What do Abraham, the Shunammite woman, Gaius, and Lydia have in common? They all were hospitable to others. In Genesis 18:2-8, we read that when Abraham saw three men standing nearby, he hurried to meet them and offered water to wash their feet, (a courtesy to refresh a traveler in a hot, dusty climate), and then provided a lavish meal for them.
The married Shunammite woman urged Elisha to come over for a meal. Then she built a small bedroom on her roof and furnished it so the prophet had a place to stay whenever he was nearby (2 Kings 4:8-11).
Luke acknowledged “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy…” (Romans 16:23). John also commented on Gaius’ hospitality shown to traveling strangers that worked for the Lord (3 John); Paul was among them.
Lydia, a Gentile believer and businesswoman, persuaded Paul and his companions (Luke, Silas, Timothy) to stay at her house. Furthermore, the church at Philippi first gathered in Lydia’s home (Acts 16:14-15,40).
These biblical people were generous with their food and homes. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Hebrews 13:16;Galatians 6:10).
Paul encouraged believers to “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Peter advised, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Jesus instructed us to love other people, giving the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Sheep and Goats as examples. He taught, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Being hospitable means to welcome guests with warmth and generosity, having a charitable mind, and being kind toward strangers. How do we practice hospitality nowadays?
My husband (Jim) moved to Tennessee ahead of our family. Visiting a church that was listed in the yellow pages, he was warmly greeted with friendly conversations. Three different members invited him to come over for a meal that week. Moreover, the pastor offered his guest bedroom to Jim, being more comfortable than our travel-trailer. That congregation became our church home.
In Albuquerque, the pastor and his family hosted a potluck lunch in the church building on Thanksgiving and Christmas for all who wanted to share a meal with others--singles, couples, and families. All feelings of lonesomeness disappeared there.
My friend, Sue, invites anyone she thinks might be alone to come join her family on Thanksgiving Day. Sue is carrying on her mother’s tradition, for they met many people and were blessed from those socials. This thoughtful friend even invites our dog to come with so we don’t have to hurry home.
These examples of Christians serving the Lord through hospitality have met the needs of our hearts. Most lonely people don’t care what a house looks like or if paper plates are used or what they sit on; their focus is on the people and being able to have a conversation with someone.
Consider serving the Lord by being hospitable this time of year. Extend kindness by bringing a meal to someone struggling with life’s adversities. Encourage the elderly with a listening ear and cookies. Shovel the snow off your frail neighbor’s driveway. Offer to babysit for a tired mom. Pay for a veteran’s meal. Make your home a house of hospitality by inviting people over for a game night and dessert. Host a Bible study group in your house or invite new acquaintances over for lunch/dinner.
While it takes courage to invite people into our homes, we must remember that we are ultimately stewards of what God has given us. Being the loving hands and feet of Jesus involves generosity of time, effort, and even money; but you cannot outgive God.
How do we love our neighbors through showing hospitality? Just be perceptive to the needs of other people and cheerfully try to fill them. Remember that whatever you do for the least of them, you do for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.