Hospitality is a topic that I've been thinking about a lot, and I wanted to share what I've been studying in hopes of being an encouragement to each of you!
I grew up in Charleston, SC. If you've ever been there, you have most likely walked along Waterfront Park & encountered the pineapple fountain. It was built just after a devastating hurricane hit the city & used to be the only fountain in that park. In the summers, you still will see kids taking a little dip in the pool at the bottom to cool off. You can see it in this old picture of my husband holding our oldest by that fountain.
"OK, Elaine. What does Charleston & fountains shaped like fruit have to do with HOSPITALITY? Get to the point, please!"
I promise that there is a connection! Here it is --
Pineapples just happen to be a symbol of hospitality! And Charleston's fountain isn't the only pineapple you'll see around the town. Why? Because Charleston prides itself on being the epitome of southern hospitality. Tourists from all over the world enjoy the laidback pace, the delicious food, the charming architecture, the cozy inns. Pineapples remind me so much of my hometown & are such a reminder to me to be hospitable that I even did a little painting of one & hung it in our entryway.
I grew up around that idea of "southern hospitality," reading Southern Living magazine, thinking hospitality had to look like those glossy magazine spreads. And it can look like that! BUT I'm learning that those fancy gatherings aren't necessarily true hospitality. My mom loved to have people over, and our house was anything but fancy. Our budget didn't mean fancy food, but there was always more than enough to share.
We can also look to Jesus as the ultimate example of the One who welcomes the vilest sinners, the most hated outcasts, the poorest beggar. No one was outside of His notice. He practiced hospitality without a place to lay His head!
When it comes to true, Biblical hospitality, set out the fine china & linen napkins if you want, but they are NOT a requirement. Paper plates & pizza boxes are absolutely allowed.
For now, I'm going to start with what the Bible has to say about the topic. Then, we'll take a look at some practical applications of what the Bible says. And finally, I'll share some resources that I've come across that might be helpful to you.
Are you ready? Let's go!
(Side note: The words hospitality & hospitable don't occur a ton in the Bible, but the idea of welcoming people into our homes & lives is woven throughout Scripture. So, I've tried to gather a collection of the verses & passages that instruct us on this topic. If you notice that I missed a verse that instructs us on these principles, please share it in the comments!)
Leviticus 19:34 - You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
This idea of the sojourner & the reminder that Israel have been sojourners shows up a couple times. Even going back to Abraham - he was a sojourner. Israel's history is full of the theme! Motivated by this, they followed the laws of how to treat others who came along, "strangers in the land." They were to treat these people as if they were a fellow citizen, loving them as themselves. Israel was to welcome them with open arms. And I think this definitely has application with us, too. I've heard this verse used to encourage Christians to help with the many refugee crises of recent years. And it's a beautiful standard for us to follow as we learn to open our lives & homes. (It also sounds a lot like those verses in the NT about loving our neighbors as ourselves.)
Job 31:31-32 - if the men of my tent have not said, 'Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’(the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the traveler),
Job's defense before his friends comes to an end in this chapter. He speaks of the hospitality that he's shown, including to the sojourner & others who are less fortunate (16-21). From this, we can see that it was a mark of being what Job considered an upright, righteous man.
Isaiah 58:7 - Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
This chapter is about fasting & the motivations behind true fasting. This is one of the motivations for true fasting - in order to be able to share with those who have less than we do. Wow! God put such a high priority on welcoming others into their homes that He encouraged Israel to fast to make it happen! So, when I say that I don't have room in my grocery budget or room at my table to be hospitable, God says, "You can go without in order to share with others!" How convicting is that?! I buy my family's favorite snacks but feel like I can't buy an extra pound or 2 of chicken to stretch a meal to share with another family? Whew! This one hits hard!
Matthew 25:34-46 - 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Another heavy hitter! This whole passage is so convicting. Obviously, Jesus isn't preaching a works-based salvation. What was the point of His death if we still have to work to get into heaven, right? HOWEVER! This passage (and much of the books of James & 1 John) have so much to do with what true regeneration looks like. It's not just "fire insurance" or a prayer you pray as a kid. It is a LIFE-ALTERING decision. A true belief in Jesus will make your life vastly different from the lives of someone who doesn't know him. One evidence will be a drastically different approach to how we relate to those in need or those we don't know. We should be welcoming & generous, reflecting the love of our Wonderful Savior.
Luke 14:12-14 - He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Here again, Jesus reminds us of the counter-cultural way that Christians should be living & relating to those around them. We shouldn't be reserving our kindness & welcoming attitude for those who can reciprocate. We should be giving of ourselves generously to those who could never repay us.
Acts 2:42-47 - And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
I love this description of the early church. These early Christians were forsaking a lifetime of cultural norms & familial relationships for their new faith. For some of them, the church became their family. And their generosity & hospitality allowed them to unite around the apostles' teaching - around the Gospel. How are we doing in comparison? Are we opening our lives to our fellow believers? When we gather with our church community, is it around the Gospel?
Romans 12:13 - Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
This is part of a list that my Bible denotes as "Marks of the True Christian." Take a minute to read them when you have a chance! This isn't a legalistic checklist that we should be using to add external burdens to our lives. But it is here for a reason. Let's choose to see this as a list of Christ-like attributes that we can pray for God to continue to help us grow. And, if the Holy Spirit convicts you about a specific item (or several!), take the time to listen & respond.
Romans 15:7 - Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Paul's encouragement here is to look to Christ as our example for how to live in harmony with other believers. What does Christian hospitality & community look like? Look at Jesus' life! How did He live? What did He teach? Follow Him!
Galatians 6:10 - So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Another passage about Christian community. We bear each other's burdens. We serve each other. We don't grow weary of doing good, knowing we will see a harvest. I definitely don't think Paul is telling us to ignore our duty to reach out into our communities. We just need to make sure we're taking special care of our Christian brothers & sisters, too!
1 Timothy 3:2 - Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
Is your pastor hospitable? While one of the most practical ways people practice hospitality is to invite people over to their house, that isn't the only thing that is included. Your pastor should be someone who makes people feel welcome - at church, out in the community, in his home. But this isn't just a list of qualifications for the pastoral staff to follow. Every believer should be warm & welcoming to those around us. Instead of holding people at arm's length, we can let them in. So, let's strike up a conversation with that new family at church. Let's see if the new person sitting in the pew in front of us has lunch plans.
1 Timothy 5:10 - And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.
Have you ever been invited over by a complete stranger? Twice after visiting a new church, we've been invited over by families that had never met us before. My husband's cousin is a pastor nearby & his wife always makes extra food for Sunday lunch - enough to share in case there's a visitor or a regular attender who just needs some fellowship with believers. How incredible are those ladies (& their families)? I have reaped the benefits of these types of ladies & I yearn to become better in this area.
Titus 1:8 - But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
Yet again, we are looking at a list of qualifications. This one is for "elders." As with the other list, I'm sure we can take these & apply them in our lives as well. The previous verse gives some things an elder shouldn't be, but the first item on the list of "do's" is hospitality. It must be a fairly important to be the first one, right?
Hebrews 13:2 - Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
I feel like I remember hearing this verse A LOT growing up because Christians were OBSESSED with angels in the 90s. Even Hollywood seemed to be in on the trend with shows & movies featuring these heavenly messengers. Because I feel like it's taken out of context, I'm going to quote from the notes in the MacArthur Study Bible. "This is not given as the ultimate motivation for hospitality but to reveal that one never knows how far-reaching an act of kindness might be." MacArthur then noted some examples on the OT when people welcomed heavenly beings into their homes. So, those 90s church ladies who were welcoming folks in for Crystal Light in hopes of being "Touched by an Angel" maybe weren't getting the full point. BUT, we should be eager to treat people with care & kindness. No matter who they are. No matter what they look like. We are to extend love to the people that God sovereignly places in our paths.
Hebrews 13:16 - Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
"Share what you have." Maybe you have a small home. Can you plan to meet up with a friend at a local park to walk or let your kids play? Maybe you aren't a great cook or just don't have the time to cook as you cart kids between football practice & music lessons. We've been to a few homes where the dinner is pizza from the family's favorite local pizzeria & a salad mix. And guess what! It was delicious! More importantly, it allowed the hostess to enjoy her time with her guests more than if she'd been stressed about making food & cleaning that food up.
1 Peter 4:9 - Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
I don't just want to set an example of welcoming people into my home. I want to set an example of doing so with joy! Hate to say it, but this is usually not the case. I find myself stressed about the cleanliness of my house at the expense of my patience with my kids. I get frustrated with their interruptions or delays. That's the opposite of the attitude that I should have!
Biblical hospitality has far fewer limitations on it than what I call hospitality. As we lovingly welcome others, we reflect our God who mercifully welcomes all who call on the name of Jesus to call Him Father! We aren't just brought in as guests; we are beloved as His own children.
How about you? Did you grow up with a false picture of hospitality? Do you see how the Bible portrays hospitality differently from how western society does?
Or maybe you come from a family that practiced hospitality often & well! That's awesome & if you have any insights for the rest of us, please share in the comments.
I'll be back soon with some practical looks at how we can practice what these verses are preaching. So check back here soon!
Cheering you on!
I'm also working on a Pinterest board for some other blog posts & resources to keep handy!
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