The Enemy of Hospitality

I’m busy. I’m tired. My home is untidy. My kids are too loud. My lunch break is too short. My paycheck is small. I’m not good at small talk.

It’s easy to think of excuses for not showing hospitality—in our homes or elsewhere. It’s true: there are obstacles to overcome if we want to offer the kind of others-centred, grace-filled welcome the bible calls us to. But the greatest hindrance to our hospitality is not the size of our home, table or bank balance. It’s not our lack of cooking or conversation skills. What hinders us most from offering warm, generous hospitality is our pride. Pride is the great enemy of hospitality. 

Two Forms of Pride

Pride hinders hospitality in two ways. The more obvious way is when we fail to offer welcome to those most in need of it because we feel we are, in some way, superior to them. We may avoid people we judge to be less hard-working than we are. I work hard to provide a nice home and decent food for my family, we think. Why should I share my home and my food with them?

Or we may not be open toward a colleague who enjoys telling crude stories or sharing opinions we find offensive. It’s bad enough having to listen to that kind of talk at work, we reason. I shouldn’t have to hear it in my own home, too. Or we might fail to welcome people who are less popular or don’t appear to have any influence with others we want to impress. Why sit with them when I could be seen to be friends with X or Y?

The second way pride hinders our hospitality is through our desire for human approval. This is a more subtle form of pride, but it’s at the heart of many of our hospitality worries:

People will see what I’m really like—and they might not like me. 

I can’t cook as well as my friend—the food will be such a disappointment.

I find it difficult to make conversation—my guests will be bored. 

These fears arise when we focus more on what people think of us than on what God desires for us. We want people to think well of us; we don’t want to look inferior or inadequate to others. But hospitality makes us vulnerable—to disapproval, disappointment and discouragement. So if our fear of what people think of us is greater than our love for them, we will hesitate to invite others into our homes and our lives. We won’t offer the kind of generous, others-focused welcome the gospel calls us to. 

Going to War

Whether we withhold hospitality out of a sense of superiority or out of fear, the root issue is the same: we think more of ourselves than we should. And so we need to go to war against our pride. 

Biblical hospitality and pride won’t coexist. They contradict each other in every way. Hospitality is outward-looking and others-focused; pride is inward-looking and self-centered. Hospitality seeks to elevate others; pride seeks to elevate self. Hospitality prioritizes the needs and preferences of those it serves; pride prioritizes the needs and preferences of its owner.

So we need to choose: we can continue to let pride dominate our desires and priorities, or cultivate a heart that loves to welcome others as God our Father welcomes us. 

If we choose to cultivate a hospitable heart, there are a couple of principles that will help us in the fight against pride. 

1. Remember who God is.

When we meditate on God’s majesty, power, and splendor, it brings our view of self into perspective. We’re really not that impressive—so there’s little point pretending we are. When we remember that our purpose is to magnify the greatness of our God and call others to worship Him, too, then we are freed from our preoccupation with our own image or reputation. The goal of our hospitality is never to point to ourselves, but to point to Him. To reflect His generous, compassionate, undeserved welcome of us in the way we welcome others. 

2. Remember who we are.

When we’re tempted to think more of ourselves than we should, we need to remember that we are weak, sinful, and undeserving, but God has given us new life in Christ. When we are tempted to fear what people think of us, we can remember that God has exalted us with Jesus (Eph. 2:6). Our identity comes from Him, and is secure in Him. The high position we now have in Christ liberates us to serve others humbly, joyfully, and without fear. We risk nothing by seeking to invite, include and invest in the people God has placed us among, regardless of their response. 

Why not ask God to show you this week how you can offer humble hospitality that reflects his character and points others to him?

About the Author

Carolyn Lacey

Carolyn Lacey

Carolyn Lacey is the author of Extraordinary Hospitality (for Ordinary People) as well as a speaker and pastor's wife. She serves alongside her husband, Richard, in the UK, where they live with their two children. Carolyn teaches the Bible regularly … read more …

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