For most of my life, I’ve thought of hospitality as having my friends over to my house and enjoying a meal together. But as I’ve begun studying the subject of biblical hospitality more over the last several years, I’ve been struck by how often strangers are in view when Scripture talks about hospitality.
In fact, the Greek word “hospitality” as used in the New Testament is a compound word of philos (“affection”) and xenos (“stranger”). Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (and in a later post, we will look at some instances in Scripture where godly people showed hospitality).
Hospitality to strangers was very important in Bible times. Inns were scarce and dangerous, and therefore it was expected that if a stranger was traveling by your house, he would be invited in for a meal and for lodging if he was staying in the area overnight. In Old Testament times, God instructed His people to offer hospitality to others, giving Moses specific commandments concerning treatment of the strangers who chose to dwell among them (Leviticus 19:33-34): “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In the New Testament, as the gospel was being spread, itinerant preachers relied on the hospitality of church members in each city to provide shelter for them – and in this way the hosts were actually fellow-laborers in the gospel (3 John 8). In fact, hospitality was taken so seriously as contributing to the ministry of another that John warned against offering hospitality to false teachers (2 John 1:10-11).
So how does this play into our lives, in this modern world where there are hotels and restaurants on every corner, and we’re taught as children not to talk to strangers? Keep an eye out for the next post in this series on hospitality. I love studying this topic and can’t wait to explore it further with you!