Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Open Doors and Open Hearts

Leslie Basham: Is your idea of hospitality a once-a-year Christmas party? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Hospitality for the Old Testament Jews was not an event. It was a way of life, and it’s intended to be a way of life for us.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, December 7.

If you approach the Old Testament stories with a 21st century mindset, you'll miss details in those stories about hospitality. Nancy's helping us see this stories with a fresh perspective as she continues in a series called, The Heart of Hospitality.

Nancy: We’ve been talking all this week about the ministry of hospitality and how we can reflect the hospitable heart of God by opening our hearts and our homes to other people. Now as you get into the Scripture and start to study this matter of hospitality, you see in the Old Testament many, many illustrations of hospitality. Hospitality for the Old Testament Jews was not an event. It was a way of life, and it’s intended to be a way of life for us.

You see, the Old Testament Jews believed that because God was their Host, therefore, they were obligated to show hospitality to others. For those Old Testament Jews, hospitality was a sacred duty. It was unthinkable to refuse hospitality to a needy person. It was expected. It was not an option. Those who were traveling or those who were poor and needy had a right to expect that if they came to your house, they could find hospitality. You would provide food and lodging—whatever was needed to meet their needs, and that they would also be given whatever was needed to send them on their journey.

I read this past week about some of the literature of the New Testament rabbis as they spoke about hospitality, and they got this heart from the Old Testament. It was said that rabbis suggested that every household should have doors in every side of the house, and these doors were to be opened so that travelers and the poor coming from any side might have easy access.

What a picture of hospitality: A door in every side of the house and the door always open so anyone could come in. It was said that one particular rabbi, Rabbi Huna, observed the custom of opening the door of his house when he was about to take his meal, saying, “Anyone who is hungry may come in and eat.”

In Jerusalem, it was said in this rabbinical literature, the Jews had a custom of displaying a flag in front of the door to indicate that the meal was ready and that the guests might come in and join. They even said that you should extend your meal as long as you could so that those who were late would still have time to come and get in for the meal. They said it was considered the duty of the host to be cheerful during the meals in order to make the guests feel at home and comfortable at the table.

So you see hospitality was a way of life for the Jews—always having an open heart—and that meant having an open home. Now, the Jews of Jesus’ day thought of Abraham, their father in the faith, as the supreme model of hospitality. So to look at an Old Testament model of hospitality, I thought it would be helpful to go back to the book of Genesis. If you have your Bible, let me invite you to turn to Genesis chapter 18, where we see one illustration of Abraham extending hospitality.

In this passage we get some good insights about what it means to extend Christian hospitality. Genesis chapter 18, and we’re looking at the first eight verses. Now, let me say, the purpose of this passage is not primarily to teach about hospitality. God was coming to tell Abraham that Sarah was going to have a child—ninety-year-old Sarah was going to have a baby—and this was God’s means of getting a message to Abraham. But it’s interesting how hospitality plays into this whole story and becomes an important part of Abraham receiving that message.

Abraham is sitting here at noontime—afternoon. It’s the hottest time of the day. He’s resting himself from the desert heat, and the Lord appears to him. Now, we know it was the Lord because the Scripture says it was, but Abraham apparently does not know at first that this is the Lord. In fact, it’s interesting that the blessing Abraham received in this encounter, and the revelation God gave him about what God was going to do, came after Abraham extended hospitality.

I think of how, humanly speaking, Abraham could have missed the blessing God had for him if he had not opened his home, if hospitality had not been a way of life for him. It makes me wonder how many blessings does God have for us, and how many times does He want to reveal Himself and His heart and His ways to us. God has blessings and rewards He wants to share with us, and we may miss it if we don’t open our homes.

So the Lord comes, and verse 2 says, “So he [Abraham] lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him.” We know as we get into the rest of the passage that one of those men was actually God himself making an Old Testament appearance. Two of the men were angels, and that’s where in the New Testament we read that some have, in opening their homes to strangers, entertained angels without realizing it, Hebrews 13:2 tells us. This is one of those instances.

But all Abraham knows is that there are three men who are passing by his tent here in the desert in the heat of the day. When he saw them . . . you get the picture here that this isn’t something he stopped and thought about; he just did it spontaneously.

He ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring you a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant." They said, "Do as you have said" (Gen. 18:2-5).

I see in this passage Abraham just assuming that he should be hospitable—not sitting here and thinking, “Now, do I have time today to show hospitality to these strangers? What’s on my schedule today?” I’m sure Abraham had things on his schedule, but whatever it was, he was flexible. He was willing to make changes in his schedule to receive these men who would come to him because he understood how important the ministry of hospitality is.

We see him as a host, being a humble host in the way he bowed himself to the ground and addressed these strangers. He said, “If I have found favor in your sight, don’t pass by.” He’s saying, in effect, “You have done me a great honor by visiting me. It’s a privilege that you would come to my tent.” Do you feel that way when people drop by your house unexpectedly—at lunch time or dinner time? “Oh, what a blessing that you would stop by!”

I confess that sometimes when I have my own agenda, my “to do” list, my things I’m working on, my schedule mapped out for the day, it’s not always easy when the phone rings and people say we’re coming through town, and we’d like to see you. Or the doorbell rings—and my house is situated in a place where my house is very accessible, and my doorbell does often ring, and people just stop by and sometimes it’s hard to receive guests spontaneously. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate the spirit of, “You’re welcome here.”

But I see in Abraham a great example of one saying, “This is an honor that you would visit me.” Notice his focus as a host is on the guests, not on himself. I think that’s what is the heart of hospitality. My focus is on you, not on me, not on my house, not on all the things I haven’t picked up and I’m embarrassed that you're seeing my house as it is. But my focus is on you, making you feel comfortable, making you feel welcome. It’s my joy to serve you. I sense Abraham saying that.

He extends himself in a practical way to meet their needs. He’s alert and sensitive to what their needs are. It’s hot. They’ve been traveling. He knows they’re probably thirsty. He knows they’re probably hungry. So he’s attentive and tuned to how he can meet their practical needs.

Then verse 6 tells us that this is not always easy. There’s effort involved in extending hospitality. “So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah.” Good old Sarah. Wasn’t it a good thing Sarah was there because I don’t think Abraham could have handled this on his own? He hurried to the tent to Sarah and he said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal, knead it and make cakes.”

Now, that strikes me as funny when I read it because I can’t imagine baking bread quickly. When we think of doing something quickly today, we don’t think of baking bread. That just shows we live in a whole different concept of time than they did in those days. Grind the flour, mix it together, knead it, bake it, and do it quickly.

Then verse 7 tells us, “And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man [one of the household helpers], and he hastened to prepare it.” So he’s going out; he’s finding a live animal. He’s going hunting for the meal, but he’s doing it quickly! “So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared and he set it before them and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.”

Hospitality involves work. It involves effort. It involves sharing what belongs to you, and sometimes sacrificing if you don’t have a lot.

I see here that hospitality is a family effort. They were involved in this together. We’re going to talk about how your family can be involved together in the ministry of hospitality.

Then we see that hospitality means the host has to have a servant’s heart. Just that last little phrase, “He stood by them under the tree as they ate” (v. 8). That was considered appropriate and polite in the Old Testament culture. As your guests were eating, you would stand by them. Why? Because you were their servant. You said, “Come into my home, and let me serve you.” So when we extend hospitality, we are showing the servant heart of Jesus.

Abraham was the kind of host that I want to be: spontaneous, flexible, open tent, open home, open heart—come in and be refreshed.

Now, when we talk about hospitality, the culture that we live in that is so impersonal and so broken and fragmented in its relationships. This is just one of many challenges that we face. For me, and I suppose for many women, one of the biggest challenges is just the schedule—time to be hospitable. I think back over my past year—and I love hospitality; it’s been a great ministry and a great blessing in my own life—but my schedule has been such . . . As I was studying this, I was convicted, and I realized I have gotten so busy that I have not had time to open my home in the way that I have in the past.

Now, I don’t want to put anybody on a guilt trip. There are seasons for everything in life and some of you right now . . . I look and see Beth over here with eight children and home schooling. There probably will be a season of your life, Beth, when you can show hospitality in different ways than what you’re able to show it right now. So we grant that. But I also believe if we’re too busy to be hospitable in some way, we’re too busy.

I want to ask some people when I hear they don’t have time to be hospitable—I want to say, “How many evenings have you spent at the movies in the last year? Are there some of those evenings that maybe you could have been opening your home to people and ministering with hospitality?”

Let me say something that I know is going to probably generate some response, but I believe it with my heart. I think one of the big reasons we don’t see more hospitality being exercised is because of so many women who are out working in the marketplace and really don’t have time or energy or desire to do anything once they get home. They’re pooped. They’re just frazzled. They’re exhausted, and it’s all they can do to keep themselves and their family together. I think this is one of the areas we’ve got to evaluate and say, “Is it God’s will and season and timing for me as a wife, as a mom, to be having a job out in the marketplace?”

Now there are other reasons to consider that, but this is one of them. We have so many people who need a personal touch, so many younger moms who need a mom whose children are grown to say, “Come into my home. Have a cup of coffee. Let us talk about it. Let me pray for you. Let me encourage you.” Where are those older women to do that? So many of them are out in the marketplace. There are a lot of issues that that raises, but one of them is we don’t have time for the good works and the acts of mercy that Scripture says are what make a woman beautiful. This is our calling.

As we’ve talked about hospitality, I can imagine someone thinking, “Well, hospitality itself could be a full-time endeavor.” Well, don’t put yourself on that guilt trip because God didn’t ask you to have everybody in your church over to your house next week. There’s a time and a season for everything and God’s not asking you to be the only one in your church to exercise hospitality. But we need to think radically about our priorities and what’s keeping us from exercising the things that Scripture tells us clearly we need to be exercising, hospitality among them.

Now when we think of challenges and obstacles, another one is just the work and effort that’s involved. We need to acknowledge that hospitality does involve sacrifice.

Then I think sometimes we’re just fearful. What will I talk about with people I don’t really know? The fear of doing something stupid, of being embarrassed, of a meal not turning out right, if this is something you’re not accustomed to. That’s why it’s important to not feel like you have to start by hosting thousands in your home. Starting simple may help with some of those fears.

I think we tend toward comparison. Other people have nicer homes, more things. It’s easy to compare and then feel insecure. Let me just say whether you live in a million dollar mansion or a cracker box, your home is intended to be a place where people receive life and strength and help and peace and mercy. It’s a place God has given you. Whatever place He’s given you is a place that can be used to extend grace to others.

One of the most memorable meals and times of fellowship I ever had was in a home of some national Christian workers in Pakistan, a Pakistani family. They have, I think, seven children. It was a tiny, little home in what we would consider in our country an absolute ghetto. Yet there was such joy and peace and meaningful ministry that took place with that family in that home as they extended the simplest of hospitality. It ministered so deeply to my spirit.

I think of those verses in Proverbs—ones like Proverbs 17:1 that says, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” (NIV). You can have very little to offer, but if you offer peace and joy and the presence of Christ with it, if it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or it’s pizza that you order and something very simple, it can still be a real meaningful thing to people if the spirit of that home is one where the presence of Christ is evident.

Hospitality involves expense. It’s costly. It involves sacrifices and we have to be willing to make those sacrifices. But let me say that hospitality does not have to be expensive. It does cost. Obviously, if you’re going to add someone or someones to your table, there’s expense involved there. But I would say that some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever known have been those who have very little materially.

You don’t have to throw on a five-course meal to be hospitable. It can be very simple. I’ve been in some small homes, simple homes, simple meals and had some of the richest, most meaningful fellowship in some of those homes. People who were willing to share what little bit they had.

I think of the widow of Zarephath who showed hospitality to the prophet Elijah back in 1 Kings chapter 17. All she had was a little bit of flour left and a little bit of oil, and Elijah had the audacity to say, “Would you fix a meal for me first?” But she did. She sacrificed the little bit that she had. Then you remember how God made the little she had stretch out over three years of famine and how she was able to not only provide for herself and for her son, but also for the guests that God had brought into their home.

Proverbs 19, verse 17, tells us, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He [God] will pay back what he [the person who’s been hospitable] has given.” If you show mercy and extend grace to those who have need, even if you do it out of your own need, you have God’s promise that He will pay back what you’ve given. You will have enough to minister to the needs of others as you give.

You know, I think ultimately so much of this goes back to our values and the fact that we really are materialistic at heart. People who have a lot are materialistic sometimes and protective of their things—something’s going to get broken, something’s going to get ruined, something’s going to get lost. Listen, when you open your home to people, those kinds of things will happen. There are spots on my carpet and different places in my house that would never have been there had I not been involved in the ministry of hospitality. The danger of having things is that we become so protective of them, and that shows a heart that’s consumed with temporal things.

Someone said to me recently they’d noticed in their church that it was the people with the showcase homes who were often the least apt to open their homes to guests. Now, you can be poor and be materialistic, too, if you’re obsessed with how little you have or ashamed of the few things you have or always feel like you don’t have enough so that you can’t reach out to others. That’s really a materialistic heart also. Ultimately, whatever we have belongs to God and needs to be turned over to Him to be used to minister to others.

I think probably the bottom line of most of these challenges is one little word that I don’t like to admit, but I have to say it’s been true so often in my own life. It’s the word selfishness. In fact, let me read to you what one author wrote. He said,

Selfishness is single greatest enemy to hospitality. We do not want to be inconvenienced. We do not want to share our privacy or time with others. We are consumed with our personal comforts. We want to be free to go about our business without interference or concern for other people’s needs. We don’t want the responsibility and work that hospitality entails. We are greedy and don’t want to share our food, home, or money. We are afraid that we will be used or that our property will sustain damage.

So when it comes down to the heart of hospitality, when I exercise hospitality, I’m running head-on into the selfishness that often defines who I am. As I give, I find that God deals with the root of the selfishness in my heart. I find that selfishness being replaced by genuine giving, sacrificial love, and that’s the heart of hospitality.

Nancy: Father, I have to admit that often I’ve been so selfish that I’ve thought I just don’t want to open my home one more time to one more person. So Lord, I confess that it’s my selfishness that often keeps me from expressing Your love through hospitality.

Lord, would you put the axe to the root of that sin in our lives? Fill us with Your Spirit that will replace the selfishness with love and compassion and kindness and tenderheartedness. Give us Your love for the people that You put into our lives and then help us to run right into and through that selfishness and see it put away as we enter into the ministry of hospitality. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: I don’t usually hear too many messages on hospitality. But this teaching series from Nancy Leigh DeMoss has reminded me what a big deal hospitality is in the Bible. I appreciate the way Revive Our Hearts pulls truths out of Scripture that I’ve never considered before. We talked with one of our listeners not long ago who feels the same way.

Edika: You think that by growing up in church that you know everything. There are some Scriptures I've heard before growing up, I've memorized them, but then I hear Nancy say something about it and put a different perspective on that passage, and how she relates it to biblical womanhood. And I would have never thought about putting those two together.

Leslie: Can you relate to that? Do you value the biblical insight you receive from Revive Our Hearts? A big reason we’re able to bring you biblical teaching like this is because of the gifts that arrive in December.

Nancy, why is this time of year so important?

Nancy: Giving in December usually accounts for about 40% of all the donations Revive Our Hearts receives for the entire year. That's really significant. So in order to continue at the current level of ministry, we need to hear from many, many friends this month. If you donated to Revive Our Hearts last December, your gift has helped us speak into the lives of women all this year. Would you help Revive Our Hearts continue reaching into the hearts and homes of women in the months ahead by giving at least the same amount this year?

And then, would you consider stepping up and doing just a little more? Here’s why. Revive Our Hearts is heading into incredible opportunities over the next months and years. Our team is convinced that our outreaches for women are about to see some amazing growth, through radio, foreign language ministry, and fresh ways of communicating through social media and mobile apps. When you step up with an even larger gift than last year, you’re preparing the ministry to move forward and to reach even more women in the days ahead.

We especially need to hear from you this month. That's because some friends of the ministry are doubling each gift given this month up to a matching challenge amount of $600,000.  Now, that's a big stretch for us. We've never had a matching challenge nearly that large before. Those funds will only be released as friends like you help us to match them.

So we're asking God to match the entire amount, and if it would please Him, to take it substantially beyond that amount so we can reach even more women in the year ahead. Please give us a call today and let us know that you'd like to be a part of helping us meet that challenge. You can make a donation by calling us at 1-800-569-5959. Or if you'd prefer to make a contribution online, just visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Thank you so much for standing with us and partnering with us during this really important time of the year.

Leslie: When you invite people into your home, you’ll get a lot in return. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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