Examples of Hospitality in Less Than Perfect Circumstances.
Today I thought it would be helpful to look at several people in Scripture who practiced hospitality in the middle of different and difficult life circumstances. It’s easy to think that hospitality is only for those who have it all together, are financially stable, and are living pain-free lives.
But you’ll see from these examples in Scripture that most of the examples were living in the middle of their own heartache, burdens, personal problems, or limitations.
As I studied this, I was convicted to practice hospitality even when things aren’t perfect, and to just trust God in obedience in this area.
Extravagant Hospitality while waiting for a child. Abraham and Sarah. (Gen. 18:1-8)
Abraham saw “three men”, ran to them, bowed to them, compelled them to stay, offered them shade, water to cleanse after the journey, with the promise of dinner which consisted of freshly baked bread and butter, meat, and milk. After dinner, one of the men foretold that Sarah would become pregnant with a son, though she was old and past her childbearing years. (Side note: I love how Abraham offered all this food to the men and then ran and told Sarah to “Quick! Start baking bread!” I chuckle every time I read it.)
Hospitality in a difficult marriage. Abigail. (1 Sam. 25)
I love Abigail’s story. Married to a foolish drunk, she didn’t allow her husband’s behavior to taint her own godly character. When her husband Nabal refused to help feed King David and his 400 men, David was insulted and ready to destroy all of Nabal’s house. But Abigail used discretion and wisdom and prepared a HUGE feast while her husband was drunk: 200 loaves of bread, 2 skins of wine, 5 sheep, about 60 pounds of roasted grains, and 100 clusters of raisins, 200 cakes of figs. No big deal, right?! Then she met David and persuaded him to deal in a godly way with her family, by not shedding blood. She was persuasive and successful and I bet those fig cakes helped just a bit, don’t you think? (Best part of the story is that Abigail tells her husband when he sobers up what a jerk he had been to David and how she saved their family, and his heart became stone, he died ten days later, and King David hears of it and asks her to marry him! I think he must have liked her cooking. JK. But, Happy ending.)
Hospitality in spite of personal poverty. A widow in Zarephath. (1 Kings 17: 7-16)
Oh, the faith of this dear hurting lady! Widowed, raising a son, and now destitute, she was out collecting sticks for a fire to cook her very last meal over. After that, she fully expected they would “eat it and then die” because times were so hard. No hope, no resources, and Elijah comes knocking at her door. Amazingly, she honors the prophet’s request for food and believes his word when he tells her that God would provide. It’s easy to give out of our abundance when it doesn’t cost quite so much, but when times are tough, and money is tight, or resources are depleted, we can be tempted to be stingy with others or to care only for our own. Not this lady. And because of her faith, God provided miraculously with flour and oil that did not run out.
Hospitality in the home of a well-to-do woman with a hidden heartache. The woman in Shunam. (2 Kings 4:8-14)
This wealthy woman in Shunam seemed to have everything, but she was childless. Instead of allowing that heartache to make her self-absorbed or sulky, she had a heart for others and the ambition to carry out kindness. Materially, she had extra room and financial resources and she used it for eternal purposes. When Elisha the prophet came to town, she asked her husband if they could set up a little guest room for the prophet, to feed and house him when he passed by. Elisha’s benefitted from her care and he reports: “You have been careful for us with all this care!” or in other words–you’ve gone through so much trouble for us! Elisha wanted to do something for her, so he prayed that God would give her a son…and God did.
Hospitality while falsely accused and under house arrest. Paul. (Acts 28:23, 30, 31)
Though Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel and ultimately found to be innocent, he still endured two years of house arrest as he awaited his appeal to Ceaser. He didn’t waste those years, though, and he didn’t see himself as a victim. He knew God ordains all things…and he continued to minister despite his loss of freedom. He continued to expound the Word of God, testifying of God’s kingdom, teaching from morning until evening, and “receiving all that came in unto him.”
Hospitality in the midst of illness and personal trials. Peter. (Matthew 8:14-17, Luke 4:38-40)
Peter and his wife opened their home to Jesus under less than ideal circumstances. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a high fever, and I’m sure caring for her was on their mind. Jesus entered, healed her, and she immediately got up and served Jesus. Then, that evening, people started flooding to their house to be healed by Jesus: the sick, the diseased, and the demon possessed. What a day that must have been!
Hospitality as a new believer. Lydia. (Acts 16)
Lydia, a businesswoman, after her conversion and baptism, opened her home to Paul and Silas. This new convert was fervent in her hospitality. The Bible records that she was insistent and persistent. “She constrained us.” I’m sure with a business to run, she was a busy lady, but she knew that helping those who were preaching the gospel was a worthwhile endeavor.
Hospitality as a child. Unnamed boy. (John 6:8)
A little boy with a little lunch, who was in the right place at the right time with the right heart.
Jesus was constantly followed by crowds who wanted to hear his teaching and see His miracles and in one instance, this little boy’s lunch was offered to the disciples– not nearly enough–but Jesus used it and multiplied it and fed over 5, 000 people. There are so many lessons to learn in this one story alone, including offering the small gift you have—the gift you know isn’t enough– and allowing God to multiply it and use it in ways only He can. We just need to be willing.
There are many, many other examples of hospitality in Scripture. I hope that as you read and take note of those who offered lodgings, a meal, a cup of cold water, a room, or a garment, you’ll be encouraged to practice hospitality as well, even if your life isn’t picture perfect at that moment.
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Augustine