Eating with Angels

Newsboys had a popular song “Entertaining Angels“.  I’m reading through the Chronological Bible and the story about Sodom and Gomorrah.  On the way to the city  the angels meet Abraham (Genesis 18 & 19).

Now Abraham seems to be living like a nomadic shepherd in the story.  And he stops what he is doing to have meal with these strangers.  He has his wife bake bread and has his servant prepare a calf.  How long do you think it took to prepare the meal?

So right away I notice the story takes place in different context then one that I’m familiar with.  But thats just one cultural separation from Abraham and me.

How about this:  When was the last time you had a stranger knock on you door?  When was the last time you met someone when you where out and about following a brief encounter you changed your plans to have a meal with the person?

In the Old Testament it’s referred to as hospitality.  Going out of your way to care for a stranger or fellow traveler.

The cultural experience of living a nomadic life is totally foreign to us.  I wonder if practicing hospitality has become foreign to us too?

There are some Bible verses I tend to write off because they don’t seem to have anything to do with the world I live in.  Take Hebrews 3:2 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it”.  Now I believe in angels.  Like the verse says, I’m not sure when I last ran into one though.  But because I don’t practice Biblical hospitality – I’m sure I haven’t had any in my house lately.

Here is a good article that has got me thinking about the lost art of hospitality:

Often when we talk about hospitality, we think of “entertaining.” But entertaining has little to do with real hospitality if the goal is to impress others rather than to serve. How do you know if you are being hospitable or just entertaining?

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:34)

What are the first thoughts that come to mind when you think about hospitality?

Is it freshly folded towels and breakfast buffets at hotels, or a fancy dinner that you’ve prepared in your home for your closest friends?

Though these may be expressions of hospitality, they don’t really get to the heart of hospitality. True hospitality is sacrificial, uncomfortable, and does not seek to impress othersHospitality flows from a hospitable heart. It is more about your open heart and home, not your impressive entertaining skills.

True hospitality is sacrificial, uncomfortable, and does not seek to impress others. Hospitality is when we provide for the needs of others by giving of ourselves—even something as simple as our attention in a warm conversation.

What is biblical hospitality?

In the Bible, the original Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia, which means love of strangers (Rom. 12:13). Hospitality is also framed as a means of honoring and loving God by meeting the needs of the poor (Prov. 14:31).

Biblical hospitality is:

  • To be practiced without grumbling, complaining or thought of reward (1 Pet. 4:9).
  • Literally, “a love for strangers” (Heb. 13:1–2)
  • Treating fellow believers (Rom. 12:3; 1 Tim. 3:2), widows, orphans (1 Tim. 5:1–16), unbelievers (Luke 5:29), the poor and needy (Luke 14:12–14), missionaries (Matt. 10:9–11; Luke 10:5–16), foreigners, immigrants, refugees (Gen. 18:1–22), and even enemies (Rom. 12:20) as if they were your very own family.
  • Helping the poor with no expectation of repayment (Prov. 19:17).
  • Meeting the basic needs of others. (e.g., preparing food, providing lodging, giving physical protection, sharing material possessions, and encouraging and sharing the love of Jesus.

Often when we talk about hospitality, we think of “entertaining.” But entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride. Demanding perfection, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves. In contrast, scriptural hospitality is a freedom that liberates.

Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.” Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am his servant, and I use it as he desires.”

Biblical hospitality is the outpouring of mercy and grace to others without expectation for reciprocation.

As we prepare our homes for hosting a dinner, we also can prepare our hearts to serve those who enter. As Karen Mains writes, “Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.”

How do you know if you are being hospitable or just entertaining? Here are some great indicators….

  • Entertaining: I want to look good
  • Hospitality: I want Jesus to look good
  • Entertaining: Emphasis on food or outer appearance
  • Hospitality: Emphasis on the hearts of those in your home
  • Entertaining: Preoccupied or apologetic about messes
  • Hospitality: Humbled by the mess and can still serve
  • Goal of Entertaining: To impress
  • Goa of Hospitality: To serve

(the article was originally posted at “TheResurgance.com” but the site is no longer online)

One thought on “Eating with Angels

  1. To start, it should at least be acknowledged that technology has removed many of these opportunities from occurring. Traveling in Biblical times was a strenuous adventure that required many overnight stops. Traveling today is very comfortable, and rarely does one have to stop somewhere they weren’t planning.

    It’s also the case that our society is growing increasingly secular. Many secular people do not believe they have any obligation to help their fellow man. It’s my house, my food, my privacy, I can do with it what I want. Christians have an obligation from God to be hospitable, and this is apparent in reality.

    That being said, for those who do believe that we have an obligation, the two largest contributors to our not being hospitable are: comfort and pride.

    Comfort, because it’s possible that the one night offer (or however long) turns into a much larger obligation. Whether a vagabond requests a ride somewhere else far away, or pushes to stay another night, it’s possible that this person you thought was a “traveler,” is just someone living on the street, jumping from one person’s house to another. The person you thought was a “traveler” could also be an axe wielding mass murderer, in which case, fighting them off would also be uncomfortable. When this realization is finally revealed, refusing them additional services and hospitality would be uncomfortable.

    Pride, due to the possibility that a vagabond would be an ungrateful curmudgeon. Most people would prefer to be hospitable to someone who acknowledges and appreciates the host. If someone comes over, is rude to the host, leaves the place a mess, and doesn’t even say thank you, the host would typically think they’ve been taken advantage of. Pride increases our hesitation to expose ourselves in situations that we can be taken advantage of.

    In the end, everyone would be more hospitable if they knew that the vagabond would only stay for the time originally offered, not need anything beyond that, and would be extremely grateful. Resistance to offer such hospitality places our pride and comfort above the call to serve all of God’s creation.

    I don’t quite follow the entertaining vs. hospitality article, more so given that the quoted verses make no distinction.

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