The Bible makes it clear that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not distributed equally. That is, not everyone was designed to be a pastor, or a healer, or a teacher, but rather the Spirit apportions to each person as He wills. But what about hospitality? If hospitality is a spiritual gift, doesn’t that mean that some of us don’t have it, and therefore shouldn’t have to worry about it? Sue Donaldson sets the record straight on this common misperception.
Isn’t Hospitality a Spiritual Gift? (Which means I’m off the hook, right?)
Yes and no. And no, you’re not off the hook.
IS HOSPITALITY A SPIRITUAL GIFT?
A spiritual gift is defined as something given by the Holy Spirit—a divine enablement, to build up the body of Christ. You may feel you need any and all the divine enablement God offers (as well as two hours at a nearby spa) to get you through a dinner party for six without killing yourself or a loved-one.
Although Paul mentions hospitality in Romans 12:13, it’s not in the actual gifts-list, like teaching, serving, and faith. And it’s not mentioned at all in the other two passages on gifts: I Corinthians 12:4-11 and Ephesians 4.
So, no, hospitality is not a spiritual gift. But, yes, it is used as a way to serve the body of Christ, and I need divine enablement to speak Gospel love after it’s shown with a platter of sweet potato fries and artichoke dip.
THE GIFT OF HOSPITALITY?
I’ve had people say, “Sue, hospitality is your gift” as if that’s reason enough for talking and writing about it every chance I get. One friend had the gall to say, “Well, you’re just so nice, that’s why you are inviting people over.”
I take exception to both comments. I do a lot of hospitality. But it’s not because God gave me something special that He didn’t give you.
And it’s not because I’m especially nice.
I can be especially ornery, fatigued, or in a full-blown snit, but I carry on with the invitation, and here’s why: I’ve seen how a cup of coffee and a muffin offered to a frazzled mom can make all the difference in her afternoon.
Or, how an offer to stay for dinner and overnight can ease the loneliness of a student far from her home and dreams.
Yesterday my friend Marian came for coffee. She’s 90. I included another friend, Jill. She’s in her 40’s. I’m somewhere in between. I love mixing generations. We sat outside in the side yard, drank coffee, shared lemon cake and well-worn stories that shine with the polish of the retelling. I asked Marian, “So how did you meet your husband, again? Tell Jill that story.”
“Well,” she began with a sly smile, “he was just so cute and so funny and one day while walking past me—this was at Wheaton College—I just grabbed him and kissed him full on the lips!”
We laughed at God’s funny and gracious ways and hugged each other at the end, grateful for what Marian described as an “afternoon of serendipity.”
I wish you had been there.
HOSPITALITY IS A COMMAND FOR ALL OF US
If you hope you don’t need to practice hospitality because there are already enough who have experienced its magic and endured its labor—you think you are “off the hook”—I’m here to dash those hopes, while hopefully giving you a hand-up to begin doing what God expressed as a command, not a suggestion:
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (I Peter 4:9).
I can grumble along with the best of them. Peter could have written his caveat: Show hospitality without delay, without anxiety, without a second thought. Instead, he chose grumbling—the affliction of kings and commoners.
How can we do what God asks with joy instead of complaint? With confidence instead of anxiety?
It begins with believing that His commands are for our good. After listing the spiritual gifts in Romans, Paul goes on to write: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord . . . Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).
He concludes a paragraph on how to love each other with “seek to show hospitality.”
We don’t just let hosting fall into our laps or go along with it because it’s expected of us: Oh, no, it’s the holidays again. Whose turn is it to host this year? Not mine, I hope! Rather, we seek it. We chase after hospitality as a means to “outdo one another in showing honor.”
Rosaria Butterfield wrote: “…hospitality is rooted in our love for God, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our desire to see all of our neighbors know the salvation of Jesus.”
DOING HOSPITALITY GOD’S WAY
When I struggle with inviting one more new family for dinner or adding a college student to the table, I need to examine my heart: Is it rooted in love for God and for others?
Once I get that settled—and it’s a daily settling—I can ask God who He has in mind for my guest list. An old friend like Marian? The divorced neighbor down the street? Possibly someone I’ll meet halfway through the day at the park, in the check-out line, on the phone with customer service.
Josiah, an Apple Support fellow, cheerfully fixed my laptop via phone this week in a matter of minutes. We chatted about where we lived, and how he wanted to get back to California. I said, “Do you want to come for Thanksgiving?” He replied, “Yes!” without hesitation. “Well, you have my email now. Let me know when you’re a few hours away and we’ll set an extra plate.”
While waiting at the optical counter at Costco, I felt God prompting me to chat with the nice-looking older woman a few feet away from me. I found out she was new to town, and finding it hard to settle in due to the shutdowns. We both admired each other’s new glasses, and I took the plunge, “I have Wine Nights for friends. Do you like wine?”
She laughed and said, “Of course.” I got her name and number and said, “Okay I’ll let you know soon.”
In either instance, I didn’t know who I would be talking with that day: Josiah in Oklahoma and Doris at Costco. But God did. I just needed to be ready to invite, to “seek to show” God’s inviting heart.
Hospitality doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective. Summer offers opportunities for simple dinners, casual invitations, and outdoor potlucks.
Invest in a croquet or badminton set. Make lemonade popsicles and bar-b-que hotdogs and your home will be a kid-magnet. My friend, Katy, told me years ago, “If you love me, love my kids.”
Sounds like a simple way to outdo each other in honoring others.
Hospitality is for every Christ-follower and we can count on the Spirit to give us all we need. We don’t want to be “let off the hook” because of the possibility to show God’s love to a stranger on the phone, the saint in the pew, and a child down the street—maybe all three on the same day.
DADDY’S FAVORITE LEMON CAKE
- 1 Lemon Cake Mix
- 4 Eggs
- ¾ Cup Water
- 1 Small Box Lemon Jello
- ¾ Cup Oil
- Juice of 1 Lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)
- 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
Mix together cake ingredients. Bake in 9×13” pan for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and prick with fork. Pour topping over warm cake. After cooling, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.
DADDY’S FAVORITE LEMON CAKE RECIPE
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