My Anthropologie apron and I have been through a lot together. Its charred yellow polka dot fabric, singed teal ruffle, and frayed fuchsia waist ties tell stories of my many battles with macaroons, meringue pie, and Crock-Pot Mac ‘n cheese. And while I should probably retire the ratty looking thing, I cannot bring myself to throw it away. Why? Because, it has been while wearing that apron that God has taught me the art of biblical hospitality.
I believe that most Christian women desire to be known as ladies with hospitable hearts and homes. Many women feel limited, however, in their ability to practice hospitality in their everyday lives. My home is just too small; there’s no extra space. My husband does not enjoy entertaining guests. My budget doesn’t allow me to extend hospitality even though I desire to. My attempt at cooking is usually followed by a visit from the local fire department. Believe me, I can relate! However, all of these challenges stem from a misguided understanding of true hospitality. Hospitality is not dependant on your home mirroring the pages of House Beautiful or mastering Martha Stewart’s latest recipe. (Thank goodness!) While we, of course, desire our homes to be pleasant and welcoming havens for our families and guests, hospitality is so much more than that.
Biblical hospitality is simply an overflow of gratitude and thanksgiving for the ultimate act of hospitality: the gospel.
The Bible is clear that Christians ought to extend hospitality. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The Greek word used for hospitality in this passage as well as throughout the New Testament (philoxenia) means “love of strangers” and is a compound word linking “love” (phileo) to “strangers or guests” (xenos). Hospitality is essentially loving strangers and meeting the needs of others. Romans 12:13 gives further instruction on hospitality, saying “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” The Greek word translated “practicing” (dioko) suggests the idea of “pursuing” or “intentionally striving for” hospitality. As Christian women we are called not only to practice hospitality in our everyday lives; we are also called to intentionally pursue opportunities to practice hospitality with joyful hearts (I Pet 4:8-9).
So what is to be our motivation for hospitality? As women who actively pursue all that God has created us to be, our motivation is the very gospel message itself! We have received, sisters in Christ, the ultimate act of hospitality! (Rom 5:8). As bearers of God’s amazing mercy and grace towards us as sinners, how can we not, in turn, extend love, mercy, and compassion to others? (Col 3:12). Meditating upon the Lord’s lavish love for his people must compel us to joyfully show hospitality to one another (Acts 10: 34). Biblical hospitality is the natural overflow from a grateful heart for his sanctifying work in our lives and our sweet love for him (Matt 22:37-39). Hospitality is manifestation of obedience, a reflection of the beauty of the gospel message.
So what makes a godly woman or home hospitable?
The condition of our spiritual heart controls how we extend hospitality (Rom 2:11, Matt 5:43-48, Luke 14:12-14). In Designing a Lifestyle that Pleases God, co-author Pat Ennis notes, “A Christian hostess gleans insight from God’s Word that motivates her to develop an open heart to entertaining a variety of kinds of guests (Romans 2:11), a tongue that speaks wisdom and kindness to them (Proverbs 31:26), and a submissive spirit that provides hospitality without grumbling (I Peter 4:9).”
But who are we to entertain with an open heart? Fellow believers (Rom 12:13), widows and orphans (I Tim 5:1-16), Christian workers (Matt 10:9-11), the poor and needy (Luke 14:12-14), unbelievers (Luke 5:29), and foreigners (Gen 18:1-22). Yes, Scripture is clear that we are to open our hearts to a variety of guests so that we may love them in His name. These needs include extending love and encouragement (Rom 12:10-13), preparing food (Gen 24:15-21), providing a safe place to rest (Gen 18:1-22), sharing possessions (Jas 2:15-16), giving spiritual instruction (Titus 2:3-5), and sharing the gospel (3 John 7-8). While this might sound like a daunting task, learning the art of hospitality begins with an open heart and as we develop the necessary skills to practice hospitality with ease, sincerely sharing life together will become natural. So where does this picture of biblical hospitality take place?
By divine design, women are to be the caretakers of the home (Titus 2:5; I Tim 5:14; Prov 31). It is no surprise, then, that the home is to be the primary place where we practice hospitality. While hospitality is more an extension of our grateful hearts, our homes should be a prepared place for our family, friends, and guests (John 14:2). We should strive to create havens that are peaceful and serene so that we may minister to the hearts of others without hindrance.
I fondly remember coming home for a weekend during a very hard semester at college. My mother knew the semester had been rough and went out of her way to make our family home a place of quiet rest. She put fresh flowers in my room, made my favorite meals, furnished the bathroom with a sampling of spa lotions and creams, and left a welcome basket on my bed with an assortment of my favorite girly things—including a note that brought tears and a smile to my face all at once—you know, the kind that only mothers can write! I will never forget the care and concern she took to minister to my spirit that weekend. I left feeling refreshed, encouraged, and ready to finish the semester strong. Dear sisters, when we open our home to family, friends, and guests, we have a sacred opportunity to bless others and live a kingdom-focused life.
Developing the art of hospitality requires sacrifice, time, and resources. However, the rewards are many: establishing new relationships (Prov 11:25), training children in the ways of the Lord (Prov 22:6), exercising spiritual gifts (I Pet 4:10), and growing in grace and truth (Phil 2:1-4). If you are an older woman—and we all are to someone—consider reaching out to a younger woman and teaching her from your satchel of wisdom. If you are a younger woman, seek out an older woman to learn the skills that would help you to practice hospitality with more ease. Likewise, consider the following questions:
Have I excused myself from pursuing hospitality because of certain limitations?
How might I extend hospitality to my family this day?
How might I share my knowledge of hospitality regularly with the younger women in my life?
Biblical hospitality is a reflection of the gloriousness of the Gospel. Purpose today to pursue an open heart, home, and hands. You might end up with a few burnt aprons like me, but believe me when I tell you, the journey and reward of blessings others in Jesus’ name is worth the time and creative effort!