Earlier I gave some of the central Bible verses on hospitality. Here are the first five principles on how to practice hospitality.
First, we should think often on God’s kindness to us. All of our actions are to flow out of who God is and what he has done for us. Hospitality should come from the overflow of our life in Christ, not from guilt. Study and pray over those passages in God’s Word that describe God’s kindness to you. Matthew 22 is a good place to start. You could also read Psalm 104-106. There are numerous passages in Isaiah, such as Isaiah 2:1-5, 55, and 66:10-13. You could also read passages that talk about feasting, like Exodus 24:9-18, II Samuel 9, I Kings 8 (especially verses 65-66) and II Chronicles 30:21-27. Finally, you could read and meditate on Revelation 21-22. The foundation for our hospitality is God’s grace shown toward us.
Second, we must cultivate a love for people and the messes that they bring with them. People track in mud. This mud can be physical, such as spilled milk, broken furniture, or clogged toilets. It can also be things like ugly marriages, selfish hearts, immature speech, and ingratitude. Without a desire to love people in the midst of their messes we will not practice hospitality. Are we willing to put up with the difficulties and problems people will bring into our home? If not, then we need to go back to the previous paragraph and review how God cares for us despite the trouble we cause.
Third, we need to work with our particular situation. We are all at different phases in our lives. To a large degree, these phases dictate how hospitable we can be. A family with six young children will not be able to practice hospitality to the same degree as a family with one child or with children all over fifteen years old. A man who works 37 hours a week and is always home by 5 will be able to do things that a man who works 50 hours a week and travels a lot cannot. Proverbs says, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds” (27:23). In other words, know your situation. Know what you have and what you do not have. Here are at least three things to evaluate:
- How many children do you have and what are their ages? More children will often make frequent hospitality difficult. The reason is simple: children take time and energy. A mother who is nursing one child, with one in diapers and two more under the age of ten will have a hard time getting ready for guests. She is already practicing hospitality with her “guests.” She needs her husband’s help, which means hospitality will be more infrequent and will usually take place on the weekend. The amount of hospitality will vary from family to family. It is the husband’s job to make sure the wife is not overdoing it and that he is meeting the needs of his children and wife.
- What is the husband’s job situation? How many hours is the husband working? Has he been out of town? A husband is an important part of hospitality and he should seek to lead in this area. If he is gone a lot or worn down hospitality is more difficult.
- What is the physical state of the home and the people in the home? Have the children been sick? Is the wife 8 ½ months pregnant? Has it been a long week or couple of weeks and the whole family needs a break? Are you older and wear down quickly? Sometimes the righteous thing to do is not invite someone over.
- The three points above do not mean we only show hospitality when it is easy or convenient. Most of the time hospitality will require sacrifice. There are times where we need to push ourselves even when we are tired and worn out. Nor is this meant to be an excuse to not be hospitable. It is an, however, encouragement to be wise.
Fourth, be hospitable. Don’t entertain. One of the temptations with hospitality is to dazzle people. This is not what the Bible is talking about. There is a place in the Christian life for a grand feast with everyone in their best clothes. But that is not regular hospitality. Hospitality is about showing kindness, meeting the needs of your guests, and making sure they are comfortable. Hospitality should be devoted, not to showing off, but to making sure your guests are at home. The food should be good, but not ostentatious. The meal and time afterward should be devoted to conversation and getting to know one another. It should be leisurely and joyful.
Fifth, we should go outside our normal circle of friends and peers. We all need friends. These are the folks we invite over without thinking. The people we want to hang out with. This is good and we should certainly show hospitality to them. However, we also want to learn to be kind to those who are not like us. The young should invite over the old and the old the young. The family with no children should invite the one with five. The lawyer should invite the farmer. The auto mechanic should invite over the doctor. The Hispanic should invite over the Asian. We are the Body of Christ. We are not bound by race, economic status, or level of education. We are bound together by the blood of Christ. We need to reach outside our normal group and invite people whom we don’t naturally gravitate towards.