Biblical hospitality is a mandate that centers around opening your heart, your home and your life to welcome others in obedience to God’s word.
When you think of the word hospitality, what comes to mind? I think of the symbol of the pineapple. I think of the hotel industry. I think of Pinterest-worthy food spreads at get-togethers.
But biblical hospitality is more than sharing a meal or inviting friends over. Its roots run much deeper to matters of the heart.
True biblical hospitality is a posture of the heart.
Unlike secular hospitality, biblical hospitality is not how you do for others as much as why you do for others.
Creating Margin for Others
As Rosaria Butterfield, author of one of my favorite books on biblical hospitality, writes, “Practicing radically ordinary hospitality necessitates building margin time into the day, time where regular routines can be disrupted but not destroyed. This margin stays open for the Lord to fill.”
Creating margin for others in our busy lives isn’t always easy. As a mom of four, I know first-hand how hectic our daily routine can be.
But the calling of biblical hospitality, which I have felt tug on my heartstrings over and over in my adult life, supersedes our personal inward-focused schedules.
Biblical hospitality is about opening your heart, your home, your calendar, your time and your portion to serve others.
And in today’s world, I know that is a lot to ask of women. After all:
We are busy.
We are stressed.
We are worried.
We are on task.
We are en route from point A to point B.
And so, we wear blinders as we go through our days, focusing only on the tasks before us, but missing those in the margin beside us.
For horses, these blinders prevent distraction and panicking.
But for women of God, our blinders often prevent us from being affected by those in the margin—those with different beliefs, different income levels, different cultures, different political preferences and different family structures.
I would know. Many times, I’ve worn blinders and been so focused on what’s ahead of me that I miss what’s around me. I pass by those in the margin, completely unaware.
But biblical hospitality pulls off the blinders. It helps us to see those around us who aren’t like us. And not just see them, but seek them out and welcome them into the fold. This is the heart of biblical hospitality.
It’s true: Biblical hospitality isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s essential for furthering the Kingdom.
Pillars of Biblical Hospitality
I believe that the Bible and the scripture within its pages are God-breathed and useful for living out our human lives. Not only is scripture from God, it’s for God. The Bible’s wisdom offers guiding principles for the Christian life and also beckons us to remain in close relationship and worship with God.
As so, the Bible definitely has something to say when it comes to biblical hospitality. It clearly emphasizes the importance of welcoming others and also directs us in how to practice hospitality.
Here are a handful of Bible verses that have had the most influence on me while studying Biblical hospitality:
- “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” (1 Peter 4:9 NLT)
- “Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life.” (Titus 1:8 NLT)
- “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13 NLT)
- “So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.” (1 Timothy 3:2 NLT)
- “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:1-2 NLT)
- “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” (Matthew 25:35 NLT)
- “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” (Romans 15:7 NLT)
These verses on biblical hospitality are convicting, directive, evoking and expectant.
So how do we as faith-filled, but also flaw-filled women carry out the high calling of biblical hospitality? We imitate Jesus. We:
WELCOME, SERVE, LOVE (It’s really that simple.)
Biblical Hospitality Defined
In its simplest form, biblical hospitality is meeting the needs of others because we recognize that God has been hospitable to us. It’s welcoming those who aren’t like you into the fold. It’s opening your heart, your home and your life to those who believe differently than you do.
In Greek, the word hospitality is a variation of philoxenos, which literally means “love to strangers.”
As fun as it would be to only show hospitality to our group of friends with whom we feel comfortable, biblical hospitality extends much further. Its reach encompasses those who feel, think and act differently than we do.
These people on the margin may live in different neighborhoods, have opposing political beliefs, practice another or no religion, have dissimilar family structures, abide by a different moral code or live within contrasting cultural norms.
In fact, the list of differences between you and those on the margin may be twice as long as the list of similarities between you.
But all it takes is one act of kindness, one welcoming smile, one unexpected invitation or one thoughtful conversation to bridge that seemingly insurmountable gap.
And that one small act, that tiny display of love, is made possible by imitating Jesus—simply because He first loved us. That small act bridges the gap between strangers because His sacrificial act bridged the impossible gap between heaven and humanity.
So, fueled by that knowledge and our confidence in Christ, we push through the inevitable messiness, inconvenience and uncomfortableness of practicing biblical hospitality.
We see the calling as a biblical mandate and realize that no matter where we live, our mission field surrounds us at all times.
No, biblical hospitality isn’t always easy, comfortable, natural, orderly or convenient. But it’s required of us as Christians to overcome the challenge of selfishness and push through our fears, hesitations and awkward moments to offer a bit of our portion to those in the margin.
And as we welcome, serve and love others, we should do it cheerfully (1 Peter 4:9) and joyfully, knowing that our own portion is a gift from the God who has bestowed us with grace upon grace (John 1:16).
As Christians, we are to join the calling of implementing biblical hospitality.
It won’t be easy and it won’t be effortless. But rest in the assurance that God does the calling and God does the changing. He is the true Orchestrator who will use biblical hospitality to change others, and at the same time, allow it to change us.
What Biblical Hospitality Isn’t: Hospitality vs. Hosting
With much relief, I’m here to tell you what biblical hospitality isn’t, because picture-perfect images on social media may confuse the definition.
Over the years, I’ve hosted many get-togethers, looking to Pinterest for inspiration and ideas. Except my execution of those perfect-looking photos never turned out the same as the original creator. And it took me a couple years in my twenties to realize: that’s actually OK.
Biblical hospitality is not:
- Lavishly decorated and catered parties
- Simple entertainment with no strings attached
- The answer to a night of boredom
- A perfectly put-together hostess
- A flawlessly decorated, clean or organized home
If your heart is in the right place and you’re welcoming, serving and loving others to point them to Jesus, then you have to prioritize your focus and put perfection where it belongs—at the very bottom of your to-do list.
Don’t forget: Biblical hospitality is not about how you serve others as much as it is why you serve others. After all, form follows function and fun details should follow the posture of your heart.
Who Should Or Shouldn’t Practice Hospitality?
We’ve already established that hospitality is a biblical mandate based on the word of God, but surely it doesn’t apply to some groups of believers, right?
- An introvert, quiet and shy?
- Financially unstable?
- A new believer?
- Living in a small home?
- A messy or unorganized housekeeper?
- Unequipped to feel like an authority on hospitality?
- Leading a busy, hectic family life?
- A workaholic who is rarely home?
- A person who rarely opens your Bible?
If you said yes to any of these, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are countless reasons we can talk ourselves out of our calling—even out of taking that first small step.
The truth is: Hospitality is not just for extroverts, the financially stable or mature believers. It’s not just for those with large homes, maid services, no kids or stay-at-home moms.
In fact, there is no stipulation or precondition for practicing biblical hospitality except being forgiven and redeemed by Jesus. If you are a believer, you are not just called, but charged with showing love to strangers and those in the margin.
And despite your circumstances physically, financially, emotionally or generationally, the only way to fail at biblical hospitality is to choose not to practice it at all.
How to Start Practicing Hospitality
If the calling of biblical hospitality is new for you, starting out can feel a bit overwhelming. Some of these questions may run through your head:
How do I meet new people?
How do I have the courage to start conversations with strangers?
What if no one accepts my invitation?
What if I can’t afford to host a large gathering?
How do I make time in my busy schedule?
I’m a huge believer that there is always a starting point for hospitality and always something small you can do despite your circumstances.
Your first step toward acting out biblical hospitality should be prayer. Pray for courage. Pray for strength. Pray for God to place someone in the margin within your path. Pray for others to say yes to your invitation. Pray for God to grant you confidence in carrying out your calling.
And here on this blog, I’ll be sharing ideas for how to put biblical hospitality into practice, so that we can all embrace our calling.
Despite the times I’ve put my foot in my mouth, had others ignore my invitations, ran out of food and even experienced awkward silences in conversation, I will still attest that it is an amazing feeling to live out your calling.
No, I’m not an expert of biblical hospitality, and likely never will be because of my human flaws. But I am passionately pursuing it. I am putting in the effort, putting into practice what I’m learning and allowing God to do the changing.
It’s important for Christians to sow the seeds of hospitality and God will provide the growth—in His own time.
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