I Peter 4:9 commands us to "be hospitable to one another without grumbling." Romans 12:13 lists characteristics that should be evident in the Christian's life, including "given to hospitality." The early church in Acts 2 gathered from house to house to break bread and eat their food with gladness and simplicity of heart... We tend to think we either have the gift of hospitality or we don't, so we excuse ourselves from obeying this command.
Life today is busy, very busy. Its rare that families even eat together anymore, let alone have time to invite others to share a meal. Work, sports and activities pull us in many different directions leaving little time for families to slow down and enjoy even just the evening meal together. And yet we are commanded in the Bible to practice hospitality. The South is known for its Southern hospitality, but I'm wondering if its gone out of style! Are we simply too busy to show hospitality anymore?
This is one area I am trying to grow in. I'm so thankful for the examples I have had in my own mom, my mother-in-law and several sisters in the Lord... I have wonderful memories of my friend Debbie having our family into her home many times when we were so far away from our family while living in Montana. I remember another friend, Karen, modeling hospitality along with her 4 daughters, busily preparing food in her kitchen. I think often we forget what a wonderful opportunity we have to use our homes as a place to minister to others. With small children in the home it is often difficult to leave our homes to "do things for the Lord." But in I Timothy 5:10 widows were expected to have welcomed strangers and ministered to the saints, among other things. We don't have to leave our homes to welcome strangers or minister to the saints- it is simply an extension of what we are already doing... we just need to cook a little more and be willing to open our home.
One sister put it this way- while entertaining is putting on a show and trying to impress others, hospitality is a lifestyle of serving. I know if you are anything like me (and I'm sure you are) you can think of a dozen reasons why you can't/won't have others into your home. I'm married to a very spontaneous someone who loves to invite people over spur of the moment. He is often met with "the look" - you know, the one that says don't you know how messy the house is? Or that we don't have anything suitable to eat? Or that I'm just not in the mood to be sociable today? Knowing I'm not quite as spontaneous as him, he has learned to give me a little more of a warning, and I'm working on becoming a little more spontaneous!
We can think up many excuses to avoid showing hospitality. Here are just a few of them:
- I can't cook well enough. Acts 2 mentions the word "simplicity" of heart. Remember that hospitality is giving of ourselves through serving and blessing others. Our goal is not to impress. I know this is hard for us to swallow, isn't it? Keep the menu and the food preparations simple. I know you can make a simple supper of soup and sandwiches. Or how about a pasta salad with chips and fruit?
- I can't afford to. Food is expensive, and getting more so by the week. I know! Again, try to think of simple things to make. Instead of making grilled chicken breasts for each guest, grill a few and chop them up into a casserole or pasta salad. Sometimes we will have beans and rice for a few days to have something "nicer" for company. Or ask your guest/guests to help make the meal. Just remember that God will bless our obedience- we cannot out-give God. I am often encouraged to remember George Muller. He prayed believing God would provide for those in his care, and God always came through, even when his cupboards were empty. Oh to have that kind of faith! I love this passage as well..."There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself." (Proverbs 11: 24 and 25)
- Our house is too small. I can relate to this one as well. Our current house doesn't have a dining room and our family of 12 is already tight around the kitchen table. We have on some occasions set up up a table in the living room or had children sit by the kitchen counter. We try to utilize our back porch when the weather is favorable. Pray and ask God to show you how to be creative with the space He has given you.
- My house is a mess! This is one that you have some control over. Get cleaning! This is good motivation. Focus on the main living areas where your guests will be. Make sure there is a bathroom that is tidy. And relax- your guests are coming to enjoy fellowship, not inspect your home!
- I get too overwhelmed. This is where planning comes in. Try to come up with food that can be prepared ahead of time. Do as much as possible before hand. Have your children help with cleaning, watching little ones and food prep. My children get excited to have other families over and are eager to help. My older girls like to set the table, decorate, make place cards and help make the food. This is great training for them as well.
So let us be encouraged to show more hospitality, for in so doing "some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:1).
"She extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20