Friday, July 17, 2009

Christian Hospitality: It's Not Martha Stewart Living (with apologies to Martha)

This week I was called by my church to help with a picnic. I regretfully declined. My husband and I are painting the outside of our home. As my husband has been working many Saturdays, and sunny, paintable days are limited to summer in the Northwest, we have had to skip church and do some of the work on Sundays. I felt like a heel when I said no. You see, I keep asking people to call me when they need something; and when they do, I'm busy. Sound familiar? I started thinking about the parable of the wedding supper; you know the one. The Master sent invitations to his friends to attend his wedding, and one by one they declined. They all had 'legitimate' excuses, but the Bible says they were unworthy to attend. Yikes! Is that me? I fell to my knees and asked the Lord to help me be more social. I specifically asked for the gift of hospitality. I didn't realize what I was asking for. You see, I thought hospitality meant inviting folks over after church for dinner on Sundays. What the Lord revealed to me is that hospitality is a lot more than cooking spaghetti for the church folk and greeting people in the foyer. Here's what I learned...
1. I am commanded to practice hospitality, whether I have 'the gift'or not. Romans 12:13 says;
Contribute to the needs of the saints; PURSUE THE PRACTICE OF HOSPITALITY. I Peter 4:9 affirms this by saying; Use hospitality one to another without grudging, as every man has received the gift, even so minister the same [gift] one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. So hospitality is meeting the practical needs of others, whatever they may be. I may have a home, a car, a bank account, an ability to write, to speak, to listen; but regardless of what gift I have, God has told me to use it for others. So often we imagine, "if I just had a million dollars, I would really help some people", or "If I didn't have to work for a living, I'd go help orphans in Africa." Well guess what! You don't. And God hasn't called you to share what you don't have. He's interested in using what you DO have. My nicely painted and tidied home is of little value to God unless I offer it to Him.
2. Hospitality is not Marth Steward Living. It's not about the showcase home with perfect furnishings and dainty delicacies served on the perfect china. It is ministering to the needs of others. Jesus said in Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me meat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me... Eastern culture takes hospitality to another level. Remember how Abraham treated the strangers who later turned out to be angels. And how Rebecca treated David and his mighty army? Hebrews 13:2 counsels us: Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers (in the brotherhood-being friendly, cordial, gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously), for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. After reading this I was driving down the road and passed a hitchhiker. He was pretty scary looking. I prayed, "Father, do you want us to start picking up strangers and so forth?" He replied, "No daughter. I don't want you ever to put yourself in danger. But for example, if someone you know calls and says, 'a missionary is in town and needs a place to stay', you need to do everything in your power to help them." I believe in this economic downturn, it is going to be an ever-increasing responsibility of the Church to take care of believers and their needs.
3. Hospitality can take place anywhere, because it is giving of yourself. It may be a simple smile, sending a check to an orphanage, helping at a mission, or just making someone feel at home with you. Isn't that what our Father has done for us? He took us in when we were a pretty scurrilous lot. He provided for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. Read the story of the Good Samaritan again. It's all about hospitality.
4. Hospitality defines believers. In I Timothy 3:2 it says, A bishop must be...hospitable-showing love for and being a friend to the believers, especially strangers and foreigners. And again Paul tells Timothy, She (a widow) must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has PRACTICED HOSPITALITY to strangers [of the brotherhood], washed the feet of saints, helped relieve the distressed, and devoted herself to diligently doing good in every way. Well, if the Lord tarries and my husband goes to be with Jesus before me, I will be a widow. I wonder if I will have such a reputation. Guess I'd better get busy.

One of my favorite blogs to read is Like Merchants Ships (
It is about frugal living. In it, she often says, "use what you have." This has become somewhat of a mantra for me. (Thank you Meredith!) The same applies in hospitable living. Use what you have. If you have flowers, cut some and give them away. If you have time, visit people. If you have little time but more money, give some of it away. Think of the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17. Elijah, the prophet was sent to her to be sustained during the famine. Why didn't God send Elijah to a rich widow? I think God wanted to meet this poor woman's need as much as he wanted to help Elijah. So the story goes that Elijah asked for water and bread. The widow claimed that she had only a handful of meal. Enough to make a little loaf for she and her son, and then they would starve. But Elijah told her to make him a little loaf first, then for herself and her son. She followed his instructions; and the result was that she and her son, and Elijah had plenty to eat for many days.
Oh Jesus, help me get this concept through my selfish head! Help me to understand that when I seek first the kingdom (Your way of thinking and doing things) that all of my needs will be met. You promised it Lord!
This past week a high-school friend of my husband was tragically killed in a biking accident. His memorial is on Saturday at two pm. We had planned to paint all day. Our plans have changed. We will come down from our ladders, shower and dress, and go to this funeral. I will try to find a way to offer hospitality to the bereaved family. The painting can wait a few hours.