We live in a day when human interaction is too often mediated via screens & satellites. The scheming of wicked men aim to further isolate us, control us, and convince us it is all for our health & safety. Christian hospitality, in this era and all others, is an act of war on the rebel city of Man.
He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor (Prov. 22:9).
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb. 13:2).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
The Proverbs give wisdom in riddle. The godly son is set to the task of searching out that wisdom. This Proverb offers a counterintuitive lesson. Give your bread away & receive blessing. If your eye is set on generosity, you find that by giving away your bread, blessings end up in your barn, cupboards, bed, and offspring. This is a Solomonic way of saying to save your life you must lose it, but if you lose it, you gain it. Wisdom knows that wealth isn’t increased by hoarding, but by generosity and prudent investment.
Two observations can be made about this brief admonition in Hebrews. First, Christians are told to not forget this duty. It’s easy to let days & weeks go by without opening your home to others. Thus, we’re warned of how easily we forget to wield this potent weapon. Second, this hospitality is to be shown particularly to strangers. The admonishment is to be a “lover of strangers;” exemplified by faithful saints hosting angelic messengers on significant redemptive errands.
The OT episodes in view are when the Lord Himself visits Abraham, along with two angels; Abraham responds with hasty but generous hospitality. The two angels then proceed to Sodom for its destruction; but first Lot, like his uncle, bring the angels into his home to show them godly hospitality––only later discovering their angelic nature (Gen. 18-19). Samson’s parents, likewise, spread a feast for a guest that they only later discover to be an angelic messenger announcing a miraculous conception (Jdg. 13). By hosting a stranger, the implication is that you might, though unaware of it at the time, be used in God’s providence to bring about a happy turn of history.
Putting this together, Scripture repeatedly admonishes the saints to practice a generous hospitality. In so doing we find that in giving away of our substance, blessing sneaks back in through the back door to bless not only us but the whole world.
HOSPITALITY: THE OVERLOOKED VIRTUE
Taking a step back, hospitality isn’t a peripheral activity for Christians. It isn’t an optional add-on. Throughout Scripture we are taught to practice the virtue of being hospitable to the stranger. We see this in Moses’ Law, which carved out numerous provisions for how the stranger was to be treated, and why he should be treated with generosity and charity (Ex. 22:10, 23:9; Lev. 19:10, 33, 24:22; Deu. 10:18-19). The stranger, however, wasn’t permitted to violate Israelite Law (Lev. 24:16). But he was most welcome to come in and enjoy the blessings of the covenant community whether permanently (Ex. 12:48, Num. 9:14) or only for a time of sojourning (e.g. Jethro, Naaman, Ruth).
In the NT a requirement laid on elders is that they be given to & love hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2, Tit. 1:8). Likewise, hospitality must be demonstrably present to consider enrolling a widow-indeed (1 Tim. 5:10). Saints are often admonished to remember this good work (Rom. 12:13, 1 Pt. 4:9, Acts. 20:35). Paul describes Gaius as “my host (stranger).” Apparently, hosting strangers & being hosted by a stranger were both expressions of “loving the stranger (Rom. 16:23).” In this regard, Christians endeavoring to be hospitable must learn to be both a good host & a good guest.
The “pronoun-invention-Olympics” are merely a symptom of a deeper disease. Rampant individualism has so infected modern man that he’s invented new ways to be isolated. The pursuit of self-expression has entered a new mutation where whatever imagined identity someone wishes to attach to themselves must be affirmed, acknowledged, applauded. Modern man demands that society look like a Venn Diagram of a billion circles, none of which overlap, but which are all encompassed by the State.
Like the London air-raids, the Sexual Revolution, in particular, bombarded all the lawful covenantal bonds. This has left us like a drawer full of marbles, shaken by whatever whims are found in the heart of the WEF, UN, or Social Media CEOs.
Thus, Christian hospitality isn’t simply backyard BBQs. Our hospitality opens the door to isolated, lonely, wandering souls––in many cases with mutilated bodies, haunted by having butchered their offspring, and perverted with a pornified mind––into the warmth of our fellowship with God. And from that union with God, the stranger is brought into our covenantal joy in each other. Our hospitality is militant.
HOSPITALITY AS SACRIFICE
It should be noted that hospitality requires sacrifice. In the OT stories mentioned earlier, the animal was slain to feed the guests. The act of opening your home, pantry, and wine cellar is sacrificial. In the words of Charles Bridges, “Sacrifice, not convenience, is God’s acceptable service.”
However, you don’t have a right to others’ sacrifice. There’s a certain approach to hospitality that imagines that to counteract the poison of individualism all distinctions between individuals must be erased. This is what the cancer cell does. It cannot stay within the confines of its own cell walls, and must invade & overtake every other cell in the system.
Hospitality, while a sacrifice, is still a gift. As such, the glory comes from it being freely, and sacrificially, given. There’s no glory in jack-booted thugs forcing you to house enemy soldiers. But there are many instances of great saints in history who opened their homes, and the case could be made that without their sacrifice we wouldn’t know the names of men like Luther, Calvin, or Tyndale.
NUTS & BOLTS
Do you have a table? Then you can show hospitality. Find recipes that feed multitudes, that don’t break the bank, but taste like you did. Learn to ask good questions & listen intently. Remember names & backgrounds. Knock out a wall if need be. Scrounge for folding chairs by the dozen.
How the buffet line should flow in your home differs from another Christian home. The method is indifferent, but the principle is that Christian homes should be regular hubs of hospitality. This militant hospitality means your home will sometimes have folks in it who don’t have good manners, might be a bit rough around the edges, and need to be brought along firmly but gently. Remember, selfish guests & grumpy hosts are alike a perverse Gospel.
All this requires diligence, patience, and creativity. As with any skill, it takes time to get good at it. The French proverb gets the idea, “You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.” It’ll be messy. Stains will be left behind. But you’re waging war, what did you expect?
STRANGERS NO MORE
Paul tells the Ephesians that while they were once strangers, through the cross they are strangers no more (Eph. 2:19). Jesus tells us that by hospitality to the least of these, we feed, clothe, and serve Christ Himself (Mt. 25:40). Has Christ welcomed You to the Father’s table? Then come. Afterwards, go & imitate Your Father who opens His doors wide, piles the table high, with extra scoops of ice cream all around.