The Homeowners’ Association (HOA) is a wonderful concept with a terrible history, destroying the very heart of neighborhoods like yours and mine. Luckily, I grew up without an HOA. Some call me blessed, but I believe my parents just happened upon a fairly unorganized neighborhood.
(The mention of the HOA may bring up terrible memories that you don’t want to relive. If that is the case, I will redirect you to a video of puppies swimming for the first time)
The other day, my father was reminiscing about the HOA he belonged to before I was born. The HOA in his neighborhood was made up of an uptight group of retired folk who fulfilled their need for power by mercilessly enforcing stringent neighborhood laws. In going about their daily walks, they would keep their eyes peeled for any sign of a violation.
One afternoon, a neighbor was weeding their lawn–proactively taking care of weeds so they wouldn’t grow over four inches, as regulated by the HOA. While weeding the lawn, the neighbor received a phone call and had to step inside for a moment. During the short period of time the neighbor was taking the phone call, an HOA board member walked by and flagged the yard waste bin for being on the curb on a Saturday morning.
It’s okay to roll your eyes at this point in the story. I rolled my eyes too.
In general, I like rules. I like to have guidelines to follow. I am all about boundaries. But what happens when we tighten the boundaries up so much that we are unable to do the right thing?
This is addressed well in Matthew 12. Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and saw a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus by asking if healing the man was allowed on the Sabbath. According to the Jewish law, doing any type of work was unlawful–including healing.
Jesus, rather than answering the Pharisees’ question, asked himself a new question: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?”
Jesus, in one sentence, revealed the inner HOA member in the Pharisees. The Pharisees had become so power-hungry and so obsessed with enforcing every rule that they had forgotten why the rules were put in place.
The rule about resting on the Sabbath was not in place to keep people from doing good, it was intended to help the Jewish people rest from work so they could focus on their relationship with God. Unfortunately, the Pharisees had enforced the rule so rigidly that it prevented people from doing good without receiving punishment.
When reading about the Pharisees, it’s easy to distance yourself from them because they are the “bad guys.” After all, they tried to stop Jesus from doing good. But it’s easy to gloss over how similar we are to them. We are power-hungry and often stuck in ways, for better or worse. In what ways have we become so rigid in doing the “right” thing, that we are preventing something better from occurring.
It’s not just the Pharisees or the HOA, it’s all of us. We cling on to what is familiar and use that to leverage ourselves over others. Let us work to identify what we are clinging on to that are inhibiting others as well as ourselves.