It’s easy to get motivated just by a quick mention of the importance of hospitality to “get this show on the road” and hurry up and think of someone to invite over already! While it’s great to start making a plan to put into action, I think it’s important to stop first and evaluate: why am I really doing this?
Biblical hospitality means love of strangers. It means ministering to people who can never reciprocate. It means loving the unlovable for Jesus’ sake. It means showing the hospitable heart of God to others. In our modern world it usually means sacrificing my time, my rights, my possessions (quite literally, possibly, when children are involved!), my groceries, and my energy to plan, shop, clean, scrub and cook for others for the purpose of ministering God’s love to them. It means knowing God’s heart for people and spending time with Him so He changes my heart, and His love is evident in me and overflowing to others around me.
Biblical hospitality is more than just cleaning my house and having people over and cooking for them. The heart is key. I can’t remind myself of that enough. It is so very easy to get caught up with the externals and think that just because we are having someone over, we are engaging in biblical hospitality. How many times have I had people over for a meal yet been so stressed over having all the food ready at the same time… or nervous because I don’t know them well to the point that I find it difficult to carry on conversation (let alone making them feel at ease)… or been annoyed at my husband for not helping me as much as I felt he should or frustrated at my daughter for bringing toys into the rooms I just finished tidying, allowing such minor things to affect my mood and gracious treatment of others? Then I think, What have I benefited from initiating those occasions? Have I really honored or served the Lord when my heart is so misplaced?
I find it helpful to frequently check my priorities with the Mary/Martha test:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~Luke 10:8-42
What are my motives for inviting people into my home? Do I spend more time in preparing my table than I spend in preparing my heart? Do I spend enough time with Jesus that I can share the hospitable heart of God with others? Or am I so distracted with my own life and the stresses of the moment that I have no time to think of others, and my hospitality is nothing more than going through the motions — or worse, just a show to make myself look or feel good? Am I busy with things that God never said are a priority for me? If I’m too busy to sit at Jesus’ feet, I am too busy. Period. There is nothing in life more important or with more eternal dividends than time spent with Jesus… learning about my God and listening to Him through His Word, submitting myself and allowing it to change me and make me more like Him, praising Him for who He is and what He has done, obeying Him… loving Him. If I truly love God, I will truly love people and I will demonstrate my love for God by obeying His commands (including the ones about hospitality). But if I am not motivated by true love for God, how much are my best efforts at hospitality really worth?
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Oh Lord, may I love You wholly so my efforts at hospitality are not like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, but instead Your love spilling over onto others through me!