Hospitality is characterized by creating space to welcome strangers and take care for their needs. For those who are in Christ, hospitality is not to be bought and sold; it’s to be given away freely (Matthew 25 and 2nd Kings 4). This is contrary to how hospitality is often framed for us when viewing TV commercials, advertisements in magazines, and on the Internet. These mediums offer the idea that we can acquire access to nice living accommodations, delicious food, and impeccable service where people are waiting on us hand and foot – but only if we can afford to pay the cost.
An entire industry has been built up around the idea of hospitality as transaction: hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, all-inclusive resorts and vacation packages to name a few. One can even go to college and earn a degree in hospitality business and management. In our society, hospitality is a big deal, but only to the extent of what can be purchased in financial transaction. Going one step further, our expectations of hospitality are often directly proportional to the price paid for the service. At best, most people will only send their fries back for being too cold when dining at a fast food restaurant. Other slights such as a hamburger lacking cheese, or missing pickles are written off because we believe “you get what you pay for”. However, if dining out at a fancy restaurant and our steak is not cooked to the perfect temperature, then we typically have no qualms with sending the food back. Our expectation level is commiserate to the size of the dinner bill. However, in Matthew 25 and 2nd Kings 4, we are given a different view on hospitality. Hospitality in these texts and throughout the rest of Scripture is presented as being non-transactional. The degree of hospitality the believer gives is not proportional to what the stranger is willing to pay. To the contrary, believers are to give hospitality in a way that reflects the hospitality that we have received from the God of the universe. We who have placed our faith in Christ do not provide hospitality at a price – we provide it freely. Why? Because we know what it is like to be strangers who have been welcomed in and had our needs met – for the low, low price of $0.00. Ephesians 2 says that before being in Christ, believers were once “strangers” and without hope because of severed relationship with God. But now, as a result of placing our trust in the work of Jesus on the cross, we are no longer “strangers…but members of the household of God”. We were once strangers in need and God showed us hospitality by creating space to welcome us in as family through the death of His Son on the cross. This hospitality is available for all to accept at no cost.
It should be noted that just because the hospitality that believers have received from God is free (and thus is given away by us freely), it does not mean the hospitality is of poor quality. In fact, given the example of Ephesians 2, the hospitality that God gave us in Jesus is of the highest quality and worth imaginable. God presented us with his very best and spared no expense to welcome us in and meet our needs. If we are to accurately reflect the hospitable character of God, then the hospitality we show to strangers ought to be of the highest quality imaginable. What does it look like for us to make a person feel welcomed; not merely tolerated? What does it look like for us to give a person a home cooked meal; not simply a canned good? What does it look like for us to welcome the stranger into our homes; inviting them in and not only meeting them out there? It looks like our Father, who gave us the very best he had to offer in meeting our needs and welcoming us into His household.
For more on hospitality, please check out our sermon series: