Ever since I can remember, I’ve been the planner in the group. I’ve put together family functions, birthday celebrations, game nights, girl’s trips, date nights, play dates, Bible studies, and anything in between. I’ve repeatedly planned, organized, reserved, prepared, cooked, hosted, and cleaned. Just call me the queen of hospitality.
For the most part, I’ve enjoyed being the “hostess with the mostest,” the party planner extraordinaire, or activity queen. But, sometimes, I see the gift of hospitality as more of a burden than a blessing. Perhaps you’ve felt this way?
Do you always host holiday dinners, secretly wishing someone else would take a turn?
Do you plan birthdays and special events for friends hoping that maybe next time they will share the responsibility?
Do you teach Bible study, small groups, and church gatherings in your home, praying that someone else will follow your example next time?
Inviting people into our homes and lives is not a suggestion but an expectation of Christ’s followers. Some people are naturally gifted at making others feel welcomed. They are blessed with ample space to entertain and enjoy getting people together. But, the truth is that all believers are called to participate in biblical hospitality. Allow me to reiterate: inviting people into our homes and lives is not a suggestion but an expectation of Christ’s followers.
Why Does It Matter if I Practice Hospitality?
In Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, she says, “Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom. They open doors; they seek out the underprivileged. They know that the gospel comes with a house key.”
Hospitality doesn’t always need to be as extravagant as a gourmet meal or hosting a family for the weekend. A simple smile, lingering for a few minutes with a friend to catch up, or helping someone in need are all simple ways we can show hospitality. Instead of flashy gestures, think of hospitality as making people feel loved. This can be as easy as creating safe environments to share and making people feel comfortable.
Every day the world pressures us into filling our calendars to the brim. We stay busy striving towards personal goals and juggling the chaos of our lives, forgetting to save margin for others. We make excuses that if we had more money, space, or time, we would be better about inviting others into our lives as if hospitality is a luxury reserved for the wealthy or those with unlimited means. But may I challenge you to think of hospitality differently—as a matter of willingness to give our time and resources to make others feel welcome?
When we prioritize people over productivity, ignoring distractions, forgoing personal pleasures, and other things that fight for our time, we show that we care about others. We do more than just proclaim Christ with our words; we display the gospel by our actions and willingness to invest in the lives of others.
What Does the Bible Say About Hospitality?
Several times throughout the New Testament, we are reminded that hospitality is twofold: an inward response and an outward action.
Romans 12:13 encourages us to tend to the needs of other believers practicing hospitality.
1 Timothy 5:10 exalts us to have a reputation for good works, showing hospitality to believers and non-believers.
Hebrews 13:2 admonishes us not to neglect to show hospitality to strangers, and we might even have the opportunity to entertain angels.
1 Peter 4:9 tells us what our attitude should be, showing hospitality without grumbling.
While hospitality is commanded, God desires that we do so from a transformed heart that desires to serve God and others from a place of gratitude. We can’t earn or repay God for the gift of salvation, but showing hospitality to others is an opportunity to express our love and share Christ with others.
Examining Our Heart’s Motivations
I planned a party at my house recently, and quite a few people couldn’t make it. Irritated, I decided to cancel the event altogether. A small voice nagged at me, “ When’s the last time they invited you to their home?” “They probably wouldn’t even be your friend if you didn’t do all the planning for the group.” “Why do you always have to be the one who cleans, cooks, and then cleans again after they leave?”
I needed a hospitality heart check.
When we begin to host and invite people into our homes and lives out of obligation or, even worse, an expectation they will return the favor, we’ve lost sight of being hospitable. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask a friend to bring over an appetizer or politely request they remove their shoes when they come home. And yes, family and friends should share the responsibility to host and plan get-togethers. But, what it does mean is that we don’t keep score. We must freely share the resources and blessings God has given us without strings attached.
If God has given you the gift of gab, the ability to whip up a Martha Stewart meal in a comfy home that smells like clean laundry and warm chocolate chip cookies, then use those gifts to bring Him honor. However, our motivation can’t be that we expect our friends to return the favor to us in the same ways we extended hospitality toward them.
Maybe their hospitality comes in the form of asking you to join them for a walk or bringing you a cup of coffee at your desk. Or maybe they pay it forward to someone else entirely! The ways we utilize our gifting of hospitality are as nuanced as how God uses our offerings for His glory.
We must constantly take inventory of our motives, remembering that our purpose is to bring glory and honor to God. We aren’t responsible for what others do or don’t do. Instead, God tells us, “to whom much is given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48). Has God given you an abundance? Joyfully and whole-heartedly share with others what He has done in your life. Let’s show hospitality with the single hope that we may be presented with an opportunity to share the gospel or remind a hurting friend of God’s faithfulness.
Use every opportunity and resource to gather with believers, building up the body. Invite non-believers to sit down with you and be a part of your life, showing them what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Pray that the Lord will soften your heart, give you eyes to see the endless benefits of hospitality, and seek forgiveness when you pridefully neglect to serve others.
Moving from Burden to Blessing
Think about a home that holds a special place for you. Can you remember the carpet color in their house? Were the baseboards spotless? Did a five-star chef cook every meal? Probably not. It is so special because of the memories and how they made you feel loved, cherished, and valuable. May I encourage you to practice radical hospitality in your life’s ordinary and everyday rhythm?
Here are a few examples of small ways you can get comfortable exercising the gift of hospitality:
Start out by inviting someone to coffee, then welcome them into your home.
Invite a long-time friend to join you for dinner, and then extend the invite to the new couple at church.
Offer to teach a small group at the church and then transition to hosting their families for a cookout.
There are many valid arguments as to why it isn’t the right time to prioritize hospitality—a new baby, an illness, or temporary living arrangements, to name a few. However, we must be careful not to use our lack of space, time, experience, or personality as a crutch and excuse for not opening our hearts and homes to others.
I can’t promise that it won’t be super awkward or that you won’t forget that your friend is a vegetarian. That’s not the important part. Did you take time out of your day to bring someone into your space, share your life, and listen to them? Then you practiced radical hospitality!
Laura Bailey Contributing writer at www.ibelieve.com