite of the parable of the workers

    I don’t think so. That parable to me means that sincere and complete repentance leads to Christ paying for our sins. Whether we start young or old that can happen. But I am saying that payment for sins only gets us back to the even. It only pays the interest but none of the principal. The real progress we make toward godhood is the repenting we do after we are justified. After a bad man becomes good, then the gospel also makes good men better. Over the eternities a good man that keeps getting better ends up exalted and just like God.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 3, 2005 @ 6:04 pm

  7. Nice parable, but what if I want a nice log cabin in the woods, Just as nice as my Fathers but of my own choosing, along the lines of there are many mansions(houses, cabins, huts etc) in my Fathers Kingdom. See there are infinte rewards to fill our hearts desires. Now as far as the price goes, the interest as you put it would be huge and the principle would be also. I think most of us would have trouble getting just the down payment together before we show up at signing. I am glad we have eternity to finish the payments.

    Comment by Casey Blau — July 3, 2005 @ 6:13 pm

  8. arj: Both parables are flawed on their face in that all you need is more money. There is no aspect of repentance.

    I think you are missing the point John. The money is repentance/righteousness and the debt is sin/unrighteousness. Obviously the benefactor is Christ.

    Casey — You can build whatever mansion you want. Just know that the mortgage cost doesn’t go down. (We’re talking about Godhood here after all. There are no discounts and no shortcuts on the principal.) And yes, it is nice to know we do have eternity to keep at it if we so choose.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 3, 2005 @ 6:16 pm

  9. Perhaps the debt consolidation business could also be an analogy. People run up large amounts of debt on several credit cards and can barely afford to make the minimum payments (while the debts continue to grow). Jesus consolidates our debt with the various creditors but we have to cut up our credit cards and agree to pay the monthly payment (which we can afford if we budget wisely and don’t start spending again). If we were making the same payment without the consolidation, we would never be able to pay off the debt.

    I think your parable should be called the “Parable of Negative Amortization.”

    Comment by NFlanders — July 4, 2005 @ 1:41 am

  10. Not bad, Ned. I like the part about only making our payments to Christ and no other “gods” (creditors). Sounds similar to the law of consecration to me — I was aiming for that in my variation too. The parable name could use some work though… ;-)

    In fact I’ll edit it to include a part about debt consolidation… Thanks for the idea.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 4, 2005 @ 7:16 am

  11. The benefits of mortgage financing is that you get to enjoy the benefits of living in a house that is your private residence complete with all the benefits that implies. In many ways the benefits of living in that home after the loan has been paid off is no better than living in the home when you first assume the mortgage and only have nominal equity in the asset.

    Although there are many blessings from living the gospel in this life, the substance of the blessings come to fruition after the resurrection. There’s no real comparison to “enjoying your mansion on high” and the “boot camp” of mortality. If the Parable of the Mortgage were applicable, I would get to enjoy my glorified body and streets of gold NOW, with the caveat that those amazing grants could be repossessed if I don’t live out my mortality faithfully every month of every year.

    Comment by Mark Simmons — July 5, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

  12. Good point Mark. I tried to get around that problem by saying the job we must take keeps us perpetually on the road and that we cannot actually enjoy the mansion until it is paid off. But the fact is that a mortgage is traditionally designed to allow people to live in and enjoy a home prior to paying it off. I will have to think about whether I should just add more details to the caveats or change the analogy entirely…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 5, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

  13. Maybe you could change it to the Parable of the 401(k) where you become a millionaire in the next life and live in perpetuity on the interest.

    Comment by Mark Simmons — July 5, 2005 @ 7:41 pm

  14. My favorite part was comparing our sin to compound interest working against us… That way the atonement really does save us. I will have to consider some amendments that will allow me to keep that part but avoid the natural assumptions of moving in to the mansion that come with a mortgage… Hmmm, this will take some more tinkering I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 5, 2005 @ 8:10 pm