One of the main differences between entertainment and hospitality is entertainment focuses on things (condition of house, food, convenience, etc.), while hospitality focuses on people. Hospitality is not so much an act as it is an attitude of otherness. Here are some defining differences of attitude between the two:
Entertaining says, “We can’t have the pastor’s family over tonight! I didn’t cook. I had just planned on having grilled cheese sandwiches and soup!”
Hospitality says, “Let’s have the pastor’s family over for grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. We haven’t fellowshipped with them in a while.”
Entertaining says, “I’ll start having company when I move into a bigger house and replaced the living room furniture.”
Hospitality says, “I will honor the Lord with what he has given me by opening my home to you.”
Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home and my cooking talents. My home is a reflection of who I am.”
Hospitality says, “My home is a gift from God. I want to use it for his purpose and reflect his love by welcoming and serving you.”
Entertaining says, “The missionaries can’t stay at my house. I haven’t finished decorating the guest bedroom.”
Hospitality says, “Although the room is not decorated, I’ll prepare a place for you in my home anytime.”
Entertaining thrives on words of approval and a pat on the back: “You are a remarkable hostess!” or “You have impeccable taste!”
Hospitality focuses on others and the details of their lives, not on cooking the perfect meal and having the house spotless.
Entertaining is “put out” when guests are late and aggravated by being inconvenienced.
Hospitality puts others first by being gracious, understanding, and flexible.
Entertaining leads to pride and terrible bondage. It is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves.
Hospitality offers liberating freedom to minister at any time.
So many of us have moved away from biblical hospitality. In today’s busy world, we claim our possessions and time as our own. We can learn much from the book of Acts where believers lived the biblical model: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32). With this mindset we would welcome guests no matter what. We would welcome folks who drop in unexpectedly with open arms without embarrassing them with comments such as, “I’m sorry the house is so messy.” We would welcome our children’s friends even though the carpets might get stained. We would welcome every opportunity to open our homes for the purpose of glorifying God and making an eternal difference in someone’s life.
When we insist on having the table set perfectly, the house immaculate, and everything just so every time we have company, we don’t allow people to see us as we really are. People feel more welcomed if things are laid back and less formal. Guests feel less like awkward strangers in our homes and more like family when we allow them to help out by putting ice in glasses, setting the table, or buttering rolls. Allowing them to help puts them at ease, makes them feel a part of our home, and overcomes possible intimidation. We should be careful not to hide behind the façade of perfectionism, but let people see us as we are. We need to relax and not be so concerned with cleaning, preparing the table, and having everything so perfect that we are distracted from ministering, which is God’s intention for true hospitality.
Keep in mind that hospitality does not have to involve a meal. Inviting someone for coffee or dessert lends opportunities to minister when time is limited or finances are tight. One friend keeps leftover homemade cake and store bought pies in the freezer for guests she invites over spur-of-the-moment. When we consider a biblical view of hospitality, we are without excuse to honor and obey the Lord when it comes to opening our hearts and homes to others.
While it is good to fellowship with friends and family, Christians are to demonstrate hospitality to others as well. With friends and family we get something back, whether it is preferred fellowship or a return invitation to their house. Blessings of eternal value come when we are willing to fellowship and serve those who may not be on our preferred guest lists. Not only can God use us to make an eternal difference in someone’s life, but giving up our own agenda and following his will can make an eternal difference in our own lives as well. The book of Luke records a time when Jesus shared a meal with a prominent Pharisee: “Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’” (Luke 14:12-14).
May our homes radiate God’s love as we seek to honor him by serving others with hearts of hospitality.