What is hospitality? If you had asked me just a few months ago, I would have told you it was having other believers into my home for a refreshing time of food and fellowship. Being raised as a pastor’s kid, I have always enjoyed opening our home up to those coming through. As a wife and mother, it has brought both myself and my little family great joy to have our friends, new and “old,” in our home. In recent months, however, I have been studying what God desires from me in regards to hospitality; and I have come to realize that my idea of hospitality and God’s idea are not always on the same track. Our Lord has very specific ideas about what hospitality should look like and what it should accomplish.
The Expectation of Hospitality
Did you know that as a child of God, He expects us to practice hospitality? In the same chapters we are beseeched to give our bodies as a living sacrifice, we are implored to be “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13). We are told to actively pursue opportunities to show hospitality to those around us. Christ went so far in His teaching as to state that when we extend hospitality to those around us, He counts it as though we have extended it to Himself! “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). He even cares about the attitude we have as we are extending hospitality. “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Peter 4:9).
The “Everyone” of Hospitality
In studying hospitality, I have come to the realization that my guest list looks nothing like the guest list the Lord expects me to have. When I invite people into my home, I invite my friends—people I love to be with! While there is nothing wrong with that—in fact, we are admonished to extend hospitality to the household of faith and hospitality begins with those in our own household—that is certainly not where the list ends.
“Every Stranger is an invited guest” – Oriental Proverb
“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
This not only included people you did not know, it included foreigners and even your enemies at times. Undoubtedly Sisera, the captain of the Israelite’s enemies, was counting on this when he fled into Jael’s tent, as it was said in these times that if you were to even grab on to the line that held down your enemy’s tent, you were safe.
Lest we think God only expected this His Old Testament people to practice this brand of hospitality, we read this is Hebrews 13:2, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7).
These could not repay your kindness showed to them. This kind of hospitality demands that we expect nothing in return.
“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: (Luke 14:12-13).
When I think of the infirmed, I think of the extra work it takes to entertain these dear people. Imagine the extra work that was involved in ensuring everything was handicap accessible? The supervision needed to ensure no one was hurt? Perhaps the extra help that was needed to carry the lame in? Our Lord wanted us to know that He expects us to go the extra mile to entertain those with handicaps. Sometimes this may inconvenience us, but hospitality is not about ourselves—it is about the Lord!
“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34).
The entire reason God wanted His people to practice such gracious hospitality was so the stranger might ask, “Why are you being so kind to me?” His people could then reply, “Because we were once strangers in Egypt and our God rescued us. Let me tell you about our God.” He wanted them to be a testimony to the nations.
The Example of Hospitality
We have so many great examples of hospitality in the Bible: Abraham, Bethuel, Job, Mary and Martha, Boaz, The Widows in the time of Elijah and Elisha, and (everyone’s favorite woman to envy) our own Proverbs 31 woman. These all fall far short of the greatest example we have, however. What better example do we have in any aspect of life than our own Lord and Savior? What great lengths our Saviour has gone through that we might enter His house! He has provided His very best for our pleasure and enjoyment. He gives this invitation to whosever will. Might we as ladies look for ways we can practice hospitality even as our own dear Lord! How can we, as His children, behave any differently?
Source for historical data: Bible-History.com4