In several Bible passages, the Bible teaches that we should be hospitable. A couple of these verses are:
- The apostle Paul instructs all Christians to be “given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)
- “Be hospitable toward one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
The definition of hospitality is “showing kindness to strangers” but also “to one another.” In today’s modern times, we often think of hospitality as showing kindness to guests and strangers who come from out of town, state, or country. It can include offering someone a visit to your home, a meal, a place to stay, or simply assistance for some need or another. As I researched this material for this article, I discovered that there are many different ways we can show hospitality to someone, as the following examples will illustrate. Additionally, I also came to see several reasons why hospitality is important, and that there can be great rewards for being hospitable.
Bible examples of hospitality:
1. Abraham feeds three strangers.
When three strangers appeared to Abraham, he somehow understood that they were angels and referred to one of them as “the Lord.” But, before Abraham even gave his unexpected guests a chance to state their business, he hurriedly sent for water to be brought to wash their feet and bread to refresh them. Then, he had a whole meal prepared for them. Only after they sat down to eat did Abraham listen to why they had come calling, which was to announce that he and Sarah, his wife, would have a son. (Genesis 18:1-18)
After leaving Abraham’s house, two of these same angels, minus the one called “the Lord, went to the city of Sodom where Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived. (Genesis 19:1-11) Lot met them in the city and insisted that they come to his house to stay the night. He also prepared them a feast. The angels then told Lot that he was to take his wife and daughters and flee from Sodom because they were going to destroy the city because of its wickedness.
What if Abraham had chosen to ignore the three strangers? He and his wife, Sarah, had been waiting many years for their dream to come true of having a child of their own. Would they have missed out on this dream-come true if they had shunned the strangers/angels? What about Lot? Would he and his daughters been saved if he had not invited the angels into his home?
I recall an incident that happened with my daughter a few months ago. She was going through some hard times and on one particular day, she felt very stressed and heavy hearted. She said she had been worried that she was going to have a melt down. That afternoon, a lady came to her door, selling Christian books. My daughter knew she had no money, but she still invited the lady in and looked at the books. She then told the lady she would love to buy a couple of them but she had no money because she and her husband were going through a really hard time. The lady then asked her if she would like to pray with her. My daughter agreed, and the lady prayed for exactly the specific needs that my daughter was needing. My daughter told me later that this experience had brightened her whole day. You never know when the person at your door is an angel in disguise.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)
2. Joseph welcomes his brothers.
Young Joseph’s older brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy, but years later, God blessed and exalted Joseph to the esteemed position of second-in-command of all Egypt. When there was a severe famine, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt, seeking to buy food. They did not know that their youngest brother was in charge of rationing and selling the food staples in Egypt. When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph had his chance to get even with them, but he didn’t. Instead, he chose to love them and forgive them. He loaded them down with food staples and even allotted an entire section of land for all his brother’s families to live in.(Genesis, chapters 42-46)
Sometimes, the person who comes to your door may be someone who has offended, hurt, or betrayed you. When such a person comes knocking on your door, it could be an opportunity from God for you to forgive them as He has forgiven you of your wrongdoings. It may also be an opportunity to restore a broken relationship, just as it was with Joseph and his brothers.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 7:14-15)
3. Rehab hides two Israelite spies.
Joshua had sent two Israelite spies to scout out Jericho in preparation of conquering the city. The spies came to Rahab’s house, and she let them in. She confessed that all of Jericho had heard about the Israelite people, how they had conquered other cities. She admitted that their God was surely the One true God. She begged the spies to show kindness and save her and her family. She agreed to hide them from the king’s men, and they in turn promised to keep their word to protect her and her family. After the fall of Jericho, Rahab and her family were indeed saved, and Rahab later married an Israelite and became an ancestor of Jesus Christ. (Joshua 2:1-16 and 6:17-25; Matthew 1:5)
It could be that sometimes, God sends people to you to save you, whether it be physically or spiritually. But, what if Rahab had refused to open the door to the Israelite spies? What if you and I refuse to open the door to someone sent by God to save us?
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
4.David shows generosity and kindness to one less fortunate
There is no greater hospitality than showing kindness to someone who can never repay you. Such is the case with King David and Mephibosheth.
One day, King David recalled that he had made a promise to his friend, Jonathan, that he would always look after Jonathan’s family no matter what.(I Samuel 20:14-15) Even though Jonathan had been deceased for some time, David never forgot his promise, and he sent out people searching for any remaining relatives of his friend. Jonathan’s own son was found still alive. This son was Mephibosheth, a young man who had been severely injured as a child so that his legs were handicapped. He had nothing to offer the king. He couldn’t work for the king. He couldn’t even work for himself. But, none of this mattered to King David because he ordered for Mephibosheth to be brought to the king’s palace to live and to “eat continually at the king’s table.” (II Samuel 9:7-13)
Jesus says this in regards to this kind of hospitality:
“When you give a dinner, or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they can cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
5. Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to his home.
Simon the Pharisee probably prided himself for being hospitable by inviting this popular teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, to his home. However, Jesus must not have seemed good enough for him to offer the cultural courtesies that were common in that day–providing water to wash a guest’s feet and oil for his head. So, while Simon the Pharisee and Jesus talked over a meal, a woman with a bad reputation around town came in, fell at Jesus’s feet, washed his feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair. (Luke 7:36-50)
Jesus speaks up and points out the contrast to Simon, saying that this woman would be forgiven for her many sins because she loved MUCH, but “but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
True hospitality is not just about inviting someone to your home for a meal, but it is about showing sincere love and concern for another person, as Jesus illustrates in this passage. Simon the Pharisee could not see his own sins and looked down on both Jesus and the woman, while the sinful woman recognized her sins and the One who could forgive her of those sins. While Simon was arrogant and self-seeking, the sinful woman was humble and loving. This is true hospitality.
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.'” (I Peter 4:8)