Lemon pound cake with berries on top

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.



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.



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. 


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.”


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.



For Cake:

  • 1 Lemon Cake Mix
  • 4 Eggs
  • ¾ Cup Water
  • 1 Small Box Lemon Jello
  • ¾ Cup Oil

For Topping:

  • 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.


Lemon cake recipe

Company coming over?

Grab a printable copy of Sue Donaldson’s lemon cake recipe and whip one up to share with friends and family.

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  1. I love hospitality, but the spiritual gift I try to opt out of is evangelism…
    There are just some walls that we aren’t supposed to build, right?
    It’s a challenge here in my rural setting to get past the big oak tree boundaries and up someone’s long driveway, but I’m finding that the initial discomfort is worth it. I was noticing just this morning on my walk that there’s an untended garden at a neighbor’s house. Very unusual as it’s always been a temptation for me to covet my neighbor’s garden in past years, so I’m plotting a muffin-bearing visit to see if anyone is sick or sad in that house.

    1. I hear you, Michele, it can be an awkward that first and even second walk up the drive and the knock at the door. It’s startling how I can live next door to people I don’t know at all for 10 years but have 1000 friends on fb. God loves it that you are wondering about the sick and the sad because His eyes are on them, too.

  2. It can be hard to invite people over and host. But the rewards are many for both then and us. To bad we don’t live in the same town. I’d come over for wine or tea. What a wonderful example of just asking people over. Last year we found out our therapist had no plans for Thanksgiving. On a spur of the moment we invited her over.. It turned into a delightful day.

  3. Sue, you are so inspiring! I’m an introvert, so I have to push past my natural inclinations if I want to extend an invitation of any sort. That’s why I love your reminder that “we chase after hospitality as a means to ‘outdo one another in showing honor’.” I needed your encouragement to be a blessing to others, even when it feels awkward on the front end.:)

    1. Ah, well, Cindy. I’ve had to get over many an awkward moment or entire evening. When the meal is less than stellar (like last Sat when we invited our favorite server and her boyfriend for dinner) (they need “extra parents” is my thinking so the food, less than stellar, did I say? was the vehicle for love and friendship and maybe family in the future.) and the conversation a little awkward – even with my 252 conversation starters (heavens! you’d think I’d be an expert by now – but I’m not) – even with all my imperfectations, God makes up for them and I sit back afterwards (and take a needed breather) and revel in what He did in spite of myself. Very cool to sit on the sidelines, watching Him do the real work. I just have to cook a casserole and open my door. PS My husband is such an introvert so I defer to his exhaustion w/ people and don’t invite as much as my parents did. But I still invite. (:

  4. I’m not outgoing but I want to do so much for people. I want to share the Gospel, but I do t know what to say. I try and sometimes it seems they liked what they heard and other times it isn’t something that I think I should have talked about. Anyway I would like to dive in but I’m newly going back to Church and in covid19, people don’t talk. It’s tough getting g close to others there. I ha e leaks in the house that the roofer took off with our money and we don’t have the money at the time to repair so inciting any people over seems out of it. The house is so embarrassing now. I’ve been trying to deal with this until we can get it fixed. Some floors like the bathroom got ruined
    I have many things I want to do for God and not sure what to do or where to start. You’re all inspiring ❤️

    1. The encouraging thing, Nanci, is that God looks at our hearts and He sees how you feel and that you want to please Him. I find that mostly people just like being invited, no matter what I end up serving or how my home looks on any given day. You’ve already started: you want to invite. The next step is to invite just one person and serve a storebought cookie if you don’t feel like baking. Or a glass of iced tea if it’s a hot day. Hospitality is about the guest, and you care about your guest.

  5. Great article! I love your style of writing and would love to share tea and cookies in my gazebo on a warm summer day or hot cocoa by the fire when the ground is covered withs now.
    Blessings to you and yours!

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