Hospitality is a massive industry that includes food service and accommodations. Hospitality suites are designated rooms stocked with refreshments and are to be a place that serves speakers and the like by offering many conveniences.
One can major in Hospitality Administration at many universities. Yet hospitality of a different nature is a biblical matter as well. It appears four times in the ESV translation of the New Testament as the Greek word, philoxenia, which means “love of strangers.” Two of the four are simple mandates:
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13).
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9).
Both Paul and Peter clearly instruct all believers to show hospitality. No qualifications are given for gender, gifting, or availability. Peter included the phrase “without grumbling” as he had certainly heard of complaints among those who have grown weary in providing for the needs of others. We are wise to remember that not only is hospitality often grouped by biblical scholars as a spiritual gift of service, but it is also a command to all believers.
One excellent example of the unique importance of this topic is found in the writings of C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves. He inspires us by his analysis of the role of hospitality in the early church:
For we all wish to be judged by our peers, by the men “after our own heart.” Only they really know our mind and only they judge it by standards we fully acknowledge. Theirs is the praise we really covet and the blame we really dread. The little pockets of early Christians survived because they cared exclusively for the love of “the brethren” and stopped their ears to the opinion of the Pagan society all round them.
Nothing has changed in terms of our need for affirmation and encouragement from “the brethren.” What has changed is our willingness to recognize that fact and act upon it. We are all commanded to joyfully practice hospitality just like the early church did. How grateful we should be that our homes do not resemble the sparse and cramped hovels of biblical times. How sobering it is to realize that the obedience of the early church to this simple command had amazing results.
It is not uncommon to hear people refer to the seemingly lost art of hospitality. So what changed? The advent of technology brought with it big promises of mass quantities of saved time, but that was a lie. The conveniences are wonderful, but they brought with them less free time and not more. It matters not if we can now prepare a turkey and all the trimmings in just a few hours if we have neither the time, interest, nor skill to do so. Too many women are simply not at home more than a few waking hours per day. They are buried by the demands of working outside the home and running a household such that inviting guests into the chaotic atmosphere is just not going to happen.
Others are so overwhelmed by responsibilities across the board that they easily rationalize the fact that they contribute to the greater good in a myriad of ways. They will be only too happy to enumerate those ways, but having guests in their home is just not for them. Still others would be very eager to return to the patterns of their grandparents who welcomed strangers and friends with open arms but sadly, they have absolutely no idea how to do so. Their mothers did not teach them how to cook. They know of no mentors who would be willing to help them now. The thought of embarking on what seems like a daunting task causes them to join the ranks of those who lament that hospitality is clearly a lost art and a faded memory.
One of the best ways for the so-called lost art to be recovered is by modeling hospitality in a host of ways whenever we have the chance. The message needs to be proclaimed loud and clear that there is no singular method used to practice it. Misconceptions abound regarding what it truly entails. Many women who multi-task and brilliantly handle complicated issues seem to fall prey to intimidation when it comes to this topic.
Others somehow see it as beneath their level of importance and mentally relegate it to those who like to wear aprons and bake cookies. Is it not paradoxical that the mentality exists where hospitality management is a worthy profession but hospitality at home is for the simple or old fashioned? Satan loves both of these mindsets since the end result means that hospitality is not practiced and opportunities are overtly missed.
Hospitality’s True Purpose
Hospitality is not about the provider. It is not about showing how creative, innovative, organized, proficient and gifted one is. Instead, it is about selflessly sacrificing one’s time, efforts, and some degree of finances. It is about taking the risk to let your guard down and invite people to get to know you beyond a superficial level. It is about abandoning the sinful tendency to be self-absorbed and instead seek to do whatever is necessary to meet needs.
Another apt definition comes from an unlikely source. I heard about a great-grandmother who was welcoming guests to the town that she had called home for all of her one hundred years on this earth. When someone commented on how welcoming the little berg was, the grandmother quipped, “Well, when you come to our town, we just want you to feel better when you leave than when you came.” What a great way to describe biblical hospitality!
If you provide a weary traveler with a filling meal, homemade or not, or a warm bed, he will feel better when he left than when he came. If you welcome a friend in crisis into your home and truly listen to her in spite of the fact that your house is not in perfect order, she will feel better when she leaves than when she came. If you pause to help your neighbors and then invite them to your patio to visit and to tell you about themselves, they will feel better when they leave than when they came.
Hospitality is not to be equated with five course gourmet meals and formal wear. Hospitality is to be equated with selfless caring for others. Remember that the world is filled with people who feel isolated, lonely and unloved. Simple acts of hospitality can lift one’s spirit in amazing ways. We have no idea how the Lord may choose to bless our sincere efforts to produce results beyond what we can ever imagine.
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