The Joy of Hospitality

As you welcome people into your home and life this holiday season, we invite you to consider how to let go of guilt and find joy in hospitality. Reflect on the Biblical invitation to hospitality with the Words of Hope devotional series Hospitality Defined: Practical Love in Service to God

The stylized photograph in the magazine looked so elegant. The table was set for a holiday meal, with tips for the Thanksgiving host. Add richly colored linens, and an autumnal centerpiece, with candlelight and fine china to set the mood for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner!

If this is what comes to mind when you think of hospitality, then it probably stirs one emotion within you: guilt! It’s the reaction I often hear when the topic of Christian hospitality is addressed. “I feel so convicted, but having people in my home seems overwhelming.”

It’s time to relax. It’s time to banish the ideas of perfection that are nurtured in the magazines and HGTV. It’s time to think about what Christian hospitality is all about—and what it’s not about at all.

It’s not about the food.

Some friends of ours recently returned to the U.S. after several years abroad in China. The change was challenging and as they began to readjust to life in the United States, I thought they could use a good ol’ American barbeque—with ribs galore!

They loved the ribs, and my friend remarked that when she cooked ribs, they never turned out that well. I promised her the recipe after dinner. Later, we both laughed when I told her my secret: “I buy the pre-cooked, pre-sauced ribs in a plastic package. Randy puts them on the grill. That’s it!”

People don’t expect you to be a gourmet cook. A meal can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. If the idea of cooking is holding you back, rethink the menu. Soup, salad and bread can be a welcome choice. Or, skip the cooking and order takeout! Everybody loves pizza. When it comes to hospitality, don’t make it about the food.

It’s not about the house.

Think about a place from your past where you always felt loved, encouraged, comforted, and cozy. Now ask yourself: did you feel that way because this place was elegant and well-furnished? Or was it something else?

I definitely think of my grandma’s old farmhouse. It wasn’t fashionable or well-appointed.  The floors creaked, the furniture sagged and the kitchen was always a little greasy. (Grandma was a southern cook; she deep-fried everything!) What made her home wonderful for me was Grandma—and her unconditional love.

If feeling self-conscious about your home is holding you back from hospitality, remember that people make a home warm and inviting—not updated kitchens and freshly painted walls. Hospitality isn’t about the house.

It’s about the joy!

We all remember the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19—the short man who climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and despised by the people. But Jesus announced that he was going to be his guest that day! “So [Zacchaeus] hurried and came down and received him joyfully” (v. 6).

Joy is the key. Generosity flowed from Zacchaeus’ joy, even as he pledged to give half of all he had to the poor. Jesus announced that salvation had come to his house that day. What a great dinner party that must have been!

Stop worrying about the food and the house and other unimportant details; concentrate on the joy of hosting others. Serve them with kindness and generosity, and reflect the Savior’s love for them. Focus on the joy. That’s what’s at the center of Christian hospitality.