|Vol. 2, No. 7||Page 11||July 2000|
Growing up, Saturdays were usually cleaning days. The whole house was cleaned from top to bottom in preparation for Sunday company. On Sunday morning, Mom was up a little early to get last minute things done in the kitchen before we all went to church. When we arrived home from worship, guests came with us. Sometimes we knew on Saturday who was coming. Some days, enough food was fixed for guests and Dad just invited a family or two after services. Looking back now, I realize Sunday guests were not an every week occurrence as it seems in my memory. They were, however, a very frequent event and one I greatly enjoyed.
Many times I regret that circumstances in the last few years since I moved out on my own have not permitted me to entertain “Sunday Guests” like I remember growing up. Not only are these get-togethers enjoyable, they fulfill one of God’s commands for his children. The Bible commands us to be hospitable (Hebrews 13:1-3; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Peter 4:8-11; 3 John 5-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). The command is not limited to our brethren and there is much room for individuals to carry out this command in their own way.
To Whom Should We Be Hospitable?There are basically two groups of people we are commanded to include in our hospitality. One group is our brethren. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 we read, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” First Peter 4:8-10 says, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Other verses instruct us to help those Christian widows who have been hospitable (1 Timothy 5:10) and that we are to be given to hospitality “preferring one another” (Romans 12:10-13).
The second group to whom we are commanded to be hospitable is strangers. Third John verses 5-8 commend the brethren for remembering brethren and strangers. Hebrews 13:1-3 brings to mind Abraham and Sarah showing hospitality to strangers. Verses like Ephesians 4:32, Galatians 6:10, Luke 14:12-14 and Matthew 25:34-35 tell us we should be kind to others, especially the poor and needy.
Why Should We Show Others Hospitality?There are several reasons we should show hospitality to others. First, as we have seen, it is a command of God. Secondly, showing hospitality to strangers can open doors. When we are kind to strangers or help them out when they are in need, we fulfill the commands of Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our example in this matter many times allows us the opportunity to tell others about Christ. Those who would not normally listen to our words may become interested because of our actions. As found in Matthew 25:34-45, when we show care and concern for those in need, we show care and concern for Christ. Others will notice this attitude and glory will be given to God.
A third reason for showing hospitality is to fulfill the command of unity in the church. Consider Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Paul by inspiration commands the church to be unified, peaceful and patient with one another. If we do not know each other, it is impossible to keep these commands. When we show hospitality to our brethren, we become better aquatinted, and therefore better equipped to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
What Is Hospitality?So far, we have looked at the commands to show hospitality, the people we are to show it to and the reasons behind it. However, what, exactly, does it mean to be hospitable or show hospitality? Webster’s New World Dictionary defines hospitality as “friendly and solicitous toward guests, new arrivals, etc.” According to Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, in the original Greek the word for hospitality in Romans 12:13 means “love to strangers.” The form of hospitality in 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:9 means “generous to guests.” When we show hospitality to others, we are showing kindness, generosity and welcome. This involves not only our words and actions, but our attitudes as well. All of this should be motivated by our love for others (1 Corinthians 13).
How Can We show Hospitality?Many people in the Bible show us by example how to be hospitable. In 1 Kings 17:9-16 we read of a woman who gives food to a prophet of God and in 2 Kings 4:2, 8-11 another woman provides a room for one of God’s prophets. In Luke 10:30-37 the Good Samaritan provided medical help, food and lodging for an injured stranger. Acts 16 tells of the kindness of Lydia and the jailer toward Paul and his fellow travelers.
There is much we can do to show hospitality to those around us. Send cards, call or visit those who are sick in the congregation. Help widows with yardwork or housework. Many times parents of sick children would appreciate an offer to stay with the child so they can run a few errands or attend a worship service. If there are siblings who are not sick, offer to take them for an outing or to your home for a few hours. Send cards of encouragement and holiday boxes to missionaries. Include items they may not be able to get in foreign lands.
There is much we can do for those who are not members of the church as well. Contribute to your congregation’s clothing and food pantry. If you do not have one, ask the elders what you could do to start one. Visit neighbors who are ill and take them a hot meal. Welcome newcomers to your neighborhood and invite them to attend worship with you. The possibilities for hospitality are limited only by your imagination and willingness work.
Not everyone can have “Sunday Guests” each week. Though
this is one great way to show our hospitality, it is by no means the only
one. We are each commanded to be hospitable. Our abilities and circumstances
determine how we fulfill this command. As long as we are fulfilling God’s
commands with the right attitude (love for others and a desire to bring
glory to God instead of a feeling of “since I have to”), God will be pleased
with our best efforts, no matter how small they may seem to men.