The True Definition of Hospitality

Above picture was taken in Peru, 2012. We received great hospitality from numerous families while there!

Above picture was taken in Peru, 2012. We received great hospitality from numerous families while there!

Hospitality has always been a big thing for me. Growing up, my mom always seemed to be embarrassed to have people over, especially last-minute. We lived in a small house with very little storage, thus equaling our house being cluttered. I can now relate, but I have always enjoyed having people over and still do to this day. I struggle with the same thing my mom did. My house is in the ballpark of 1200 to 1400 square feet, with not much storage, and not even a formal dining room or laundry room (thus my living area becomes my laundry room).

I remember as a child never noticing other people’s mess.  While I don’t have people over near as much as would like, I try to look at my house with fresh eyes and think what will really be noticed ( And the rest goes in our bedroom. 🙂 ) . The things I remember about going over to people’s homes was the fun I had and the love and warmth I felt.  To me that is more important than sparkling floors and an empty sink (though those are nice). I find that if I wait until I have time to clean my house to have guests (consider that I have a toddler and a constantly shedding furry dog running around making messes behind everything that I clean), then I would never have company.

All that being said, what is the definition of hospitality?

Dictionary.com states it this way:

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

Synonyms: warmth, cordiality, geniality, friendliness

What does the Bible say about hospitality?

Matthew 25:37-39,40

“‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ ”

Romans 12:13

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality”

Hebrews 13:2

“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”

What about Biblical stories of hospitality?

Matthew 9:9 -13: Matthew the tax collector, who when Jesus called him, hosted a dinner party for Jesus along with some disreputable guests.

Luke 7; The story of the sinful woman washing Jesus feet while his current hosts looked at the woman condescendingly, verse 44 “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

And consider the following stories: The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38 -42);  Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10); and the story of Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19: 1-3)

Not in any of the above definitions or examples does God once talk about cleaning your house or making sure everything is in perfect order. In fact, he cautions  Martha against worrying about that very thing and instructs her Mary is right where she needs to be, at His feet.  Now I don’t know about you, but I am definitely more of a Martha. I have to fight to keep my focus where it needs to be.  My mind is too busy making sure everything is perfect. (It never will be. )  Is not that Jesus’s whole point? Our hearts should be with Him, and we should stop what we are doing in order to practice true hospitality, even to strangers! Jesus knew the rest didn’t matter. He knew as long as your heart was right, the rest would fall into place. Forget the dishes, forget refilling glasses, or making everything smell good, forget  making sure everyone is entertained at every second; Just be.

Recently, I had the extraordinary fortune of receiving a rare kind of hospitality:

A few months ago, my husband and I decided to take our two-year old and  cheer my brother-in-law on at a marathon in which he was competing (He did awesome by the way). Now , I don’t know if you have ever done this, but this was a first for my husband and I. We got up early Saturday, tossed our toddler quite literally into her stroller, and walked very quickly to the start line.  Fortunately, the hotel we were staying at was within walking distance of the start and finish line. We made it on time! Whew! We felt like we had run a marathon! We were there for five minutes, and then there was the lag time between start and finish.  Our daughter was getting over a double ear infection; I was developing a sinus infection and as I am pregnant could not take anything that would be effective. My poor husband was having to deal with the both of us. Think cranky baby, plus cranky pregnant wife equals stressed out hubby! And it was February in the mountains and freezing!  There we are, walking around town freezing our booties off, no place to stay (we had to check our of our hotel already). Our toddler was having an epic tantrum about which only God knows.  My husband and I were arguing (and probably yelling) at each other on the streets about what to do about said tantrum. Not an ideal situation.  My emotional pregnant self starts crying. By this time, we are all basically acting like toddlers. We finally decide to take a friend of a friend’s invitation to come stay at her house. We find the house and are instantly taken in and made to feel at home. They even have a spare pack and play for our  justifiably cranky toddler to take a nap. Talk about answered prayers (and we weren’t even praying though that would have probably made a huge difference in our drama)! We were able to leave our child at the house while we saw our friends cross the finish line. The fact that we left our child with a woman we had met for five minutes, attests to the peace and generous warmth we received there (our utter frustration and exhaustion may have  played a small part as well). I have never felt so at home with complete strangers then I did at that moment. I only hope and pray that one day I can repay the favor to somebody. If only we had opened our hearts and their door sooner. God knew what we needed at that moment, and I truly believe he put that family in our lives for just that fleeting moment. We may never see those families ever again. From the depths of my soul we will ever be thankful.

Even the smallest moments may make a difference,  if only for a moment.  If you ever think you are not good enough to be a hostess, remember God does not call us to be perfect. He only calls us to open our doors and clean off a seat. Offer what God has put in your heart.

If you have ever had a time where you have received hospitality, please share! I would love to hear your story!

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One thought on “The True Definition of Hospitality

  1. Love your perceptive views! And very wise counsel as well. I have always struggled with clean house vs having guests and those unexpected moments of sharing hospitality are always the best. God wants us to enjoy life and people. The circumstances and our pride needs to be secondary!

    Liked by 1 person

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