One Another Texts: Hospitality
In Romans 12:13, Paul says, “seek to show hospitality.” When we think of the “one-another” commands of Scripture, certainly the idea of hospitality comes to mind. The word itself comes from the Latin hospes, meaning guest, visitor, or stranger.
Sometimes talks and books on this topic give the impression that the speaker’s or writer’s practice of hospitality is THE method of applying this biblical principle. In looking at Scripture however, we see a wide variety of care for guests, visitors, and strangers.
HOSPITALITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Abram entertained three strangers by making sure their feet were washed and by providing bread, a calf, curds, and milk (Gen. 18:1-8). In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant is entertained by Laban, and even the camels receive water and straw (vv. 11-61)!
Sometimes hospitality is for an extended period, like when David promises Mephibosheth, “You shall eat at my table always” (2 Sam. 9:7). Solomon entertained the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 4:22), and Nehemiah hosted both Jews and foreigners (Neh. 5:17).
Finally, in 2 Kings 4, the Shunammite woman not only fed Elisha every time he passed through town, but she also encouraged her husband to put on an addition so Elisha would have his own room!
HOSPITALITY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
We see similar hospitality in the New Testament era. Jesus fed the multitudes, and after being healed of a fever, Peter’s mother-in-law immediately got up and began to serve (Luke 4:39). The family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus extended hospitality to Jesus and the disciples at their home in Bethany.
We find Peter on Simon’s roof in Joppa (Acts 9:43) and saying with Cornelius (Acts 10:48). After Lydia came to Christ, she invited Paul and Silas to her home (Acts 16:15), and Priscilla and Aquila had a church meeting in their home (Acts 18).
Finally, consider the “good Samaritan” in Luke 10. He was not at home when he came upon the man who needed his assistance. This man was a stranger to him, yet the Samaritan provided hospitality by caring for him and paying for him to stay at an inn along the way.
HOSPITALITY BY PEOPLE LIKE US
It is unlikely anyone will ever show up at our doors with camels to be watered, yet the clear reminder from Scripture is found in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hospitality is the mark of a good elder, (1 Tim. 3:2), a good widow (1 Tim. 5:10), and people like us. It is important to realize, however, that we are not given a one-size-fits-all definition of what that hospitality will look like.
GIVE WHAT YOU HAVE
My husband and I were once hosted by a young family with no guest room. Sure, we had a cat jumping on us through the night as we slept on the foldout couch, but they gave from what they had, and we were blessed.
BE WHO YOU ARE
I also fondly remember the hospitality extended as part of a weekly Bible study. There were two very different single guys in the study, one who enjoyed making desserts, and another who preferred to buy baked goods from the store. No one tried to outdo the others; we were just being ourselves and studying God’s Word together.
I once heard of a couple who always served hotdogs in their home. The story was shared with me by someone whose recollection about the love and fellowship in that home was deeply tied to those hotdogs!
FOLLOW CHRIST’S EXAMPLE
While you may never need to build a room on your house for a traveling guest or invite someone to eat every meal at your house for the rest of forever, we all have opportunities to provide for a guest, a stranger, or a visitor. Do not worry about comparing yourself to others. Just serve using the gifts and resources you have been given. Scripture does not tell us exactly what to do, but rather encourages us to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:15-17). So, be hospitable!
Sharon L. Sampson holds an MTS with a biblical counseling concentration from the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. She is a certified biblical counselor and is an active member of the Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. She has been married to her wonderful husband, Mark, since 1985, and they have one married daughter.