For many Christians, hospitality is seen as a nice gesture to offer, but only if you have the ability, time, space, or finances to host. I think this is because our culture often confuses hospitality with hostessing. This confusion is seen in these pretty common statements, that I’m sure we’ve all heard…or even said:
“If only my house were bigger, I could invite people over.”
“I’m really not a good cook, so who would want to come for dinner?”
“My house isn’t clean enough to have others over.”
“My life is so busy that it is difficult to find time for my family, let alone others.”
However, when one glances into Scripture, hospitality is not hostessing.
It is a biblical command that should characterize the life of a follower of Jesus. Hospitality is mentioned many times in Scripture, but let’s just consider what Paul says about it in Romans 12:13. I love how these different translations give us a picture of this hospitality command for believers:
The ESV says, “Seek to show hospitality.”
The CSB goes a bit further and commands, “Pursue hospitality.”
But I love the NLT that says, “Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
Contrary to popular opinion, hospitality is not just something that you do if your house is big enough.
Or if you have everything tidy and clean. Or if you have the time in your schedule. Hospitality is something that marks the genuine faith of a Christ-follower. If you are a Christian, then your life should be characterized by an eagerness to practice and show hospitality.
Another way that Romans 12:13 can be translated is: “Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.” I think that is a beautiful description of hospitality: the opening up of your home and your life to others. Not just when it is convenient. Not just when it is easy. Not just when you feel like it. Hospitality is a command for all believers to take every opportunity to open our home and lives to others.
Hostessing is not biblical hospitality. Hostessing places the spotlight on you: Your home, your table, your meal, etc. When we practice hospitality, we place the spotlight on the faithfulness of God in our lives. We display to others how God has been faithful to us, and we share it with others.
At different seasons of life, your hospitality may look different.
The Message translation of Romans 12:13 even commands, “Be inventive in hospitality.” If you are newly married, hospitality could include inviting another young couple over for a game night and snacks. If you are a young mom, hospitality might be bringing some extra snacks to the park and offering new friends the opportunity to picnic with you. If you are a mom of elementary school kids, hospitality might be inviting your child’s teacher to your home for dinner one evening. If you are a retired woman and an empty-nester, hospitality might be going to a young mom’s home and helping her with laundry as you comfort and encourage.
Hospitality takes on different forms, but in all circumstances, it is not hostessing. True biblical hospitality is looking beyond yourself, opening your home and life to others, and showing the tangible love of Jesus to those around you.