WE LIVE IN A WORLD influenced by social media. Picture-perfect table settings and staged homes abound on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Pretty napkin holders and place cards are strategically set next to the delicious-looking food that must have taken hours to prepare and to plate so meticulously. And then there’s the decorating for themed parties, bridal and baby showers, and wedding receptions that could have come right out of a Hollywood movie!
When I talk to others about it, they all seem to express the same thought: such perfection in hospitality is not attainable, so why even try?
I remember taking a spiritual-gifts tests when I was a teenager and scoring high in the “hospitality” category. It sparked an interest in me that still exists all these years later.
So what is hospitality, and why is it important? Does it have anything to do with those picture-perfect tablescapes? And is everyone called to show hospitality, or is it just me?
HOSPITALITY AND THE BIBLE
Consider these Bible texts about hospitality:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
“And breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46).
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).
“She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).
Since the Bible speaks so clearly about the importance of showing hospitality, I not only want to practice it but to help others do so as well.
Many myths regarding hospitality need to be dispelled.
Here are a few:
Myth 1: You have to have a perfect home to be hospitable. More important than a “perfect” home is an open heart and open hands. Your home does not have to look magazine-worthy, but it should be filled with genuine love. Also, hospitality is not limited to our homes. We should constantly be aware of those around us and do what we can to help meet
Myth 2: Hospitality is to be extended only to friends and family. Hospitality, instead, is for everyone.
Myth 3: Hospitality requires great amounts of time, meticulous planning, and the best version of myself. Instead, hospitality requires vulnerability and obedience. Some of the best and most memorable visits are messy and unexpected. Sometimes showing hospitality is even unwanted! Although the practice of hospitality requires time and resources,
it’s rewarded with great joy. Few things are more energizing and fulfilling than serving others. You just need to be willing.
Myth 4: Hospitality is synonymous with entertaining. There is no mention of Pinterest or picture-perfect table spreads in any definition of hospitality. There is, of course, nothing wrong with making things look attractive for our guests, but on its own, that’s not true hospitality. Remember: entertaining is to impress, but hospitality is to bless.
Myth 5: Hospitality is a spiritual gift. Hospitality can be risky, and it’s asked of all of us (remember those verses above?). While some of us may find hospitality easier to do than others, we are all called to show Christ’s love and hospitality.
Myth 6: Hospitality is merely about sharing a meal or a bed. Strive to do more than just meet physical needs. When we are hospitable, we reach others on a personal level. Think of the lonely, the unloved, and others in need. Be bold and do what you can to help draw others closer to Jesus. Hospitality helps to show God’s love to others.
Here are a few practical tips:
Create a warm atmosphere. While fresh flowers and candles can help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, nothing is as refreshing as a loving smile and a willingness to serve. That being said, light some candles and cut some fresh flowers for your guests to enjoy as well! It’s simple and makes a great impact. Welcome everyone into your home. Let them feel loved, not only by you but also by God.
Be aware of those around you and their needs. Hospitality is not limited to inside your home. Pay attention as you interact with others, and don’t let anyone go unnoticed. Take time out of your day to encourage or pray with someone and show kindness.
Make sure your houseguests have everything they need and that they feel comfortable enough to ask for anything they don’t have. For overnight guests especially, make everything as accessible as possible. Have warm drinks and water easily available, and stock the bathroom and guestroom with towels, toiletries, and other essentials.
Serve meals with love. Meals don’t have to be extravagant or consist of expensive ingredients. Make simple meals with love and don’t feel pressured to make something new or complicated (there’s always the danger that something new will flop anyway!). Your guests are not there to judge your cooking. They are there to be blessed by you (whether they know it or not). Pray that when they leave, instead of particularly remembering the spectacular meal you served, they will instead remember how you served their souls.
What’s most important is to build a relationship with those around your table and to talk about things that truly matter. Like John, our motto should be: Less of me, more of Jesus. Our purpose is to be a blessing to others.
* All Bible texts are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).