This year in our home we are focusing on hospitality and community-building. The more we study and work to implement hospitality into our lives, the more I marvel at how valuable and yet often overlooked it is.

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

I Peter 4:9-10

Biblical Hospitality

When used biblically, hospitality is linked with generosity and love for others. Both Paul and Peter mention hospitality in lists of attributes that are important for Christians to have. They each list hospitality alongside admonitions to have genuine love for each other and to demonstrate that love through service.

Our modern culture defines hospitality in a different way. The word is often used in reference to the hospitality industry. Hotels and other places of business offer “hospitality” as a transaction rather than an act of love. In many cases, we choose to out-source hospitality for the sake of convenience. Instead of welcoming others into our homes for a meal, we decide that it would be easier or more convenient to eat out. We give our traveling friends a list of nearby hotels when we could offer them a place in our house.

True hospitality is such a beautiful and intimate thing, which knits us together as guests and hosts. When all of our socializing is done in places of business, we miss out on so much. We remove ourselves from the acts of serving our guests or being served by our hosts, and in doing so we exchange an act of service for a business transaction.

Trying to Impress or Seeking to Serve?

Another way we miss the meaning of hospitality is by equating it with entertaining. To entertain — to host guests — is not a bad thing in itself. The problem lies in the way we twist a good concept into a source of pride. The online world that we create through Pinterest-inspired events and perfectly styled Instagram posts makes genuine hospitality difficult. There is so much pressure to perform.

Throwing a party meant to impress others is not hospitable. Focusing on presentation over the comfort of guests is not hospitable. Overindulgence in our own pleasure is not hospitable. This is not to say that parties or feasts are wrong, but we need to examine our motives. Are we trying to impress or seeking to serve?

Pursuing Hospitality

I love the instruction in Romans 12:13 to be “given to hospitality”. The Greek verb here means “to pursue” or “make to run”. We should be running toward hospitality, not avoiding it. The New Testament epistles contain instructions at least 3 times to be hospitable (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9). It is also listed twice as a qualification for becoming an elder (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8).

Why don’t we talk more about hospitality? It’s such an important part of Christianity. We need to talk about it. We need to share ideas and stir up each other up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24) in this area. Let’s throw off the pressures of false, showy hospitality and embrace a biblical hospitality that warmly welcomes and serves.

show hospitality to strangers

For additional reading on this topic, see these other posts I’ve read about hospitality: