A Scriptural Study of Hospitality
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9.
For the next few weeks I want to focus on to hospitality. Scripture is clear that we are to be hospitable, especially within the church. Yet, do we have a skewed view of what hospitality is? Has it become more about self-righteousness than it is about hospitable hearts? Do we seek to exalt ourselves in the eyes of the one to whom we are being hospitable, or do we seek to honor them above ourselves?
Let’s examine scriptural hospitality. This will be a 4 part series. What is Hospitality? A Christian’s Responsibility in Hospitality, Heart Matters in Hospitality, and Tips for being Hospitable.
What is Hospitality?
Anytime we begin to study a specific topic in scripture it is good to begin with a words study. Let’s first define the words; hospitable and hospitality.
Hospitality is a noun meaning, a generous and friendly way of treating people, especially guests so that they feel comfortable and at home. Hospitable is the adjective form of hospitality.
The first thing that I notice in this definition is that hospitality is a noun, but the explanation of it shows action. That seems sort of like an oxymoron to me, doesn’t it you? So, I wanted to dig a bit further.
1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
Again this definition leaves me wondering why a word which shows action is not a verb but a noun.
So I decided to dig a little into the study of the word, the etymology of it from etymonline.com
- The origin of the word, hospitality is from the Latin, from the 14th century. It is a noun meaning the “act of being hospitable” from Old French hospitalité, from Latin hospitalitem (nominative hospitalitas) “friendliness to guests,” from hospes (genitive hospitis).
Let us be sure that we have a clear understanding of the word as used in the New Testament scriptures which were first written in the Greek language.
- Hospitality and Hospitable from the Greek4:
- Hospitality – φιλοξενία – philoxenos – from φίλος – philos: (friend, friendly, associate, neighbor) and ξένος – xenos (foreign, a guest, stranger), fond of guests, e.e. hospitable: given to (lover of, use) hospitality.
- Hospitable – φιλόξενος – philonexia – hostibableness: – entertain strangers, hospitality.
Here we see Greek translation to be similar to the Latin, one who entertains strangers. So even from the original languages of this word we see that the noun is an act, the act of being hospitable, friendliness.
So I wanted to really understand why a word such as hospitality, which clearly shows action, is not a verb but in fact is a noun. Here is where we are going to delve a little into grammar. Yes! To understand words you must have an understanding of their usage. A noun, generally speaking is a person, place or thing. But, a thing can be abstract, such as an emotion, or an idea, an event or an attribute, all of which are abstract nouns. Abstract Nouns? Don’t remember those from school? It’s where a noun is a thing that is abstract5
, or not easily defined, not easily understandable, something that expresses a quality or characteristic
Hospitality is one of those abstract nouns. It is a noun because it is a thing which expresses a quality or characteristic that isn’t easily defined.
Now we can have a good English understanding of the word, hospitality, that being, a quality or characteristic that shows one who receives guests or strangers in a friendly, generous way which causes the guest to feel comfortable.
It’s easy to entertain our close friends and family. Entertaining strangers, or those we don’t know well, is something completely different. It may mean stepping outside our comfort zone to ensure someone else is comfortable. It may mean that we sacrifice our own wants/needs for the benefit of someone we know nothing or little about. It may mean that we discover great joy in finding a new friend, sister or brother in the Lord, or even neighbor and realize a peace that we’ve not previously known.
Remember that the writer of the book of Hebrews reminded the Christians to entertain (some Bible versions use the words, show hospitality) strangers because some have unknowingly entertained angels. It is generally reconginzed that this passage is referring back to Abraham and Sarah entertaining 3 strangers. Through the passages of Genesis 18 and 19 we learn that one is the LORD and two of them were angels of God, Genesis 18:1-3, Genesis 18:22, and Genesis 19:1.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2, NKJV.
Perhaps you too, by entertaining, showing hospitality to, strangers you will entertain angels unaware. Perhaps, showing such kindness and generosity you will find a love for hearts and souls. You may comfort them with love in a way that eases their burden. You may help them in their relationship with Christ. You may find a love for the souls of others and long to teach them the truth of God’s word. Perhaps, you will help someone find the path to heaven.
In our next lesson we will begin to understand how we, as Christians, women especially, are to apply the characteristic or quality to our own personal lives.
2. “hospitality.” Dictionary.com Unabridged
. Random House, Inc. 20 May. 2015
3. “hosptitality” etymonline.com © 2001-2015 Douglas Harper
4. Greek: Taken from Abingdon’s Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
, Abingdon Press, © 1890 by James Strong, ©1980 by Abingdon
5. “abstract.” Dictionary.com Unabridged
. Random House, Inc. 20 May. 2015