Last Sunday, I exhorted our church toward faithfulness in evangelism, specifically through how we practice hospitality. Not because it’s the latest rage in “organic” ministry philosophies, but because God has commanded us in the Bible to “show hospitality” (e.g. Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2), not in terms of occasional events, but as a way of life (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9).
Put another way, Christian’s show hospitality because it reflects God’s heart. We love strangers and bring them near because we were loved and brought in by the Father when we were strangers (Ephesians 2: 11-13). As one author recently quipped: “In Jesus, we’re the enemy loved, the sinner saved, the stranger welcomed….Our love for outsiders runs deep as it flows from remembering ourselves to be outsiders loved by a lavishly hospitable God.” Therefore, “Biblical hospitality is about “welcoming unbelievers into our space, in hopes of bringing Jesus into theirs.”
Inevitably, as soon as this grand, biblical vision is cast, Christians of all walks begin measuring their efforts, comparing themselves to others, and thinking:
“I don’t even know my neighbors names. I’m such a failure.”
“I want to be more hospitable. But I’m completely overwhelmed with life. How can I possibly give more when I have so little left to give?”
“Am I doing as much as I should? How much is enough? Once a week? Once a month?”
“What if I’m an introvert and interacting with strange people is hard for me? Will God be displeased with me if my home isn’t always filled with strangers?”
As the questions emerge in our minds our hearts, we need to remind ourselves and others that God is chiefly concerned with the quality of our hospitality, not the quantity. He is pleased with an inward, faith-filled disposition, not merely our outward efforts.
And yet, we are so prone to quantitatively compare ourselves to others: “Am I doing enough? Am I doing as much as this or that person? Is God less pleased with me if I’m not or more pleased with me if I am?” This comparison game is rooted in fear and pride, not gospel grace.
Furthermore, quantity of a person’s efforts are often relative to their spiritual maturity, personal resources, seasons of life, God-given vocations, and contexts. And, according to God’s wisdom, the church is wonderfully varied in this respect. No two people are in exactly the same place at the same time. That’s why I tell our church often that life is like an accordion, always expanding and contracting. There are seasons in which some can and should be giving more and seasons in which others can give much, much less. That’s life. And to play the comparison game with the quantity of our hospitality when everyone is in a different place is to try and hit a moving target.
God isn’t interested in our outward performance, merely. God’s chiefly interested in our inward disposition. He’s interested in faithfulness. So how much is enough? Should you be hosting people one night a week? Two? Once a month? These are the wrong questions to ask, along the same lines of, “How much should I give to the church? 10%? 15%?” Wrong questions. In the same way that you and I are to operated with a faith-filled spirit of generosity that reflects God’s immeasurable generosity toward us in Christ , we are to operate with a faith-filled spirit of hospitality that reflects God’s immeasurable hospitality toward us in Christ.
This means that the faith-filled, simple efforts of an exhausted first-time mom or the full-time student with the full-time job, who has little to give, can have their “widow’s mite” worth of effort to “show hospitality” be equally pleasing to God as another faith-filled brother or sister in a different season of life that affords the ability to do much more.
In other words, God doesn’t keep count like we do. He’s not sternly sitting on his throne sliding beads on a divine abacus with your name on it.
“In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required…I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart (Psalm 40:6-8).”
God isn’t concerned with the quantity of your hospitality. He not chiefly concerned with how often you host, or how clean and put together your home is, or whether your dinner table is Pinterest worthy. God’s desire is your delight! He desires for our hospitality—however great or small or “scruffy” our efforts—to be motivated by a blood-bought, grace-fueled, soul-satisfied delight in Him.