Beth and I were discussing the definition of
hospitality the other day, which got me thinking
on the subject.
Besides my conversation with Beth, I was recently
discussing the qualifications of elders and deacons
with a young preacher, and I misspoke saying something
like, "Deacons don't have to be hospitable, just
The young preacher and I laughed about my mistake.
Of course, all Christians are responsible for
being hospitable, not just elders.
So, a reminder regarding the meaning of "hospitality"
would be good for me, and maybe for others also.
Friendly Reception and Treatment of Guests
Hospitality is the friendly reception and treatment
of guests, or strangers, in a warm and generous
way (Random House Dictionary).
Whether you look at Asian, Greek, Eastern or
Western cultures, the meaning is the same, though
traditions differ within cultures.
Hospitality always denotes the reception and
treatment of guests, though the motivation and
traditions vary from culture to culture.
We've talked about hospitality in recent lessons,
but as Christians we're prone to shirk from our
responsibility to be hospitable, as Peter indicates
when writing, "Be hospitable to one another without
complaint" (1 Pet. 4:9).
So it's good to remind ourselves that we are
commanded to be hospitable. In other words, we're
commanded to receive guests in a friendly, warm,
and generous way.
So Paul, giving the command in Hebrews 13:2,
referencing Abraham's hospitality, says, "Do not
neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for
by this some have entertained angels without knowing
it" (Heb. 13:2).
Furthermore, Paul explains in Romans that we're
not only to be hospitable, but we're to "practice"
- "Contributing to the needs of the saints,
practicing hospitality" (Rom. 12:13).
The word "practice" in Rom. 12:13 means to
seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire.
Thus, we eagerly and diligently seek out opportunities
to be hospitable, rather than just doing a little
to get by. We are like Abraham who pleaded with
three angels (thinking they were men) to stay
with him long enough to rest while he washed their
feet and fed them, and like Lydia who pleaded
with Paul to lodge with her.
One example of hospitality is the treatment I
receive when traveling to preach. Someone keeps
me in their home while I am there, and others
have me in their home or take me out for a meal.
Sometimes the whole church gets together for a
meal while I'm there.
And brethren here have extended hospitality
to me and my family. When we first visited, a
brother paid for our hotel, then when I returned
to visit the following Sunday, I stayed in a brother's
home. Then when we moved here, most (if not all)
of the brethren got together to share a meal,
and to welcome us. Besides this, several families
have had us into their homes and shown kindness
to us, and some have received us as guests outside
These are examples of hospitality I've experienced
over the last few years, and I'm sure you've experienced
similar examples also.
Hospitality: Different from Visiting
Sometimes, we may think we don't have to be hospitable
if we visit brethren and see to their needs, such
as widows (Jas. 1:27; Gal. 6:10).
But, we should remember that visiting doesn't
exempt us from keeping other commands, such as
Widows certainly need us to visit them and tend
to their needs, but they also need to be with
us in our homes.
Christians are different from other people in
Though hospitality is not prevalent in our society
as it was a few years ago, we must imitate the
pattern of sound word contained in God's word.
Thus, unlike many in our society, we are hospitable.
Jesus says the world will know we're His disciples
by the love we have for one another (Jn. 13:34-35).
One way the world knows we are Jesus' disciples
is by the hospitality we extend to each other,
setting us apart from others who are wrapped up
in an affluently selfish lifestyle.
So remember, hospitality is the friendly reception
and treatment of guests, or strangers, in a warm
and generous way.
And remember that being hospitable is about
obedience to God, whereby people are encouraged
and uplifted, and whereby the world sees that
we're Christ's disciples.