“…given to hospitality.” Romans 12:13b NKJV
Three large tables were set as I walked into the women’s meeting:
* The first table was Martha Stewart perfect with fine china, starched linens, gleaming glassware, sparkling silverware.
* The second was comfy casual with paper plates and plastic utensils.
* The third table merely had a large paper grocery sack with a bag of chips in it.
As the women filed into the room, they filled up the paper sack table first. The paper plate table ended up half-filled. Not one woman sat at the Martha Stewart table.
Such was the speaker’s intention. Her topic that day was hospitality. And it was wildly apparent that comfort trumped perfection.
For a long time, I was disobedient to God’s call to hospitality. I refused to welcome friends to my home unless it was straightened up, perfectly decorated, a showplace. But I’ve since learned that people feel much more comfortable when a home appears lived-in.
As much as I love to learn new recipes and crafts, I believe Martha Stewart has done a grave disservice to women everywhere.
Hospitality isn’t about the home. It’s about the people in it.
Perhaps the Scripture passage most often used to discuss hospitality is the familiar story of Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38-42)
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, often hosted Jesus and His followers when they were in Bethany. I’m sure the arrival of these frequent guests, though welcome, required much work for their hosts.
Mary is usually pictured sitting at Jesus’ feet, but Martha said that Mary “left me to serve alone.” That tells me that Mary was serving before she sat down to listen to His words. Both sisters were serving when Martha and Mary each made a choice. Mary chose the “good part.” She stopped serving to pay attention to her Guest; Martha continued “distracted…, worried and troubled.”
I don’t believe the main issue here is busyness vs. resting as is often suggested. I believe it is hospitality.
While we shouldn’t be distracted, worried or troubled about it, we do need to be busy serving. Jesus came as a servant and declared that He was the example to follow (John 13:13-15). His mission statement was that He came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).
Later, at another dinner in Jesus’ honor, the day before His triumphal entry to Jerusalem, we see Martha busy serving again, yet this time without complaint (John 12:2). This time her sister anointed Jesus for His burial. This time Martha understood hospitality. Her focus was on her Guest.
I am not “given to hospitality” if I am fluttering around the kitchen, if I am distracted by my preparations, if I am more concerned with how my home looks or my food tastes than with how my comfortable my guests feel. I am “given to hospitality” if I pay attention to my guests and what they have to say.
Hospitality is about esteeming your guest, not putting on a presentation. The only presentation we are asked to give is to present our “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1)
And hospitality isn’t limited to guests in our homes. It’s about our lives. We practice hospitality whenever we take a genuine interest in the people around us - friends, family, acquaintances, strangers; people in church, at our jobs, the supermarket, the mall, or the park; people on the phone, online, or in person.
The NIV and NLT translations of Romans 12:13b state, “Practice hospitality.” And we all know, “practice makes perfect.”