April 28, 2024

Hospitality towards God’s Servants 

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

Hospitality is taught in the Scriptures as a duty of God’s people. In the Old Testament, God taught His people, Israel, to be kind and hospitable to even strangers (foreigners) because He Himself showed mercy to strangers (cf. Psalm 146:9, cf. Deut. 10:18). He reminded the Israelites that they too were once foreigners in Egypt, and therefore should not mistreat those who are newcomers in their land (Ex. 23:9; cf. 22:21; Lev. 19:33-34; 25:35; Deut. 10:19). The Book of Malachi even warned against those who turned away strangers (Malachi 3:5). 

The New Testament elevates hospitality from a social courtesy to a core Christian value. Jesus demonstrated it as a vital way to express the love that binds believers together. He had shown us that hospitality extends beyond hosting dinner parties. Jesus ministered the Gospel to the outcasts of the society (Jn. 4:5-30), fed the hungry (Jn. 6:5-12), healed the sick (Matt. 12:15; 14:14), and received the disciples into the upper room for the Passover by washing their feet (Jn. 13:4-15). His parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates selflessness—putting others first, even when busy or distracted (Lk. 10:32-37). It involves prioritising others’ needs over our own and quickly extending our help. 

The apostles, in their teachings, reiterated the importance of hospitality. Paul, in Rom. 12:13, emphasises that Christians should be “given to hospitality”, while Peter urges them to “use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9). The writer of Hebrews warns against neglecting hospitality to strangers, hinting at the possibility of unknowingly welcoming angels (Hebrews 13:2). Even specific roles within the church, such as godly Christian women “taken into the number” (deaconesses) and elders, are expressly required to exhibit hospitality (1 Tim. 5:9-10; 3:2; Titus 1:8). Moreover, the early church’s gathering in homes of believers also made hospitality an even greater responsibility of Christians (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 12:12; 16:40; 18:7; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2).

Jesus Received Hospitality

The New Testament further underscores the importance of hospitality through Jesus’ personal experiences. He was not just a Teacher but was also a Guest, accepting the hospitality of those who cherished Him and His Gospel. 

His ministry was marked by a variety of welcoming encounters. For instance, Zacchaeus, a tax collector, opened his home to Him (Luke 19:5-7). A Samaritan village received Him, and He stayed with the Samaritans for two days (John 4:4-40). A Pharisee named Simon invited Him for a meal (Luke 7:36-40). An unnamed Pharisee also offered Him food and shelter (Luke 14:1). Jesus also enjoyed the company and hospitality of His close friends from the village of Bethany – Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (Luke 10:38) – as well as others like Simon the leper (Matt. 26:6), and the two disciples He met on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:29-30).

Jesus Assured His Servants of Hospitality

When Jesus sent out seventy men in pairs, He prepared them for the challenges they would face. He warned them about encountering hostility and hatred. However, He also assured them that people would open their homes and hearts to receive and support them. He then gave them practical instructions on accepting the hospitality extended to them. 

He said, “Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house” (Luke 10:3-7). Jesus’ words clearly indicate that God would provide for His servants’ every need. 

The Apostles Benefited from Hospitality

The apostles, too, benefited from the generosity of others. Peter lodged with a tanner named Simon and a Roman centurion named Cornelius (Acts 9:43; 10:5-6; 10:24-33, 48). During their travels, Paul and his companions were welcomed by Lydia, a seller of purple cloth (Acts 16:14-15), a jailer in Philippi (Acts 16:34), Jason of Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-7), as well as Aquila and Priscilla, a tent-making couple (Acts 18:1-3). Other acts of hospitality were also shown by Justus (Acts 18:7), Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8), Mnason (Acts 21:16), and Publius (Acts 28:7). 

A spirit of generosity and hospitality existed among Jewish and Gentile followers of Christ and His apostles. They happily welcomed God’s servants, especially those who travelled from place to place and faithfully taught the truth (3 John 6-8).

Do We Extend Hospitality?

Jesus promised, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Mt 10:40-42). 

Jesus emphasised that welcoming His followers is like welcoming Him and God Himself. This extends to God’s blessings. Just as a prophet is rewarded for his work, so are those who receive a prophet. The same applies to all believers - those who welcome and help fellow Christians, even in seemingly small ways, are blessed by God. This creates a beautiful cycle where believers can share blessings and receive them in return, ensuring no act of kindness goes unnoticed.

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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