Our understanding of hospitality is further developed in the New Testament. Consider the familiar account of the Good Samaritan in Luke:
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (Luke 10:30-35).
This passage is filled with lessons in Biblical hospitality. The first lesson is that hospitality will sometimes change your schedule–it will be “inconvenient.” In this story, the Samaritan had other obligations, yet he stopped to take care of the unfortunate man. In this hectic, technologically advanced time in which we live, there are many schedules to be maintained–school, church, family, and business, to name a few. But there are some things that are not a part of any schedule. These include the instances when we “happen upon” a stranger in need, who may have been waylaid by bad people or bad circumstances.
This account teaches us also that hospitality may cost us right out of our own pocket. This Good Samaritan paid his own money to ensure that this man’s needs were provided. The context does not indicate that he was expecting anything in return. No news articles touting his great generosity were posted. The Samaritan was just burdened to meet this man’s needs and to help him get back on his feet.
The teaching on hospitality expands throughout the book of Acts, particularly among fellow believers. In Acts 2, the believers fellowshipped from house to house. The apostle Paul and other missionaries relied on the hospitality of fellow believers as they journeyed from city to city. In Acts 16, Paul meets Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth. She was moved by Paul’s preaching and insisted that he accept her offer of hospitality. She constrained Paul’s team to come into her house so that she could meet their needs. Her home became a center of faith.
Paul and Silas experienced a miraculous escape from the prison at Philippi. The jail keeper was saved from suicide by Paul’s quick action. This jailer responded by taking Paul and Silas into his own home where, in the middle of the night, he and his household provide the apostles food and medical attention. Remember Paul’s instruction to the churches of Galatia, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Our Christianity should be obvious to the unsaved world in the ways that we treat our fellow believers. Christ said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Finally, following Biblical guidelines will protect us from compromising our doctrine and testimony while at the same time practicing Biblical hospitality. Consider these verses and some principles that follow them:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).
- Biblical hospitality does not eliminate the demand for discipline in the local church. There is a time and place to deal with someone who is causing division among the believers. The word of God gives guidelines for dealing with someone who has strayed in doctrine and is attempting to get others to align themselves with him.
- Biblical hospitality must be appropriate with regard to male/female relationships. Scripture gives clear distinction in the sexes, and we should take care that godly boundaries are maintained so that a person is not made to feel uncomfortable in fellowship.
- Biblical hospitality is not a license to participate in sinful activities such as drinking, gambling, etc. Christians are always Christians and must never drop their testimony in order to “reach” the world. A Christian’s priority is first and foremost to please the Lord.
After considering the Bible’s teaching, ask yourself, “How is my hospitality at church? How is it in my personal life? Am I displaying the grace of God’s goodness in my life to others around me through hospitality?
In closing, here are some ways we can be hospitable in our church, our community, and around the world:
- Invite a fellow member over to your house for dinner and fellowship.
- Visit a local nursing home with your family. You can sing and talk with some of the residents.
- Volunteer at a local shelter once a month or at a local food pantry to hand out food.
- Find a missionary overseas and collect some goods and send them.
- Visit a guest to your church and take them out to eat or buy them a coffee at a local place.
- Line up a time to have two or three families over to your house. Try to have a new believer and someone that has been saved for more than ten years together.
- Take the opportunity at special holidays, especially those that are tied to Biblical days, to give cards or small gifts to those that you do business with.
- Set aside some Sunday afternoons and try to find a church member or guest to take to lunch after the morning service.