As Christians, we are called to be hospitable. So why is it often such a source of stress or discomfort to invite people into our home? In this article, Shannon Acheson of “Home Made Lovely” shares 10 hospitality bible verses (and a free hospitality checklist) to encourage you that hospitality doesn’t need to look like you think it should, but rather that God can and will use you, right where you are, to love on those around you!
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I love a pretty home, don’t you? It’s something I’ve always loved—even as a teenager living in my parents’ house. Like most women I know, I’m most at peace in a home that is well-organized, beautiful, and clutter-free.
But in addition to the decor and beauty of a space, I think a huge part of a lovely home is seen and experienced in how well and how often we welcome others in.
People are lonely and they want to connect. In fact, eating alone is more strongly associated with unhappiness than any single factor other than having a mental illness. (City News, 2018)
Hospitality can be a wonderful gift for both the host and the guest. Loving others through hospitality, feeding them, giving them a place to rest, and showing a genuine interest in what is going on in their lives is, well, life-giving to both them and you.
Hospitality vs Entertaining
Before I sat down to write the Lovely Hospitality chapter of my first book, “Home Made Lovely,” I had to sort some things out in my own mind about hospitality. From chatting with friends, my own experiences, and those I remember as a child (and hearing my mom and her church friends talk about), I know that there can be a lot of guilt or ‘shoulds’ associated with hospitality.
After all that soul-searching, I figured out that one of the big reasons we don’t invite others into our homes is because our hospitality doesn’t look like we think it should. Everywhere we look online, there are gorgeous layered tables for Thanksgiving, perfectly coiffed Christmas trees where every ornament is oh-so-perfectly placed, and linen closets with labeled baskets and perfect little stacks of sheets and towels that never seem to get used.
Perfect, perfect, perfect.
Entertaining vs. Hospitality
Unfortunately, all this striving for perfection has turned genuine hospitality into something it was never meant to be.
While I admire her, Martha Stewart’s standards for hospitality and housekeeping are incredibly high. Much higher than I care to strive for. And actually, while the words hospitality and entertaining are often interchanged when discussing hosting people in our homes, they’re really not the same thing at all.
In Martha’s book, “Entertaining,” she says, “Entertaining, like cooking, is a little selfish because it really involves pleasing yourself with a guest list that will coalesce into your idea of harmony, with a menu orchestrated to your home and taste and budget, with decorations subject to your own eye. Given these considerations, it has to be pleasureful.”
What is your goal?
It seems that most of what is considered hospitality now is, in fact, entertaining, and not hospitality at all! And the difference between entertaining and hospitality is this: entertaining is all about their house and their home and ‘look at me’, while hospitality is about obedience to God and serving and loving on our neighbors.
In Romans 12, Paul lists the marks of a true Christian. Things like, “love must be sincere. Hate what is evil” (v.9). And in verse 13 he says, “Seek to show hospitality.” In other words, showing hospitality is one of the outward displays of a Christian life. It has nothing to do with making the perfect centerpiece or baking pies! God can and will use you, right where you are, to love on those around you!
What does the Bible Say about Hospitality?
In order to help us keep our minds in the right place when we’re showing hospitality, here are 10 Bible verses that talk about biblical hospitality.
*I feel like it’s important to note that some of the Bible verses mention showing hospitality to strangers and some mention showing hospitality to fellow Christians. I think a lot of times we get hung up on or told that biblical hospitality has to be shown to strangers or non-Christians. But we are called to show hospitality to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, too!
10 Hospitality Bible Verses
- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9, NIV).
- “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13, NIV).
- “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
- “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” (1 Timothy 3:2).
- “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40).
- “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8, NIV).
- “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).
- “He said, ‘Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels’” (Genesis 24:31).
- “Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days” (Acts 28:7).
- “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts…” (Acts 2:46).
See? Hospitality is about loving people and caring for them. Not about how big or beautiful our house is. Or how great a cook we are.
Make it Easy
Okay, so we definitely want to have our hearts in the right place when we host neighbors, friends, and family in our homes. We want to remember it’s about loving people and honoring God. Hence the Bible verses.
But how do we do that? What does that look like practically?
While we shouldn’t be thinking about impressing our guests or family by having a perfect house, we should do all we can to make them feel welcome and comfortable.
Ask about their favorite dishes, and find out if they have any food allergies. Serve them tea or coffee and store-bought cookies instead of a full meal if that’s too much for you (or them) in this season of life. Make it easy on yourself. You don’t have to do a fancy four-course meal to show you care!
Get Your House Ready
Of course, no one has a visitor-ready house all the time. So there are a few things you may want to do before you have guests over.
In the main areas of your home:
- Put things away
- Fluff throw pillows and fold any throw blankets
Around the kitchen:
- Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or hand wash them
- Wipe down the counters
- Put out clean towels
In the bathroom:
- Clean the mirror
- Wipe down sink and counters
- Clean the toilet
- Put out clean towels
Guest room (for overnight guests):
- Tidy any clutter
- Dust the surfaces
- Put fresh linens on the bed
These simple things will help your guests to feel extra cared for and loved.
By focusing first on the ‘Audience of One’ (God), the pressure is off. Hospitality becomes about welcoming and serving our guests. “Here you are” versus, “Here I am.” Serving others versus self-serving. “How can I love you?” versus “Look at my shiny home.” It’s all about the heart behind the actions!
(With excerpts from “Home Made Lovely” by Shannon Acheson, Bethany House 2020)
Follow the link below to get a printable version of Shannon’s Hospitality Checklist!