- Jesus told Zacchaeus to climb down from the tree because they were going to Zacchaeus’ house. Zacchaeus “welcomed him gladly” (Luke 19:5-6).
- Martha “opened her home” to Jesus when we walked into Bethany (Luke 10:38).
- Levi, a former tax collector, “held a great banquet for Jesus at his house” (Luke 5:29).
- A Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to have dinner with him in his home, and Jesus accepted his invitation despite knowing the critical nature of the man’s heart (Luke 7:36).
- A former leper named Simon threw a dinner party in Jesus’ honor just days before His arrest and crucifixion (Mark 14:3, John 12:1-2).
Some of Jesus’ best, most
intimate teaching took place
over a meal in someone’s home.
Some of Jesus’ best, most intimate teaching took place over a meal in someone’s home. Women and men, Pharisees and tax collectors—all sorts of people—invited Jesus into their homes. Okay, sometimes He invited Himself. Still, in every recorded instance, He said “yes.” What if, here in the 21st century, ours was the home? What if Jesus used us to reach someone over a meal in our home?
In this month’s installment on generosity, we’re talking about generosity of space, that is, hospitality.
But I Don’t Have the Gift of Hospitality
Some people do it effortlessly. Not only do their homes always look beautiful, but we feel welcome in them—like they want us to be there, dirtying their dishes and squashing their plump pillows.
I am not one of those people.
However, hospitality is an aspect of generosity in which I genuinely want to improve. This summer, we’ve been remodeling our home. We want it to feel welcoming and spacious, a place our neighbors can relax and just enjoy hanging out together. But rather than increasing our hospitality mentality, the remodeling work has decreased it. The walls still need painting, and the new dining room table hasn’t arrived yet. We haven’t had anyone except our small group over for months!
I’m not quitting though. Consider Paul’s words in the second half of Romans, where he gives us all kinds of instructions on how to live as Christ-followers.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. –Romans 12:13
These two statements are straightforward—no conditions or qualifications. They come in a list of virtual bullet points, right after “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Is Paul saying hospitality is equivalent to praying, patience, and joyfulness? Looks like it to me.
The writer of Hebrews remembers hospitality in his “concluding exhortations” (the heading in my NIV Study Bible).
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. –Hebrews 13:2
And Peter, in his typically blunt fashion, puts it like this:
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. –1 Peter 4:9
without grumbling. I think the Holy Spirit may have been reading my mind when He prompted Peter to write this verse.
If we include all Luke’s stories about Jesus going into homes (bulleted list above), then all the major New Testament writers talk about hospitality. It must be important.
But I Don’t Have a Nice House
When I think about the homes in which I’ve felt most welcome, I remember little about the décor or the shininess of the silverware. What I remember is their smiles and their comfort-level with our presence. I knew that if I spilled my drink on the carpet, no one would be offended, and if I didn’t like the side dish, I wasn’t obligated to eat it.
I can do that. It may take some prayer and some practice, but I can be glad people walk through my door. I can keep the perspective that people are more important than possessions. I can invite people into my life more than into my home—not to sit on the nice couch in the parlor (as if I have a parlor!) but to lean on the kitchen counter after a nice meal or fall asleep in the den after pizza. (Okay, I don’t have a den either, but you get the idea.)
I want my attitude to say,
- I love it that you’re here.
- I want to spend time with you.
- Stay as long as you want.
- Everything I have is yours.
A generous attitude is the
foundation of hospitality.
Isn’t attitude the foundation of hospitality? There may not be an extra-large roast in my oven, but there’s always enough for an extra peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. If I make it because I want my guest to stay a little longer, I think they’ll understand.
But I’m Afraid
You’re talking to a dyed-in-the-wool introvert here, so I get you. Hospitality takes courage.
Judgement: Some people may judge you. Some people may think the special meatloaf you love is disgusting and the grungy-but-clean hand towels are gross. Can we decide in advance to be okay with that?
Housekeeping: You may get a stain on your carpet. A special glass may get broken. A child’s toy may go missing. Those things are okay, too. Remember, we’re choosing to prioritize people over possessions.
Schedule: You may find yourself staying up past your bedtime. You may have to make an extra trip (or three) to the grocery store. You may not get the laundry out of the dryer and folded tonight. That’s okay. Your mama might frown, but God will make room in tomorrow’s schedule to make up for today.
Jesus didn’t own a home on earth, so He didn’t have many chances to demonstrate the type of hospitality we’re talking about here. Remember, however, His promise to the disciples and us.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go there to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. –John 14:2-3
Jesus is generous with His
space in Heaven, getting
ready for our arrival.
Right now, Jesus is preparing for us to be in His home, where He wants us to join Him. Jesus is being generous with His space. He is hospitable.
Just like Jesus went into all types of homes when He was on earth, He calls all types of people to hospitality. Maybe your style is beer and a pizza in front of a football game. Maybe it’s candlelight and a white tablecloth with stimulating conversation. Or anything in between. There’s no “type” for Christian hospitality. It’s the act of being hospitable that demonstrates our faith and creates opportunities to be generous with that faith.
What can we do to improve our “hospitality mentality”? (I like that phrase. You’ll probably see it again.) Your suggestions may help the rest of us do the same, so please share in the comments below!
For further reading:
- Check Red Bud Writers Guild April posts for more on hospitality. There were too many to list here.
- Over at (In)courage, find Welcoming Others with the Little You Have.
- I’ve set the bar rather low here. In Everyone You Meet Will Live Forever for Desiring God, Matt Chandler says the definition of hospitality involves “aliens and strangers.”