|Volume 22 Number 1 January 2020||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The phrase “given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13) appears under the NKJV subheading of “Behaving Like a Christian.” The apostle Peter also wrote about the Christian obligation to be hospitable. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). One of the qualifications for becoming an elder is practicing hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). All Christians are commanded to be hospitable, but especially elders (and their wives) must possess this attribute (along with others) to qualify for appointment as elders (complemented by their wives). “A husband who is ‘given to hospitality’ would have a difficult time entertaining guests without the cooperation of his wife. Much depends on the hospitality of the lady of the house” (Grider 902). “Hospitality is a joint effort of husband and wife, working together to make guests feel comfortable and welcome” (Bumbalough 24).
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostles Paul and Peter as well as the writer of Hebrews (Paul or someone else) in five verses of Scripture in the New Testament explicitly require Christians to demonstrate hospitality in their lives. The exercise of hospitality in one’s Christian life is not optional! Sadly, though, due to the busyness of modern living, especially in the western world and in any metropolitan setting globally, hospitality is seldom practiced anymore.
The entire Bible is filled with examples of hospitality besides instructions in both testaments to perform it. An early notable account of hospitable treatment of others appears in Genesis 18 through the persons of Abraham and Sarah.
Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. (Genesis 18:1-8 NKJV)
The words “hurried,” “quickly,” “ran” and “hastened” show Abraham’s determination to promptly be a hospitable host to those wayfarers. Abraham was sitting in the doorway of his tent, which is where the nomadic master would position himself customarily, although his servants worked with the herds and the flocks. Three strangers came into view—unknown travelers passing by Abraham’s encampment. Instead of ignoring or hiding from them, Abraham “ran from the tent door to meet them,” indicating the gladness with which he embraced the privilege and the opportunity to extend to them his hospitality. Given the unpaved roads and the usual footwear (sandals), the initial offering of hospitality was invariably the provision of water and a towel with which visitors could wash their feet (or have their feet washed by a servant or even by the host himself). “It was the common dictate of good manners to provide either water for the guests to wash their own feet, or a slave to do it. It became almost synonymous with hospitality (I Tim. 5:10). Jesus rebuked a Pharisee, in whose house He was entertained, for not providing water for His feet (Lk. 7:44)” (Butler, Gospel of John 214).
Despite incurring expense and perhaps requiring the allotment of time to visitors, anciently, hospitality was not viewed as burdensome or as repugnant. Instead, occasions for being hospitable were actively pursued. Benefactors sought out those to whom they could extend hospitality rather than waiting for the visitor to search for someone from whom he could obtain it. Hospitality was commonly understood to be a duty, which the ancients embraced enthusiastically.
Then, as even today in many places in the eastern world, hosts and hostesses did not eat with their guests, but they stood by and served. Later after the visitors would go on their way, hosts and hostesses ate from whatever remained from the meal.
Hospitality involved cultural, social and legal ramifications. Abraham’s nephew Lot provided another example of Old Testament hospitality. He also demonstrated how deeply ingrained hospitality was in the culture of his day.
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. (Genesis 19:1-3)
Whereas Abraham was sitting in the door of his tent, Lot—a city dweller by this time—sat at the entrance to the town. Like his uncle, Lot respectfully bowed himself in front of his prospective guests. As was the case with Abraham’s hospitality, Lot first offered the washing of the travelers’ feet. He also insisted that they lodge in his home, and Lot provided a “feast”—a substantial meal likely exceeding in quality and in quantity what otherwise would have comprised the daily family meal at Lot’s house.
The extent to which hospitality was important to ancient people exhibited itself in Lot’s morally offensive attempt to bargain with the sodomites outside his door. He offered his virgin daughters in place of the male visitors who the mob demanded (Genesis 19:4-8). Since the visitors were ‘under the shadow of Lot’s roof,’ hospitality required him to defend them at all costs, including with all over which he had charge and even with his own life if necessary. “Extension of hospitality meant the extension of protection from abuses of any kind” (Strauss 317). “Eating bread in those lands means more than casual hospitality. It involves a personal pledge of friendship and protection” (Fields 84).
Culture has its rightful place, but it must not be allowed to circumvent biblical, moral and family obligations. Yet, hospitality was and is serious business that ought to characterize the children of God today, too.
Additional instructions and examples of hospitality include the following. “The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34). “And the old man said, ‘Peace be with you! However, let all your needs be my responsibility; only do not spend the night in the open square.’ So he brought him into his house, and gave fodder to the donkeys. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank” (Judges 19:20-21).
Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.” And it happened one day that he came there, and he turned in to the upper room and lay down there. (2 Kings 4:8-11)
The Bible also chronicles some breaches of hospitality. David and his men would have killed Nabal and his family members for withholding hospitality, except that Nabal’s wife Abigal intervened with hospitality (1 Samuel 25:1-44). Much later, Ishmael and men with him rose up while under the hospitality of Gedaliah and eating a meal with him; they killed the governor Gedaliah, the Jews in that place and Chaldean soldiers (Jeremiah 41:1-3). “When Ishmael and his crew of ten cutthroats arrived in Mizpah Gedaliah still suspected nothing. He invited these men of the nobility to dine with him (41:1). During the course of the meal, in flagrant violation of the rules of oriental hospitality, the assassins suddenly rose up and slew Gedaliah (41:2)” (Smith, Jeremiah and Lamentations 657). In another place, Job said, “No sojourner had to lodge in the street, For I have opened my doors to the traveler” (31:32).
When our Lord sent the 12 apostles out two-by-two, He instructed them, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also He said to them, ‘In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place’” (Mark 6:8-10). Jesus Christ and the apostles relied on firmly established cultural hospitality to provide what they needed while traveling around preaching. The Limited Commission on which the apostles were sent “presupposes that they were sure of always finding hospitality. …the ordinary missionary, whether apostle (in any sense of the word) or evangelist, would have been helpless if it had not been that he could count so confidently on the hospitality everywhere” (ISBE). “These men were to labor among their own people, among orientals to whom hospitality was a sacred honor and obligation” (Fowler 294). “In the early church hospitality was constantly needed. Churches of the first century did not book a room at the Best Western for the traveling preacher! There were ‘motels’ or ‘inns,’ but they were often quite expensive. Consequently, persecuted saints on the run from their homeland, or traveling preachers often needed a place to lodge” (Clarke 490).
“The good Samaritan stands for all ages as an example of Christian hospitality” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary). Jesus Christ praised and condemned individuals on the basis of whether they practiced or withheld hospitality. “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matthew 25:35-36). “For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me” (Matthew 25:42-43). As the children of God and brethren with our Lord, we need to practice hospitality as if we are giving it to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lord borrowed an upper room based on the principle of hospitality. “During the Passover week, hospitality was recognized as a universal duty in Jerusalem; pilgrims and strangers were received, and rooms were allotted to them for the celebration of the feast” (Johnson and DeWelt 405).
The new convert Lydia is another biblical instance of Christian hospitality as she pleaded with Paul and his traveling companions, “Come to my house and stay” (Acts 16:15). Regarding Christian widows who might apply for care by the church, Paul wrote, “Well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work” (1 Timothy 5:10). “Lodged strangers” and “washed the saints’ feet” are acts of hospitality already observed in other references.
The nature of extending and receiving hospitality involved acknowledging a bond and an agreement between the parties. Consequently, the first century Jewish critics of Jesus Christ were severely agitated whenever He communed with persons they held in low esteem.
To the Pharisees a publican was no better than a Gentile or a Samaritan. In those days to dine indicated not simply hospitality and friendship, but brotherhood. When a person was invited to dine and did so, people assumed that the host and guest were in agreement religiously, politically and socially (cf. II Jn. 9-11, etc.). Pharisees considered tax-collectors and sinners anathema (cf. Lk. 18:11; Mt. 18:17). Thus the Pharisees assumed Jesus was condoning sin and had defiled Himself by such intimate association with Levi. Jesus ate with a publican—Jesus had joined in brotherhood with a publican. (Butler Gospel of Luke 93-94).
Jesus, though, was not condoning sin, but rather, He took the divine message to sinners and cautioned them to refrain from sin in the future (John 5:14; 8:11).
However, extending and receiving hospitality can involve a relationship and an agreement on doctrinal matters. A young prophet who rebuked Jeroboam for his idolatry, as God had forewarned him, declined the king’s hospitality (1 Kings 13:1-9).
The man of God was firm in his refusal to accept the hospitality of the apostate king. Even if the king were to promise him half of the wealth of his house, the young man could not accept the hospitality of Bethel (v. 8). To share a meal in the ancient East was a token of close communion, and God had forbidden him to have such fellowship with the apostates. The refusal of the prophet was a forcible disclaimer of all fellowship with, and a public repudiation of, the Northern calf-worshipers. (Smith, 1 & 2 Kings 301)
Likewise, in the Christian Age, the Gospel forbids faithful Christians from extending hospitality to unfaithful Christians and false teachers. “Those who have been withdrawn from are still brothers, but erring brothers (James 5:19-20). Christians should neither eat with them (1 Cor. 5:11), give them the hospitality of their homes…” (Olbricht 34). We cannot extend hospitality to false teachers and ungodly Christians. We must admonish erring Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:14) and reprove them (Ephesians 5:11).
It is one thing to extend hospitality to our friends and close brethren, but biblical hospitality does not end there. Hospitality entails the idea of loving strangers. “In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as hospitality literally means ‘love of strangers’” (Nelson’s). Many of the biblical examples regarding hospitality pertain to unknown travelers. Furthermore, biblical hospitality has never been limited to just the children of God.
Jesus taught His disciples to love their enemies in action (Matthew 5:44). The apostle Paul penned, “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’” (Romans 12:20). There is an example of this in Old Testament history. Foreign warriors were captured but given hospitality and sent away. “But he [Elisha] answered, ‘You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow? Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.’ Then he prepared a great feast for them; and after they ate and drank, he sent them away and they went to their master. So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel” (2 Kings 6:22-23).
One characteristic of hospitality is extending it to those who cannot reciprocate. “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13-14).
Hospitality between brethren helps cement church members together. As members of the body of Christ, we are to be “joined and knit together” (Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19).
…Hospitality is not only a biblical command but is a necessity to build a stronger, more unified church. …If we are spending our time and efforts on attaining worldly things and not opening our homes and hearts to our Christian family, can God’s love abide in us? …It doesn’t matter if your silverware doesn’t match, or if you’re not a talented chef. …What matters are the relationships being formed. (Miller 6)
There is neither a better nor an easier way to get to know one’s brethren more fully than to put your feet under their table or for them to put their feet under your table for a meal at home together.
A benefit to inviting even non-Christians to enjoy our hospitality is something by some called hospitality evangelism. “The exact part hospitality has played in helping someone decide to become a Christian as the result of a home Bible study may never be measured, but it is a helpful contribution” (Summers 731). “To be hospitable in our fast-paced society will require diligence on our part. However, its importance is seen not only in the fact of it being commanded by God, but also in the benefits that can be reaped in the area of evangelism and edification” (Dugger 4).
In conclusion, “the practice of receiving strangers into one’s house and giving them suitable entertainment may be traced back to the early origin of human society” (McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia). Extending hospitality is a Christian duty, especially expected of brethren toward brethren, but it is appropriate to offer non-Christians, too. Showing hospitality is one of the things in which Christians ought to remain steadfast. “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2). To “entertain strangers” in this verse comes from the Greek word for hospitality. The noun for “hospitality” (philonexia) appears in Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2. The adjective for “hospitable” occurs in 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:9. It means “fond of guests.” Are you fond of guests?
Bumbalough, Debbie. “Home Is Where the Hospitality Is.” Gospel Advocate. Jan 2000, 24-25.
Butler, Paul T. The Gospel of John, Vol. 2. Joplin: College P., 1965.
_ _ _ , The Gospel of Luke. Joplin: College P., 1981.
Clarke, B.J. “Studies of Difficult Passages in Hebrews—III. Studies in Hebrews.” Devin W. Dean, ed. Schertz: Gospel Journal, 2006, 484-495.
Dugger, Tracy. “Hospitality.” Power. Oct 1998, 4.
Fields, Wilbur. Exploring Exodus. Joplin: College P., 1979.
Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Joplin: College P., 1975.
Grider, Celicia. “Living Godly in an Ungodly World.” God the Father. Bobby Liddell, ed. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 2003, 893-906.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (ISBE). CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Johnson, B.W. and Don DeWelt. The Gospel of Mark. Joplin: College P., 1965.
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Miller, Deirdra. “Practicing Hospitality.” West Virginia Christian. Apr 2003, 6.
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Olbricht, Owen D. “My Brother?” Therefore Stand. May 2006.
Smith, James E. 1 & 2 Kings. Joplin: College P., 1975.
_ _ _ , Jeremiah and Lamentations. Joplin: College P., 1978.
Smith’s Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.
Strauss, James D. The Shattering of Silence: Job, Our Contemporary. Joplin: College P., 1976.
Summers, Gary W. “Are There Any Scriptural Limitations on the Role of Women in the Church?” Studies in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Dub McClish, ed. Denton: Valid Publications, 2001, 669-735.
The Importance of
Family Prayer Time
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Communication is the key to the success in any human connection. In fact, communication is a basic building block in relationships between individuals. Because that is true, it should not come as a surprise that in order for families to have a strong faith, talking to God together is essential. Most families pray at the “appointed” times such as bedtimes and mealtimes. However, setting aside some special opportunities through the week to pray together can have lasting, positive eternal effects for your family. While there are many more benefits to family pray time than I can list in this article, consider the following for motivation to begin or to continue to pray together in your family.
Firstly, family prayer time initiates appreciation. Part of prayer is praising and thanking God for His manifold blessings that He gives each day (Psalm 105:1-3; 138:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; James 1:17). Sadly, we live in what has been labeled “a thankless society.” Yet, praying together causes families to stop and think about the blessings they have been given. Someone has correctly said, “He who thinks, thanks.” Interestingly, a heart filled with gratitude causes us to be happier and much more optimistic. When your family joins together in prayer, discuss some of the many blessings that God has given, noting some blessings that are extra special personally to family members. Surely, the very fact that we can pray with our families is a reason to thank God!
Secondly, family prayer time inspires agreement. When a family sets precious time aside from all of life’s activities to pray, it brings each one closer to God and to each other. It gives individuals an opportunity to share together the ups and the downs that life sometimes brings. By bringing God into our family communication, the Lord becomes part of the very core of the family. Each one can learn to express his or her emotions, which in turn will strengthen the family and the spiritual bond. “The family that prays together, stays together!” Of course, the opposite is often true as well. Interestingly, praying together also helps individuals to forgive and to understand each other better in the family, and what family does not need forgiveness and understanding?
Thirdly, family prayer time instills awareness. Sadly, many children grow up with little awareness of Who the God of Heaven really is. In fact, many young people are growing up today with doubt that God even exists. Moses of old reminded Israel’s parents of their responsibility to teach their children to know God (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). By knowing God and His Word, our families are less likely to go astray and to become unfaithful (Psalm 119:9-11). What is the greatest combatant against atheism? Raising a generation to know God! As a family joins together to pray, it creates a legacy of faith and conviction for spiritual things.
So often, parents think about making memories for their children, so that when those children are grown, they can look back on their upbringing and have good recollections. No greater memories can be intertwined into the minds of our children than those times when, as a family, we sought the counsel of Almighty God. Take time today to pray with your family and to watch as God strengthens and sustains your faith and the faith of those with whom you have been entrusted. In the final analysis, it will be the spiritual things a family did together that really matters!