Is hospitality a calling for every Christian?
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Your family really has the gift of hospitality”? I used to see hospitality as a gift or calling that others had, but that I did not. For years I saw my home as my castle—a place for seclusion and relaxation. I dreamed of a pristine house, finely decorated and designed for my own enjoyment.
This selfish dream brought loneliness to my wife and encouraged an independent spirit in my children. People saw me as an unapproachable and proud man. Over the past several years, God has miraculously broken this cycle.
My wife and I have now hosted hundreds of people in our home. At times we have hosted groups as large as one hundred people. We often hear these words: “You really have the gift of hospitality.” What changed? God opened my eyes to see rich opportunities for ministry and discipleship simply by showing me what the home is really for.
Twenty-one years ago I married Tina, a girl who looked forward to opening her home to people for meals, travel stops, and fellowship. She thought nothing of having several families at a time over for a meal and discussion. To me it was a big expense, a lot of work, and an opportunity for things to get broken, stolen, or worn out. Instead of wanting to share with others, I focused on preserving what I had and adding to it.
The results of my mind-set began to mount. My wife was unfulfilled in her urge to fellowship and to meet the needs of others. Some of my children were beginning to pursue their own selfish interests, modeling their lives after their father.
My view of hospitality was a surface problem that sprang from an inward selfish focus. I had become selfish not only toward those around us but also toward my wife and children. Our ministry potential was cut short, and my family suffered as they were labeled unfriendly due to my lack of friendliness.
Waking Up to God’s Command
A few years ago, my wife picked up a book on the ministry of hospitality. One night when I had nothing to read, Tina handed this book to me, asking me to at least start reading it. Just a few pages into this book something amazing happened. I saw myself. A man just like me had written this book. He was a man who worked in an office all day and who looked forward to relaxing after work and on weekends in his personal castle.
As I read of a man I identified with, God began to work in my heart. I could see the damage I had done to my wife and family, and how people in the church saw me. I also began to see our home’s potential for advancing God’s kingdom and helping people in need. That night, I became a changed man.
God completely changed my view of hospitality. I am now convinced that hospitality is not a gift or an optional activity but rather is a command. It is one of the keys to successful ministry, and it is inextricably linked to God’s plan for every Christian. Hospitality is foundational to the success of the Church, but today hospitality is largely neglected. Let me explain what I have come to understand.
Looking at God’s Example of Hospitality
I thought hospitality was inviting people over for dinner. The world thinks hospitality is a business involving hotels and resorts. Neither idea is true. Hospitality is about welcoming people into our lives, meeting their needs, and reaching out even to strangers, enemies, and hostile people. Enemies are subdued by hospitality, which is evident in God’s work of redemption through Jesus Christ.
The heart of the Gospel is rooted in hospitality. From birth, we are at enmity with God because of our sin. We have no resources for saving ourselves. Yet God sent Jesus to pay our debt, and He redeems those who believe in Him, making a place for us in His kingdom. His hospitality restores our relationship with Him. I saw these themes evident throughout Scripture:
- God reached out to me when I was helpless and has invited me into a relationship with Him. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
- God sent Christ to save me and to offer me life, turning me from rebellion and welcoming me as an adopted son. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).
- When I come to God in prayer, He will always answer, receiving me into His presence. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
- Jesus said that He is preparing an eternal place for us. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
As I read these verses, I realized that when I shut my home to those around me, I was not imitating Christ. I had believed the lie that we are individuals who deserve our own space and our own things, and that we have a right to be alone in our homes. I had become self-absorbed and wrapped up in my own needs and wants, and my family was suffering because of it.
As I look around, this attitude is normal in the Church today. Rather than caring for the needy, holding one another accountable, and daily breaking bread together as they did in the early Church, most Christians neglect hospitality. This dilemma greatly diminishes the power and effectiveness of the Church.
Understanding God’s Call to Hospitality
When I read the book that night, three Scriptures in particular convicted me.
In I Timothy 3:2, Paul writes about the requirements for elders and deacons in the church. He lists “given to hospitality” as one of the key requirements. Leaders are to be involved with people in their homes, yet I have rarely experienced the application of this command. It occurred to me that this is the root of the problem—we’re not seeing hospitality in our leadership, and we’re following their example.
Since all men are called to aspire to church leadership, the call to hospitality is an important directive given to men, not just to women. Hospitality is not primarily the responsibility of the wife; this responsibility also belongs to the husband. Under the support of her husband, a wife should be free to creatively prepare for and host guests.
- Secondly, Proverbs 31:20 calls women to be involved in hospitality: “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” I was standing in the way of my wife having this ministry. That’s not all. In I Timothy 5:10, acts of hospitality qualify a widow for support from the church: “. . . If she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.” My selfishness was disqualifying my wife from church support, should I die before she did!
- Thirdly, Paul writes in Romans 12:13 that all believers are to be “distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” Practicing hospitality is a command for all believers; it is not a gift that only a few receive.
Through these Scriptures, God showed me that my selfish focus was disqualifying myself from church leadership, hindering my wife’s ministry, and leaving my children without a family-centered ministry, which should be the purpose in a home.
Making an Application
In I John 4:7–8, we are called to love one another: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” In Matthew 6:19–20, we are told to lay up treasures in heaven: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in haven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
My castle mentality opposed both of these commands. I began to see the potential of helping other families and building relationships. God showed me that my wife would find greater fulfillment as we ministered together and that my children would have a greater loyalty to the family as we worked together. Through hospitality, we could hold each other accountable and have people in for refreshment and discipleship.
We started investing in things that would expand our ministry. Instead of buying things for our pleasure, we began to work on our home with an eye toward visitors. My sons and I refinished guest bathrooms, working side by side to prepare for overnight guests. My wife and daughter decorated our bonus room, making it fit for large families to stay overnight there. We chose durable carpeting and other finishing touches to allow us to host groups for seminars. We purchased books and audio programs for ministering to hurting couples and families, and we worked on the social skills needed to put people at ease. We purchased projection equipment to show seminars, and we bought folding chairs to seat large groups. As we invested in these things, God continued to bless our business, allowing us to invest more resources in hospitality and meeting the needs of others.
Most important, we began to see God working in the lives of others. My children saw couples struggling in marriage, reunited, brought back to church, and even brought to Christ. My daughters began to see a purpose in the family rather than looking to the day when they’d be on their own. I can truly say that God has blessed us through these efforts, given us unity in our home, and brought us great joy. Our children have learned things they could never have understood in school, simply by being involved with people.
God has replaced my desire to be alone with a joy in hosting families, seminars, Bible studies, and church events. I see the joy and unity this ministry is bringing our family. It knits us together with a common vision, holds us accountable to God-given standards, and drives us to learn and study as we host families or work to help couples with homeschooling, finances, or marriage issues.
I realize now that my selfishness was hindering our joy. Hospitality has become a blessing! The first step was to simply recognize the call. Then we made the adjustments to follow, one step at a time. Now we are reaping the rewards of obedience!
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Lay Up Treasures. (See Matthew 6:19–21.) Dave and Tina learned the importance of sharing their home with others as a tool for discipleship, instead of keeping it solely for their own enjoyment and relaxation.