Hospitality is a Muscle
Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Hospitality is not a Christian responsibility I have previously thought to be genuinely important. I thought it to be a nice sentiment, a preferred method of some to 'love thy neighbor' or simply a spiritual gift that only some have. I have now come to see that the Bible does not support this view of hospitality. Hospitality is a Biblical discipline that was always intended to be a chief mark of the covenant community in both the Old and New Testaments. Leviticus 19:33-34 , Isaiah 58:7-8 , 1 Peter 4: 8-9 , Matthew 25:34-40 and Romans 12:13-20 are just a few examples. Note that when the Bible speaks of spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12:3-8), hospitality is not mentioned. Yet in Romans 12:9-13, which is subtitled in the ESV Marks of a True Believer, Paul exhorts believers to:
13 contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality
Likewise we find in Hebrews 13 to:
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Not only is hospitality a mark of covenant community, it is a personal discipline required of male leaders in the church. In Titus 1:8, Paul lays out the qualifications of an elder:
7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
Also in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 Paul describes disciplines of a widowed women that would qualify her to receive support and aid from the church.
9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,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.
Furthermore, I believe the Bible speaks of hospitality as a discipline that is specifically and uniquely given as a responsibility to all Christian women. Proverbs 31 describes a woman who fears the Lord as one who
15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens...20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy...27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
In short, a woman who fears the Lord is a hospitable one! But hospitality is not just for married women with homes who fancy wearing aprons while baking pies. In fact, many women in Scripture had less than ideal circumstances for being hospitable. A few examples include Rebekah, Rahab, Ruth and Mary.
Genesis 24 - Rebekah practiced hospitality before she was married or had a home of her own. Abraham sent a servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. After traveling, the servant stopped near a well outside the city of Nahor where Rebekah had also come with a water jar. Upon seeing her, Abraham's servant ran to her and pleaded with her for a drink of water from the jar upon her shoulder. Rebekah not only offered a drink to the man, but ran to the well and drew water for all of his camels. Rebekah's hospitality wasn't confined to her own home or her own kitchen. Her hospitality was a discipline that came forth of habit, at a public well. Little did she know, her actions were an exact fulfillment of a prayer the servant had prayed for a sign of the woman he was to bring back as a wife for his master's son.
Joshua 2 - Rahab had her own home, but she was unmarried and a prostitute. Rahab's faith in the one true God led her to use her home to hide two Israelite strangers, Joshua and Caleb. Because of Rahab's courage and hospitality, the spies promised to deal "kindly and faithfully with her". When the Israelites took over her city, she and her entire family were spared from the destruction of Jericho.
Ruth 1-4 - Ruth was married, but a widow. She did not have children and after the death of her husband, she was homeless too. Ruth's hospitality was not the stewardship of any material thing, but instead the stewardship of herself. She committed herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth made herself, her very presence, a home and a comfort to Naomi. After committing that Naomi's people would be her people and Naomi's God her God, Ruth went to work like a true Proverbs 31 woman gleaning from the fields of the man who would soon become her husband. Ruth's commitment to be a hospitable woman, having nothing but her own self to be hospitable with, was the very thing that God used to bless her with a new husband, home and provision.
Luke 1 - Mary, the mother of Jesus, may not be the typical figure of hospitality one might think of. But I think her story is actually the most vivid example of a godly woman characterized by hospitality. Just as Paul exhorts all believers in Romans 12:1, Mary physically and spiritually offered herself as a living sacrifice. A young teen mom whose whole life and body, in one moment with an angel, became a home for the Messiah. Her life was a home for God incarnate. She actually hosted and was hospitable to Christ in the flesh. She was hospitable not merely with her physical home, but also with her own body. Her womb hosted Christ as an infant. Her breasts fed Him. What a profound display of hospitality!
These women are the women set before us as examples of hospitality. There is no set of circumstances a woman "must have" to be hospitable. Home or apartment, married or single, master chef or Kraft mac & cheese connoisseur; Wherever you are and with whatever you have, you are called to be hospitable. And you can do it. There is no "special" spiritual gifting or unique person cut out for hospitality. Rather it is a discipline that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we practice and get better at. He equips all of us to do it. Much like a muscle has to have strength training to become strong, we must practice hospitality that we might be hospitable people. And after the first few times you practice it, you are probably going to be "sore". There might be a broken dish or two, maybe a burnt meal, a tired morning or even possibly an argument with a roommate, family member or spouse. That doesn't mean you're not cut out for it. It means God is going to be faithful to teach you and help you when you try again. So that as you practice hospitality you may be mature and grow into the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
So go enjoy growing in hospitality! Learn what soaps, sprays and candles give your home an inviting aroma. Try your hand at a new sourdough recipe, buy a pie, make a giant pot of soup or pick up a good old tray of chicken nuggets on the way home. Pray that God would bring people into your home; family, friends, and foreigners alike. Keep in step with the Spirit. Make room in your heart and your home for the gospel to invade everything. Be hospitable.
Resources on Hospitality
One of my dear friends Katy has taught me so much about the joy of being a hospitable woman. Check out her blog on being a faithful homemaker. She's got all kinds of amazing posts about the home, all with a Christ-centered focus.
This blog was actually what sparked me to truly considered the Biblical implications of hospitality at a time in my life when my own home doors felt like a revolving door on a hotel. I loved having someone point me to purpose amidst what felt like so many dirty dishes and bed sheets.
This video is just some tips and tricks from one of my favorites, Rachel Jankovic who I've recommended before. Short and encouraging, especially if you end up hosting big groups of people in your home.
Lord willing, there will be more to come on this subject soon!
With rich love and blessings,