Hospitality, the generous sharing of food and shelter, is commonly called "entertaining" today. I think God put inside women a special gift toward hospitality. I remember as a little girl spending many hours playing hostess, pouring tea and practicing hospitality and taking care of people.
Everyone has their own ideas of how to "entertain" - we invite friends or family over, clean up the house, plan the meal, remind our children of their manners, and if the occasion calls for it, dress a little nicer. But the bible says that there is more to hospitality than this.
Let's look at the verses where the actual word hospitality is used in scripture one by one.
1. Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. - Romans 12:13-14
The truth is that people thirst for fellowship at these simple levels. Blessing, rejoicing and weeping constitute true hospitality. We all go through trials and tribulations and it's important to not only be honest about our own sorrows, but willing to let other's be genuine, too. There's immeasurable comfort in weeping with someone through difficult times.
2. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach. -1 Timothy 3:2
3. But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate. -Titus 1:8
When I read these verses my first thought is: do I make it easy for my husband to be "given to and a lover of hospitality"? Does he know that he can bring company home any time? I actually had to tell my husband this was fine. Which really keeps me on my toes. We can use the inspiration of company coming over at any moment to be more motivated in keeping our homes clean, pretty and welcoming so that we're ready to serve our guests. We never know when God will want to use our hospitality as a refuge and blessing to others - even angels unawares.
4. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 1 Peter 4:9
Isn't that an interesting verse? Use hospitality. This indicates that hospitality is a tool or a means to an end. What are we to use hospitality for? Reading further, we find out:
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. -1 Peter 4:10
The answer? To minister to one another. We also see here that in doing so, we are being "good stewards" of the unspeakable grace of God. We extend his grace toward others when we are being hospitable. That takes care of the what. How about the why?
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11
When we give hospitality, God is glorified through Christ! Isn't that beautiful? Just by doing what we are inclined to do anyway - share our food and home and entertain others - brings glory to God!
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Acts 2:46
This is the record of the early church in the book of Acts. They ate in one another's homes with gladness and unity. We don't need to worry about serving fancy food. We can serve simple (but good) food to our guests and concentrate our efforts in ministering to them the Love of God.
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: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. -Luke 14:12-14
We can sermonize this passage into the "poor in spirit", "blind to sin", "maimed/broken hearted" or even "lame-brained" but I don't see anything symbolic in this passage. Jesus is telling us to invite people who are literally blind, poverty stricken, physically challenged and disfigured. How many of these people are being ministered to? How many of these poor, shunned souls are we showing hospitality to?
We need to ask the Lord who he would have us invite into our homes to minister the light and love of the Saviour to. And ask the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts and homes to do so.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. Proverbs 31:4
Whether we serve small dinners, lively buffets or just dessert and coffee, we should always be willing to show hospitality and never be put out by serving others. God promises us a great reward.
In the next installment, we'll discuss some more practical applications of hospitality like how to prepare for guests, crowd pleasing meals and glorififying God through our home's atmosphere. As well as a very neglected aspect of hospitality, how to be a good guest!