This article is part of the 5 Myths series.
Myth #1: Only people with the “gift” of hospitality are expected to practice it.
Hospitality is not a gift unto itself, but a means through which other spiritual gifts are displayed: mercy, serving, giving, and evangelizing. The dynamic teaching on hospitality found in the New Testament shows that hospitality is rooted in our love for God and our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our desire to see all of our neighbors know the salvation of Jesus. When Christians refuse to give or receive hospitality, that speaks to their lack of love, first for the body of Christ, next for their neighbors, and ultimately, for the Lord (1 Pet. 4:8–10).
Myth #2: Hospitality is woman’s work.
Hospitality is a biblical mandate for church elders, who are men entrusted with the teaching and ruling leadership of the church. The call to practice hospitality goes out to elders—men—first, and next to the rest of the body. Hospitality requires old-fashioned hard work on the part of everyone—men, women, and children. It is often inconvenient, costly, and during times of persecution, dangerous. Table fellowship, biblical teaching, singing of Psalms, prayer, caring for each other’s basic needs, and providing housing for both brothers and sisters in the faith, and also the stranger in our midst, all fall under the umbrella of hospitality (1 Tim. 3:1–2).
The most hospitable Christians are often those with great love and meager means.
Myth #3: Only married, well-off people with large homes can practice hospitality.
The most hospitable Christians are often those with great love and meager means. But all believers can practice hospitality well. Hospitality relies on all demographics and personalities and incomes. Be who you are in Christ, and gather others in. Paul, the single apostle, zealously practiced life-giving hospitality on house arrest while imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28:30).
Myth #4: Hospitality should never be extended to known sinners, for the Bible tells me so. If you dine with sinners, others will think you approve of their “lifestyle.”
Hospitality should not be extended to false teachers (2 John 10–11) or to unrepentant brothers or sisters under church discipline (1 Cor. 5:11–13).
False teachers introduce ideas that, if true, would falsify the Christian gospel of salvation. A false teacher is someone who claims that name “Christian,” but holds an unbiblical or extra-biblical understanding of human origin and endings, biblical authority, the centrality of the Cross, sexual ethics, the means of grace, the means of justification before a holy God, and nature of God. False teaching is both seductive and destructive to the Body.
“Unrepentant sinner” refers to a fellow church member who walks in continual, unconfessed sin. This is a person under the discipline of the church, and who is receiving counsel and instruction and care from the elders. Acting as if it is all “business is usual” is deleterious to his lost sheep’s need for confession and repentance.
The command to withhold hospitality refers only to those inside the church, to those who are misusing the church, its teachings, and its people. There are no biblical commands against extending hospitality to unbelievers.
Myth #5: Hospitality and fellowship are forms of entertainment.
No! Hospitality comes to us from the Greek word philoxenia or love for the stranger. Christian hospitality aims to meet strangers and make them neighbors, and meet neighbors and, by God’s power, welcome them into the family of God through belief, repentance, conversion, and church membership. Hospitality may include fellowship with believers, but neither hospitality nor fellowship is interchangeable with entertainment.
Entertainment puts on airs and shoots for the making of good impressions; hospitality opens arms and doors wide and transparently breaks our hearts over this lost world and the image-bearers, who like us before the Lord’s rescue, stumble in seductive darkness. When we practice hospitality, we live out our real, messy, and redeemed lives before stranger and brother alike, demonstrating to a watching world that the blood of Christ is thicker than the bond of shared last names or the blood of biology.
Hospitality seeks the salvation of the stranger, and fellowship seeks the building up in faith of the brother and sister. We serve a God who sought us out while we were strangers. God found us, took us in, made us part of his family, and brought us to his table. Our homes are not castles, but incubators and hospitals. And the gospel comes with a house key (Mark 10:28–30).