Would you help resolve a dispute over the sale of a home?


If you believe you are a wise person, can you please help me with this scenario?

Shauna owned a new house worth $ 200,000 and she was renting it to Doug, a friend in the church. One day Doug asked Shauna if he could buy the house and so Shauna agreed. Because Doug was new to the country Shauna decided to give him $30,000 off of the appraised value. So the price was set at $170,000 and they agreed to the deal.

Because they were friends, Shauna and Doug did not set a specific date for when Doug would need to obtain financing, but Shauna was expecting it to be 3 to 6 months at most. However, as time went on, Doug was unable to get financing, but Shauna was not concerned because they were good friends and she assumed that he would respect that properties do appreciate in value.

But then 1½ years later, when Shauna and Doug were not as good friends anymore, Doug obtained adequate financing. However, the house now has been appraised at $270,000. Doug then went to Shauna and insisted that she sell the house to him for $170,000.

Shauna felt that the $30,000 that she had already given him was a very generous gift and that Doug should really take into consideration the workings of economic land and house appreciation. Doug strongly felt Shauna was in the wrong.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is greed involved here?
  2. Could they both be greedy?
  3. Or only one or the other?
  4. Is it possible for a person to be greedy and not know it?
  5. If so, how can God condemn the greedy?
  6. How should this situation be resolved?

If you feel you have a clear answer to this situation, could you please email me? I would really like to get as many replies as possible to obtain a fair evaluation.


"Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses"" (Luke 12:13-15).

The number of answers that you receive will not settle this problem. There is one correct answer if those involved wish to abide by God's word.

You ask if greed (or covetousness) is at the root of the problem, and the answer is "yes." Are they both being greedy? That I cannot answer. Shauna definitely is and here is how I would demonstrate it: If instead of an increased evaluation, what if the housing price fell in that same year and a half period to $150,000. Would Shauna accept the $170,000 or would she insist that Doug only pay her $120,000? In this same reversal, would Doug pay the $170,000, would he ask that Shauna lower the price, or would he seek to end the deal?

But while greed is producing the problem, the judgment would have to be made by God who is able to weigh the thoughts of peoples' minds. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God" (I Corinthians 4:5). In other words, the right or wrong action cannot be determined by the motivation of the people involved. The motivation only tells us why people act as they do, in particular why they refuse to do what is right, but we must look elsewhere for what needs to be done.

The real problem is a matter of keeping one's word. Christians are to be people of their word. "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37). In other words, God expects us to say what we mean and mean what we say. By your own testimony, both Shauna and Doug agreed to transfer ownership of the house for $170,000. The bargain that Shauna offered has nothing to do with the problem. It was nice of her to give it, but the fact remains that the agreed price was $170,000. In addition, no time limit was placed on when the sale had to take place. You can talk about expectations after the fact, but it doesn't factor into what was agreed. If she wanted to end the deal because too much time had elapsed, she could have done so, but she waited until after the financing was arranged and objected mostly because the value of her home went up. The fact that she waited beyond 3 to 6 months demonstrates by action that she wasn't opposed to an extended period of time for the financing. The reality was that the house was essentially sold when the agreement was made. If he had gotten financing immediately and then a year and a half later she realized that the housing value had gone up, would she demand that he pay her more? Of course not!

Our problem is that we, as a whole, are no longer people of our word. We are not honest in our dealings with others. See the lesson "Promises, Promises" for more details on God's expectation that we honor our word. David praised the righteous, "He who swears to his own hurt and does not change" (Psalm 15:4). The Israelites understood this. When Joshua and the people were deceived by the Gibeonites into making a treaty under false pretenses, they kept their word because keeping their word was more important (Joshua 9-10).

You ask for a fair judgment, but I suspect that the only answer you will accept is one that is favorable to your position. Paul tells Christians, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!" (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). If it is a matter of my honor of keeping my word or suffer being cheated by another, the right thing to do is keep my word. This is merely an extension of Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek.

The reason the truth is objectionable to Shauna -- besides greed -- is that her focus is on this world and this life. Money makes a difference to her. Imagine if she had received the $170,000 immediately. If she had invested it at say 8% would she have made $100,000 in 18 months? Of course not! But that lure of gaining 105% annual rate of return on her investment has her wanting to break her word. Oh, and it is not as if she lost money in the meantime. Doug was still paying rent.

"To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil" (Luke 6:29-35).

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