In the word of God we see hospitality both demonstrated and instructed. We only see the word hospitality in the Bible a few times, yet we see it demonstrated beautifully throughout the word of God. From the king and High Priest Melchizedek, through the beautiful stories of Jethro the father-in-law of Moses and Esther the unexpected queen, to the mother-in-law of Peter, the troubled Martha and the generous Lydia we learn that to be of God, means we show love and kindness to others as we open our homes and hearts to the world.
Our Christian Responsibility Toward Hospitality
Throughout the Old Testament we see hospitality extended.
- Melchizedek, Genesis 14:18
- Abraham, Genesis 18:3-8
- Lot, Genesis 19:2,
- Jethro, Genesis 2:20
- Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:22
- David, 2 Samuel 6:19
- Shunammite Woman, 2 Kings 4:8
- Esther, Esther 5:5
- Nehemiah, Nehemiah 5:17
- Job, Job 31:17 & 32
In the New Testament we also have a variety of examples of hospitality.
- Zacchaeus, Luke 19:6
- Martha, Luke 10:38-42
- Samaritans, John 4:40
- Simon Peter’s Mother in Law, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:37-39
- Lydia, Acts 16:15
- Philip, Acts 21:8
Christian Hospitality Instructed
In scripture we read passages that use the words hospitable or hospitality we can see that it’s more than a mere suggestion, it is a command for righteous living. There is no specification for one group of Christians, a certain type of Christian, specific age or talent. Rather, it is a commandment for righteous living.
Hospitality as a Righteous Command
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:9-11.
Charity is more than just giving to another, it is an attitude of the heart, see 1 Corinthians 13, it is the representation of love. So in that we can understand that we are to have fervent charity (love) among ourselves as Christians, displaying hospitality or the receiving of guests in a generous way that seeks to make them feel comfortable, as a part of our Christian ministry and being good stewards of the manifold (the express) grace of God. We each, who are Christians, have received the gift of God’s grace, are to be good ministers to one another.
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Romans 12:13.
Here we see that we are to be given to hospitality. This passage is a part of a larger context in which the Apostle Paul explains to the Christians of Rome, and subsequently all Christians, how to live as Christians. It almost appears as a list of how-tos for Christians; which in a sense I suppose it is. However I want to warn, it isn’t simply a how to list that one checks off to declare themselves as done, complete, and fulfilled. Rather, it is instructions on how we are to live as Christ would live, notice in the beginning of the passage, Romans 12:1, we are to “…present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.“
Living a life of sacrifice that is both holy and acceptable unto God shows us that we are to have a heart of purity. If we approach the passage simply as a to do list that can be checked off then we are not approaching the Christian life with a heart of Christ. The truth is that being a living sacrifice means we are to set aside our own life so that Christ can live in us, and that doing so is our reasonable service. Reasonable because Christ literally gave up His life for us, so in turn giving up our life for Him as a living sacrifice is at the least reasonable. Service because Christ desires us to love others. Love, being more than just a feeling, seeks the highest good of another. So serving others in order to seek their highest good, shows the love of Christ. Being given to hospitality is a part of that reasonable service.
Hospitality as an Act of Ministry
“Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” 3 John 1: 5-8, NKJV
John commends the church for their faithful works especially their charity and hospitality. In verse 8, he specifically speaks of their receiving of of brethren and strangers and how in so doing they (Christians) become fellow helpers in spreading the gospel of truth. Since the spreading of the gospel has not ceased to this day, we can follow the example that these early Christians set and so too receive travelling brethren and strangers in a manner worthy of God and be fellow helpers with Christ in the spreading of the gospel of truth.
Hospitality as a Qualification an Elder (pastor or bishop)
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;1 Timothy 3:1-2. NKJV
We see this instruction reiterated in the book of Titus.
“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Titus 1:7-9 NKJV.
God, in His infinite wisdom, through the teaching of the apostles and recorded in scripture, set specific requirements for a man to be a shepherd of the congregations of Christ’s church. Within those requirements we see that they are to be hospitable, before being added as a bishop. It seems obvious that if a man is going to lead God’s children, His church, then he should be able to welcome church members, and those seeking to know Christ into his home, offer them hospitality, making them feel comfortable in his presence so that they can develop a relationship of a leader and a follower. He should be able to teach, instruct, and guide the church members toward heaven. But if members aren’t comfortable in his presence how can they trust him to lead them toward heaven?
Maybe you are thinking, ok, sounds good, but he is a man, the first line of 1 Timothy clearly states that if a man desires the position of a bishop he desires a good work. Yes, the role of a bishop, (elder, shepherd or pastor), is reserved to be the role of a man, yet continue reading and we see that he is to be the husband of one wife. Which means he should have a wife. Hospitality being a trait in which one invites others into their homes would help us to see that the wife must equally be hospitable serving alongside him.
We know from Titus 2:5 that wives are to be homemakers, or the primary caretaker of the home. How then can a man be hospitable if the wife too, isn’t a good homemaker, and willing to ensure that guests are comfortable in her home?
Widows should show Hospitality
A widow as defined in scripture is one whose husband has passed away, and has no children who can take care of her. That isn’t to say that one whose husband has passed away isn’t a widow, but rather, that the responsibility for her care should first lie with her adult children. If none are able to provide for her care, then the church should provide for her care. But even in this, the Bible specifically shows that she is to be one who has dedicated her life to serving the Lord, in that we see that she is to be hospitable.