Do you consider hospitality to be someone else’s job? You are probably aware that it is a requirement for pastors and elders, but do you realize that it is a command given to all believers regardless of position, income, marital status, or size of your home? (Romans 12:13.) Biblical hospitality is defined as the “love of strangers,” and is to be extended primarily to fellow believers, but also to the unbelievers around you. It is the opening of your life and home to those you don’t know.
I have enjoyed sweet hospitality in numerous ways and in many places. Recently though, I was the recipient of unexpected hospitality. I set out to help an older, single woman I’ve been acquainted with through church, but didn’t really know. She was a stranger to me, as I was to her. She needed help packing for a move, so I agreed to assist her. I was there to work, but she offered me warm hospitality the moment I arrived—in spite of her fixed income and her small, untidy home. I was anxious to just get going, but she wanted to have coffee and chat first. I was overwhelmed by her genuine love and kindness towards me—a stranger.
We can become bogged down by the details surrounding having people over. If we focus too intently on the preparations or fixate on what we lack, we can lose sight of what hospitality is.
Hospitality is not entertaining, although they are closely related. Hospitality is an act of obedience to God done out of love for others, while entertaining is often a duty or about impressing people. You can entertain with wrong motives, or no real emotion at all; but biblical hospitality is offered in gratitude for all God has done for you and flows out of your love for Him. If God had not first been hospitable to us, where would we be?
"Hospitality is an act of obedience to God done out of love for others, while entertaining is often a duty or about impressing people."
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:12-13, 19).
The gospel is the right motivation for hospitality. By inviting in Christians from all spheres, we can hear how God’s grace was extended to them and what He is doing in their ministry. Our own faith can be increased through fellowship around the table. It also gives children the ability to meet and interact with other believers from around the world. This will expand their worldview and hopefully increase their desire for sharing the gospel and missions.
When we invite in a stranger who isn’t saved, it allows for the gospel to be put on display. It shows the love of Christ that has been extended to us. Thinking through questions ahead of time will allow you to get to know where they are spiritually and give gospel opportunities.
All that we have is a gift from God’s gracious hand because, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). The apostle Paul asked, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7.) Nothing! Therefore we are to treat everything we “own” as a stewardship from the Lord. A steward manages someone else’s property for them, for the benefit of others. Often we think of this in terms of money, but scripturally it is anything and everything we’ve been given. So, we are to use the resources we have for God’s glory and the building up and encouragement of strangers through hospitality.
Your marital status and gender are not reasons to neglect hospitality. Men as well as women, married or single, are given this command. The size of your home doesn’t excuse you, neither does the kind of food you are able to afford, or how busy your schedule is. Christians are to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). When we justify not extending hospitality to others because of what we lack, it is in a sense grumbling, therefore sin.
It may be your heart’s desire to be hospitable, but you may have some legitimate limitations. Remember “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) and “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). God wants you to share with those He brings into your life. Ask God to give you creative ideas on extending hospitality. If there are practical skills that you lack, remember that skills are learned; ask someone to help you.
The end result of opening your heart and home to a stranger is blessing for everyone. When I set out to help my sister in Christ, I didn’t go expecting hospitality, I expected to work. What I received was friendship because she willingly loved a stranger. She is an example of a “joyful giver” because she offered me what she had out of a heart of gratitude for all the Lord has done for her. She didn’t let her “lack” interfere with her desire to go beyond what was expected and offer warm hospitality. May we all aspire to be hospitable so that the watching world will see the love of Christ in action.