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What is Hospitality?
Bible study on hospitality.

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 elders."

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.

Hospitality Commanded
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" hospitality.

  • "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 their homes.

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 being hospitable.

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 the world.

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.