Hospitality 101: Lessons from the Lord for Caring Christians

Practicing Hospitality

Our Intentionality

True hospitality is not an accident. Yes, we can provide food and a place to stay for unexpected visitors. However, the emphasis in the teachings of the Lord Jesus is more on proactive planning. He spoke repeatedly of “them that were bidden to the wedding” (Mat 22:3,4,8).[1] Likewise, in the Parable of the Great Supper, He spoke about “when they are bidden” or “when thou art bidden” (Luk 14:7,8,10,17,24). Therefore, hospitality involves intentionality and planning.

Our Invitees

The Lord also recognized that hospitality can be a manipulative tool. He said, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee” (Luk 14:12). Hospitality should never be used as a means to obligate others to include us in their events. It is solely to be a means by which we help and bless others. So the question is: Are we willing to invite folks who cannot repay us or invite us over? The Lord went on to say, “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind …” (vv13-14). So, while our natural inclination is to invite family and friends, the Lord challenges us to go out of our comfort zone and invite those we do not know, those in other cultures, those from different socio-economic levels, and those with special needs.

Our Investment

The Savior related in the Parable of the Great Supper that the servants were to announce, “Come; for all things are now ready” (v17). The host had invested his money and worked to prepare the food. Another more extreme example is the Good Samaritan. That man not only packed oil and wine to serve others, but he provided long-term care for the man who had been mistreated. In both parables the hosts made sacrifices and invested in others. In so doing, they displayed the kind and caring heart of Christ. And that is an investment worth making.

Perspectives on Hospitality

His Evaluation

Zacchaeus in Jericho, Martha in Bethany, Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum, and an unnamed homeowner in Jerusalem were some of the privileged few who had the Lord Jesus for a meal. So since He is not physically present on earth anymore, does that mean we are relegated to second-class hospitality opportunities? Definitely not! The Lord Jesus taught that in a future day He will note, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Mat 25:35). When questioned how this could happen in His absence He explained, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (v40). Therefore, to invite the newest, weakest and most difficult believers over for a meal or a coffee is an opportunity to do something that will be recognized and rewarded by the Lord Himself.

His Excellence

If our treatment of others is a reflection of our treatment of Christ, what kind of hospitality does He deserve? When the angel of the Lord visited, Manoah wanted to prepare a goat for supper (Jdg 13:15). When the same angel appeared in Ophrah, Gideon prepared a goat and unleavened cakes (6:19). And when he appeared in the plains of Mamre, Abraham provided bread, curds, milk and a calf (Gen 18:5-8). But please do not think that just because the Lord views your hospitality as being toward Himself that therefore we must only provide super extravagant meals. Yes, He deserves excellence. However, He focuses on the smallest things we do for others, not the big showy things. He said, “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Mat 10:42). Therefore, any small cup of water given to a little one (a young child or disciple) will be appreciated by heaven.

Therefore, excellence in hospitality is not determined by the magnificence of the meal, but by the motive of the meal maker. Jesus said, “Ye have done it unto me” (Mat 25:40). It brings no surprise, then, that Scripture never tells of a person preparing a five-star meal with jaw-dropping beauty for the Lord. Instead, we are told of a woman who gave Him water and some people at the cross who wet His lips when He said, “I thirst” (Joh 19:28). Therefore, His interest is not so much in the quantity, quality or the coordination of foods. What He desires to find is the excellence of a heart willing to use whatever one has to help and bless others.

The Prospect of Hospitality

Rewards for Hospitality

In the coming Kingdom hospitality will be rewarded. The Lord Jesus said, “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Mat 10:42 ESV). Therefore, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, all acts of hospitality by believers will be reviewed and every host will receive personal thanks from the Saviour as well as eternal reward.

Rejoicing in Hospitality

The Bible gives us sparse detail about our future activities and roles in heaven. However, the Lord Jesus did say to His disciples, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luk 22:29-30). Did our Lord not illustrate the kingdom as a “great supper” (Luk 14:16)? A meal is more than food, though; it is a time of friendship, fellowship and communication. What a fitting image and description of our future when we will eternally sit with our Lord at His table and eat and drink with joy.

In the end, our homework is obvious. Class dismissed.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.