What does it mean to be hospitable?

I just found this post in my drafts from back before we got pregnant. I think it's a good kick up the rear to get my house back in order after months of morning-sickness induced mess and lethargy. We haven't had people round to the house for ages!

Practicing hospitality is a very important biblical principle. We can see it throughout the bible, and Jesus taught it as a way of creating community and helping those in need.
The word hospitality actually means 'entertaining strangers', so it's not just about having your best friends round for dinner now and again. Sometimes it's going to take sacrifice and generosity on our part by looking out for people who are lonely, hungry or need a place to stay. We need to see our homes as gifts from God which are to be used to love others, not just as our own private retreats.

Imagine that you've been invited out for a meal, or for a weekend away at someones house. What would you say would make that time special for you? Good food? Beautiful surroundings? Comfortable furniture?

Most of us would probably say the important thing for us is our hosts. Are they friendly? Do they make us feel welcome? Do they really care about us and what we have to say? I think the key thing to focus on when you're opening your home is; 

'Who are my guests and what do they need?'

Each person is going to be completely different...some might need tea and sympathy, another might need some tough love, while others might simply need a place to stay and a bite to eat. If I cooked up an eight course meal with fancy crockery and lots of knives and forks for a homeless person they'd probably feel really out of place and awkward, whereas that might be a nice treat for someone else. It all just depends on who you're hosting.

When I go to someones house the thing that will make it extra special to me is if it's a treat. I think it's probably because my love language is acts of service; I feel loved if I experience something out of the ordinary from my day-to-day life. It can be something as small as a home in a beautiful location, or an artfully placed bunch of flowers. My own hosting style comes out of that really. I want to show people I love them by creating a clean, pretty house for them to hang out in, I want them to be well fed, not only with good meals but tasty snacks that they wouldn't necessarily have normally and I want them to feel relaxed and at home.

To that end I can sometimes put too much time and effort into doing things and not spend time loving people in the way they need, and that's where this lesson really comes in for me. Not everyone has the love language of acts of service and so not everyone will feel overly loved by using a clean bathroom or eating yummy food. I need to keep in mind 'who are my guests and what do they need?' and listen to God as to how I can love them best.

However, having said that I think it's important that we prepare and equip ourselves to be good hosts and hostesses. For me, if someone calls over unexpectedly and my house is a mess I feel a bit embarrassed; I can't concentrate fully on them as I'm worried about tidying up. We need to identify the ways in which we feel most comfortable hosting and take measures to make sure we're ready and willing to completely focus on other people.
I've identified two ways in which I can prepare myself for being more hospitable:

1) Take a few minutes every day clean up the house. My house is generally kept pretty clean at the moment because I work part time, but even on days that I'm busy I try to pick up after myself. It doesn't always work out, but if I can at least keep the kitchen, the bathroom and the living room clean and tidy it makes spur-of-the-moment invites much easier. I hate that moment when you're arriving home with unexpected guests frantically thinking "did I pick up my PJs from the bathroom floor this morning?!".

2) Keep food in the freezer
A few days ago I put aside a whole day to re-stock my freezer. I made two fish pies, eight portions of cottage pie, an apple crumble and a cake. I also try and keep a packet of soup in my cupboard, and some dry ingredients for a meal ready in my cupboards. I'm not always prepared and it's not the end of the world if I have to nip out and buy a pizza but if I know I have good homemade food available at home I'm more relaxed about inviting people back.

Practicing hospitality is going to look different for each one of us. It could be giving food to a homeless person, hosting your bible study group one week or inviting a new member of your church back for dinner. If you can't cook then why not invite someone out to a cafe for lunch?
God is challenging me to listen to him daily about how I can love other people more, and to take steps to make sure I actually follow through with his commands. What is he telling you to do today?

Quick Questions
1. Do you feel like hospitality is one of your gifts?
2. How do you most appreciated when you visit someone elses home?
3. How are you practicing hospitality at the moment?


  1. Great post!

    Hospitality is not one of my gifts but it is an area I have greatly grown in over the years. For me though it's not about the food at all. It's about being present and giving from the heart. I love to visit with friends and have conversations that go well beyond the surface. And I've often done last minute invites and we've ended up having peanut butter and jelly but that was ok. :)

    (I like your idea of having food in the freezer. Now, if I could just find the motivation to do a day of cooking and have that done!)

  2. Wow. I just stumbled upon it looking for some guidance on what true hospitality might look like. I feel I have a gift for it, but it is not taught anymore, so I was looking for ways to do it more efficiently. What a great read.

    At the moment, I love to invite people over, and my one goal for entertaining is always to make my home a 'safe place' for people and their children to be themselves. My house is well 'kid proofed' so that parents of rowdy children can feel more at ease. For the same reason, my downstairs is kept tidy, but not too clean, because I want to make it feel cozy and lived in, and also so that company feels comfortable enough to make a mess too. I like to cook and talk and eat with company. I love to use that time to build people up and provide my ears for a good listen.

    But one of my favorite things, I like to leave the last few chores for when the company has arrived, so I can invite them into my work and life and they can have the option of participating. Some of my best friendships have been formed working side by side with someone at a similar purpose/goal.

    What I took away from your post: freezer meals. Why have I not thought of this before. Because I don't always have a big enough meal planned for extra company. To have multiples of the same meal frozen, I could make a considerable amount, depending on the size of the party. Good tips!!! Thanks so much!