Hospitality & Entertaining

Have you thought about Christian qualifications? In 1 Timothy, Paul told his protégé “an overseer” that is an elder, “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2 – 3). 

This is a surprising list. Where is “He must be a good communicator,” or, “He must be organized.” You could argue, Paul’s list doesn’t include skills. It focuses on virtues. For me, an essential attribute is “hospitable.” It’s often overlooked, and a good case can be made it is a dying virtue in our society. I believe hospitality is a significant key to church growth, but we need to understand the difference between hospitality and entertaining.

The following differentiation between “hospitality” and “entertaining” was made by Karen Mains in Open Heart, Open Home (Elgin, Ill.: Cook, 1976):

Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, my cooking.” Hospitality, seeking to minister, says, “This home is a gift from my Master. I use it as He desires.” Hospitality aims to serve.

Entertaining puts things before people. “As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done—then I will start inviting people. Hospitality puts people first. “No furniture—we’ll eat on the floor.” “The decorating may never get done—you come anyway.” “The house is a mess—but you are friends—come home with us.”

Entertaining subtly declares, “This home is mine, an expression of my personality. Look, please, and admire.” Hospitality whispers, “What is mine is yours.”[1]

  [1] Quoted in Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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