Usually when people want to learn about hospitality they look to Martha Stewart or even Betty Crocker. Some good tips come from the Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, copyright 1950. I didn’t know that I was supposed to “notice humorous and interesting incidents throughout the day to relate at dinner time” or in my preparation for dinner guests, “if you feel tired, lie down on the floor on your back, put your hands above your head, close your eyes, and relax for 3 to 5 minutes.”[i] These suggestions may seem a bit odd, but in reality we want to have pleasant conversation during dinner and we, as hosts and hostesses would want to be refreshed for our guests (I know if you have this cook book you are running for it now to see what other suggestions this page holds).
Thefreedictionary.com defines hospitality like this. “Disposed to treat guests with warmth and generosity; indicative of cordiality toward guests.” This definition is what we typically think of when we think about hospitality, treating guests well and being cordial. Showing them kindness with a welcoming spirit. But I’d like to suggest that the Bible gives us another perspective on what hospitality means. Let’s look at some biblical instances of hospitality:
- The Widow of Zarepheth gave Elijah the last of the food she had for her son and herself. Because of this, God provided continual flour and oil for the three of them to last through the drought. What amazing faith to share all that she had without a guarantee that she would be provided for, instead of keeping it for her family (1 Kings 17:9-16).
- The Islanders of Malta who showed a group of shipwrecked sailors, soldiers, and prisoners unusual kindness for three months. The Islanders provided warmth from a fire on a cold, rainy day; they were entertained hospitably; they were honored in many ways; and were given provisions upon their departure. Through these acts of kindness, God was able to use this situation for His glory (Acts 28:1-10).
These instances show us one way of providing hospitality: giving food and lodging to those in need. The next examples show how those who shared the Good News were given hospitality.
- Zacchaeus was chosen by Jesus to visit in his home. Jesus was pretty clear in His words, “He (Jesus) must stay at your (Zacchaeus’) house today.” And what results! A changed heart and, Zacchaeus accepted Jesus as his savior (Luke 19:1-10).
- Lydia’s heart was opened and she received salvation by a river, then she offered hospitality to Paul, Silas, and their traveling companions. Again, she was very convincing. She persuaded the group to stay with her so that she might offer hospitality to them (Acts 16:13-15).
- What a night! Singing in the inner prison, an earthquake, and prison doors thrown open! It’s what happened after that that made the difference in one man’s life. After hearing the Gospel, the Philippian Jailer was baptized in the middle of the night, and then he took Paul and Silas home. He not only offered them food, but he also washed the wounds of his prisoners (Acts 16:25-34).
But my favorite account of hospitality is of Priscilla and Aquila. Apollos was preaching the Gospel with great fervor. He was a learned man and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. But he was missing something. When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollo’s teaching of Jesus, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. I believe there are several lessons to be learned here…for one, there is always room for improvement and learning. But I believe the most important lesson to be learned is that our homes can and should be used as a resource to share God’s message to anyone we cross paths with (Acts 18:24-26).
When we bring hospitality down to sharing the Gospel with those we invite into our homes, I think we’ve come to a true and full understanding of hospitality. It’s more than the practice of receiving and entertaining strangers and guests with kindness. It is sharing of our lives, sharing of our faith, and sharing of the grace we’ve received through our relationship with Jesus Christ with others. Who can you share the Gospel with today? And who will you provide hospitality to? Please don’t pass up an opportunity that God has provided.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,