The Apostle John was inspired by God to write many valuable books in the Word of God including the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. As John was nearing the end of his life, from a pastor’s heart he also wrote three letters (1, 2, and 3 John) to churches. At this point, he is most likely the only surviving disciple; and to add more dimension to his character, he is the disciple entrusted with the care of Mary, Jesus’ widowed mother.
3rd John encouraged people to practice hospitality. This admonition to be hospitable was especially relevant in those days as church leaders traveled from town to town to plant new churches and strengthen existing ones, relying on the care of others.
The root of hospitality
The root word of hospitality is “hospital.” As we know hospitals minister for those in need by giving care. While hospitality is defined very similarly: Receiving and entertaining guests, strangers (outsiders and foreigners), generously and kindly. It’s no wonder the words come from each other.
Often, if we are being honest, when we think of hospitality, we panic—especially as widows—because the thought of bringing a stranger into our home is scary. It feels hard to be hospitable in the world of unattainable Pinterest perfection.
While there is nothing wrong with a smorgasbord of creative ideas for making our homes hospitable, it’s important to understand the admonition to practice hospitality. To practice means “to perform or do habitually or usually.” We must be intentional about practicing hospitality.
Practicing biblical hospitality
For years I thought that opening my home to a stranger meant a person who did not know Christ or some random person off the street. While this is an admirable form of evangelism, the Amplified version of scripture uncovers an important understanding of the specific recipients for hospitality:
Believers must extend hospitality:
- 1 Peter 4:8-9: “Practice hospitality to one another—that is, those of the household of faith. (Be hospitable, that is, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body.) And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly—cordially and graciously without complaining [but as representing Him]” (italics added). AMPC
- Romans 12:13: “Contribute to the needs of God’s people—sharing in the necessities of the saints—pursuing the practice of hospitality” (emphasis added).
- Hebrews 13:1-2: “Let love for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you –never let it fail. Do not forget to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood]—being friendly, cordial and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously—for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Church leaders must be hospitable:
- 1 Timothy 3:2-3: “Now a bishop (superintendent, overseer) must be hospitable—showing love for and being a friend to the believers, especially strangers and foreigners…”
- Titus 1:7-8: “For the bishop as an overseer and God’s steward…must be hospitable—loving and a friend to believers, especially to the strangers and foreigners.”
Widows must practice hospitality:
- 1 Timothy 5:9-10: “Let no one be put on the roll of widows [who are to receive church support] who is under sixty years of age, or who has been the wife of more than one man; and she must have a reputation for good deeds, as one who has brought up children, who has practiced hospitality to strangers [of the brotherhood], washed the feet of the saints, helped to relieve the distressed, [and] devoted herself diligently to doing good in every way.”
Note: There was an unofficial “office of widows” who were paid by the church to provide care for other widows. The “list” was made up of widow leaders that met certain standards, also required of other leaders in the church like pastors and deacons. It’s important to note that this list is not a list of requirements a needy widow must meet in order to receive help.
Ladies, combat your lonely weekend by extending a dinner or dessert invitation to one who has dedicated their life to the mission of sharing the Gospel. No doubt both of you will be encouraged. Or add to your budget funds to bless a missionary family with a date night or resources to help them grow in their calling. The widow Anna displays another type of care in the form of prayer which allows us to enter into the lives of others in need.
The double blessing of hospitality
These examples in scripture teach us that the people who received hospitality were a certain kind of stranger—traveling missionaries—those who went out in Jesus’ name. Practicing hospitality meant to bless and care for this group of people and then send them on their way. The requirement to pursue hospitality for pastors, deacons, and even the widow leader, employed by the church, made the journey possible for those who are called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In fact, those who extended hospitality became vital fellow workers in spreading the Gospel!
And not to mention, the double blessing of hospitality, when we extend hospitality to those in the body of Christ, we are opening our homes to Jesus Christ himself!
“For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged me; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care; I was in prison and you came to see Me.
Then the just and upright will answer Him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You or naked and clothed You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You?
And the King will reply to them, Truly, I tell you, in as far as you did it to one of the least of these of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” – Matthew 25:35-40
Find me somebody to love
Wow, just wow! As a widow, it is my responsibility and mission to practice and pursue making my home a hospital for fellow believers, a place of care for believers in need. Let’s make the old pop tune by Queen, Find Me Somebody to Love, our goal! Our season of widowhood, while having struggles of its own, provides the opportunity to give our time, loneliness, experience of being comforted, and even resources away, all toward in the mission of sharing the Gospel with those who are called to take it to the ends of the earth.
This is kingdom living!
So, get your homes ready—even if you need the guidance of Pinterest—and prepare to practice hospitality. You are valuable to the work of God and may discover you are entertaining angels or even Jesus at your table!