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The Art of Hospitality

by Tiphanie Sizemore

True hospitality focuses on people, not preparations or things.

It’s easy to become consumed with having our house just perfect or making elaborate recipes when attempting to become more hospitable. But there’s a huge difference between entertaining, which aims to impress others with our talents and possessions, and true hospitality, which simply aims to make others feel loved and welcomed.

As we endeavor to practice true (and Biblical!) hospitality, our main goal should be for the people who enter our homes to feel loved and cared for. Biblical hospitality isn’t pretentious or afraid to invite others into our less-than-perfect homes and routines. We want to serve others well so they will see Jesus in us and in our homes. We want to exhibit the love of God in and through our actions. People must see God in us - and it won't be because of our perfect house or fancy meals, but rather because of the kindness we show them.

One prime example of this principle is shown in Scripture. We read in the Bible about Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, there in Bethany. The Bible tells us that these people were friends of JESUS! They LOVED JESUS! They all wanted to make Jesus feel welcome in their home. Mary and Martha, both, give us an example of two different responses to Jesus' visit in their home and teach us a lesson on the proper way to practice hospitality.

We read where Martha welcomed Jesus into her home before quickly becoming “cumbered about with much serving” (Luke 10:40). Mary, on the other hand, quietly sat at Jesus’ feet, soaking up His every word. We all know the story, after becoming upset with her sister for her lack of assistance in serving, Martha asked Jesus to make Mary help her with the preparations. Jesus then told Martha that she was “careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41) while Mary was choosing the “good part which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42).

Can you relate to Martha though? Here they had a houseful of guests--there were tons of stuff to be done, food to be cooked, beds to be made up. In her flustered and anxious state, Martha realized that Mary was nowhere to be found so she goes looking for her. Martha had so much left to do and she felt that she was inadequate (or lacking) in her own ability to complete all the remaining work alone that still needed done. She desperately felt like she need additional assistance but when she finds her sister Mary, she finds her being unproductive (as far as in a physical, helping "get prepared" sense) AAAArrgGGHH! We often “knock” Martha for her attitude in this story but truth be told, we probably would have been just as upset as she was had we been in Martha's shoes.

Martha was the head of their household homemaking management--but she was no miracle worker. She became anxious with all the pressures of wanting things to be perfect and overwhelmed with all the tasks that still needed to be completed. She wanted to be a good host - After all, THIS WAS JESUS! You want everything to be perfect for JESUS!

In the natural sense, it is so tempting to agree with Martha and to see Mary as the one lacking in hospitality in this story but Jesus didn't seem to think so. Why is that?? Mary was not even recorded in Scripture as the one who usually welcomed Jesus into their home when he visited. At another visit (recorded in John 11:20), again, it was Martha who went out to meet Jesus. Mary was usually seen quietly sitting and reflecting on the words of the Savior as He spoke. Yet, here in our passage, Jesus didn't see her attitude as someone who wasn't being hospitable, but rather, he saw her as a woman who realized that true hospitality is more about building lasting relationships than about all the preparations and elaborate "ornaments" of "entertaining."

Mary recognized the need to commune with Christ above all else. While Martha initially went to greet Jesus, welcoming him into their home, she then became more preoccupied with what a "good host" should look like, and what was expected of her in society.

Sometimes, we too find ourselves in Martha's shoes...Struggling to show true hospitality...It is often seemingly easier taking care of details and preparations instead of caring for and communicating with people. Like Martha, we too can become "careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Hours of time gets spent before inviting another family or person over dinner - planning a perfect meal, cleaning the house, making sure everything goes according to plan. And these things are not necessarily bad. Yet, the problem comes when we are focused purely on our works, instead of the love/relationship that should be behind our works. Even a quick glance at 1 John reveals that we can only love others BECAUSE of the love of God for us and IN us. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12) If we are not sitting at Jesus' feet, following Mary’s example, we will not know how to express HIS love to those around us. By getting so caught up in the physical aspect of hospitality, like Martha, we too often miss out on wonderful opportunities to grow as a person and to build strong relationships with others.

Being hospitable is much more than just having people over for dinner. It means inviting people INTO our lives and caring enough to get involved in theirs.

True hospitality isn't a "one size fits all."

There is so many different opportunities for us to be hospitable to others.

When we think of hospitality, we often immediately think of inviting someone into our home for a meal. While that’s one great example, hospitality carries a much broader definition. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia --which literally means the “love OF the stranger”.

Being hospitable and showing you care with your actions may look like:

  • Slipping some extra money (or a grocery gift card!) to a young struggling couple (right when they need it most!)

  • Mowing the grass for an elderly widow, a disabled or sick person, or someone who is working a crazy schedule and are is limited in their time at the moment.

  • Taking a meal to a family who just had a baby, are going through a trying time, or are recovering from an illness or surgery.

  • Buying a pack of diapers and wipes periodically for a young couple with a baby just to temporarily help lighten their load and let them know someone "sees" them.

  • Making some cookies or baked goods for someone and taking them to someone who just needs a little "pick me up."

  • Sending a care package, letter, or small gift in the mail to someone you don't see often just to let them know you are thinking of them.

  • Sending a card of appreciation or support (Just because!) to someone.

  • Extend your help to someone that could use it. If you see a need, be quick to be part of the solution.

  • If you have a specialty or a talent, use that gift to serve others. Be generous with your time and your talents.

  • Taking time out of your schedule to call someone just to talk and "catch up." This shows that person that you value their friendship enough to make time for it.

  • Taking time out of your schedule to call someone just to talk and "catch up." This shows that person that you value their friendship enough to make time for it.

  • Show a genuine interest in others. Focus on your conversations. Be attentive to that person. Don't be distracted when someone is trying to talk to you. Don't be on your phone. Give people the gift of your undivided attention.

  • Be happy. Smile. Make people feel that you are glad to be in their presence! Let folks know how much you enjoy their fellowship. There is nothing more hospitable than making someone feel loved and welcome. It is a wonderful feeling when someone goes out of their way to make you feel welcome.

True hospitality pays attention to the little details.

Especially in today's world, people often feel marginalized and insignificant. Many folks fight "mind battles" if they are good enough or worthy enough ( As Christians, we know that our goodness and worth are found only through and by the Lord Jesus Christ. But even in our holiness churches, especially among the women and young people, this has been something I have heard frequently. Insecurity, low self esteem, and self loathing are alive and well in our day. The Devil often uses these tools to keep the people of God bound.

So when you take the time to pay attention to the little details of a person's lives (those seemingly insignificant things that no one rarely remembers) and later use those details in conversation or action, you are showing that person that they are worth something to you! They MATTER!! They are a person whose desires, ideas, and goals are meaningful.

I have seen many kids and young people who have benefitted from this very thing. When an adult or someone they look up to shows interest in them and pays attention to the little details of that kid's life, it can be completely life changing for that kid.

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day and she was telling me about a wonderful lady of God who was very influential in her own life as a child. The main thing that the lady did, though, was simply take notice of her and to include her and make her feel special. It was amazing that just a few seemingly insignificant encounters could have had such a profound effect on my friend as a young child. But she actually remembers it vividly to this day. To the woman herself, those encounters with my friend probably didn't seem especially was just a part of her character. It was just WHO she was! She made it a habit to make people feel welcomed, loved, wanted, and needed.

WOW! I want to be that kind of person.

When we delegate hospitality to just cooking food for others in our homes, we often neglect a lot of other wonderful ways to love people! Just as God creates each person with unique talents, we each have unique ways of showing love and hospitality.

True hospitality allows genuine relationships to develop.

Instead of presenting a perfect home with magazine worthy recipes - true hospitality allows people to get to know one another on a personal level. Inviting a young mom with little ones over for a lunch play date may reveal your imperfect house with its pile of breakfast dishes, school papers, and scattered toys. Fixing her a simple grilled cheese and warming some leftover soup for lunch may not seem grand but this kind of simple hospitality creates a transparency breaks down the barriers between a guest and a host. It creates a sense of camaraderie and allows for sharing and burden-bearing.

Friendships are forged as we see each other as fellow moms/wives/homemakers in need of companionship. We aren't in a competition. It's not me against you! I'm no better than you and you are no better than I am. We are both doing the best we know how to, striving to learn and do better every day. WE are stronger together! We need each other! Building these kind of relationships is vital to having a strong church - full of the unity of the Spirit!

True hospitality encourages others to practice it on their own.

Maybe you’ve been a guest at an outing or special event with immaculate table settings or fancy food. It’s tempting to think, I could never do something like this! True hospitality, on the other hand, is quite simple. It makes even the most ill-equipped cook feel like she can offer hospitality - even if it’s just ordering a pizza. Keeping it simple and unpretentious makes it a much better experience for everyone. The focus remains on "building relationships" instead of seeking to just impress.

The effect is contagious. Paul’s charge to “distribute hospitality” (Rom. 12:13) and to “show hospitality without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9) seems attainable when we see others doing it simply. People are much more likely to want to practice hospitality when we prevent it from becoming an exhausting, time-consuming affair.

True hospitality focuses on people, not preparations, on loving others well instead of worrying what others think of us.

True hospitality encourages others to be welcoming and generous people as well. God’s name is glorified when we humbly open our hearts and homes to those around us.

Don’t underestimate the power of having listening ears, open hearts, caring arms and welcoming homes through simple hospitality.

Let’s bring back brotherly love!! (Or should I say sisterly …lol 😜)

(Hebrews 13:1 — Let brotherly love continue.)

From my heart to yours,

-Tiphanie ❤️

*Sis. Tiphanie also has a wonderful blog where she shares encouragement on a weekly basis. Click the link below to read more. 💕

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