what is hospitality?

Copyright Sarah Joelle Photography http://www.sarahjoellephotography.com/

Copyright Sarah Joelle Photography http://www.sarahjoellephotography.com/

People have told me that I have the gift of hospitality, but after what I read today, I am not so sure.

The word hospitality comes from the Latin hospes, meaning “host”, “guest”, or “stranger”. In some foreign or ancient cultures, the act of hospitality – welcoming strangers into the home – was necessary for survival, Today, it is often defined in Western culture simply as a warm, friendly reception for guests, involving etiquette and entertainment.

I like to have people in my home. Over the years, I have had plenty of room, extra beds or at least sleeping bags and carpet, and abundant blankets and pillows. I have had the means to buy or cook extra food. I usually knew the people who stayed with me, or at least they came recommended by others. My guests were usually clean, educated, polite, and with mostly similar values. I could easily go about my day-to-day activities, even with guests in my home.

I gave only out of my abundance.

Here are a few of the challenging quotes I read today:

“…we must continue to beg the stranger to come into our lives because in the stranger may come the only honesty and insight we can get in our plastic worlds.” (p 125)

“It is easy to give clothes to the poor but refuse to honor the ones to whom we have given the goods.” (p. 127)

Hospitality is when: “Everyone receives a warm answer – on the phone, at the door, in the office. Sarcasm has no room here. Put-downs have no room here. One-upmanship has no room here. Classism has no room here.” (p, 127-128)

“…hospitality demands the extra effort, the extra time, the extra care that stretches beyond and above the order of the day.” (p. 128)

“We have to wonder how we can help the poor at the doorstep who live thousands of miles away. Hospitality says that the problem is mine, not someone else’s. It is my door and my heart upon which these people are knocking for attention.” (p. 129)

“Real hospitality lies in bending some efforts to change things, to make a haven for the helpless, to be voice for the voiceless. We have to learn to take our own sense of home to others.” (p. 130)

“I cannot fool myself into thinking that being nice to those who are my kind and my class suffices for the moral dimensions of hospitality.” (p. 130)

“Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.” (p. 130)

“…hospitality is the willingness to be interrupted and inconvenienced…” (p. 131)

“Hospitality doesn’t exist unless we go out of ourselves for someone else at least once a day.” (p. 132)

“Hospitality is one of those things that has to be constantly practiced or it won’t be there for the rare occasion.” (p. 132)

Hospitality “is an act of the recklessly generous heart.” (p. 132)

I think you can see why I am re-evaluating my “gift” of hospitality. I have a long way to go before it could be said that I give from a “recklessly generous heart”. I have a lot to think about… and apply!

How hospitable are you? Which of these aspects of hospitality do you do well? Which ones challenge you to do better?


These challenging quotes come from the book Wisdom Distilled from the Dally, by Joan D. Chittister.

My daughter took the incredibly beautiful photograph of the table setting. Check out her amazing photography at Sarah Joelle Photography.

8 thoughts on “what is hospitality?

  1. I loved some of your points about “real hospitality”. Yes, my tendency is to enjoy hospitality that I plan…not the ones that God plans that come my way unexpectedly! I love the thought of showing “hospitality” on the phone to everyone, too. You have challenged my thinking on this, Terry! I’ll be mulling this over in my mind for awhile AND checking my heart when an unexpected opportunity to show hospitality arises! I pray that God gives me that recklessly generous heart in ALL hospitality!

    • Thanks, Alice! I was also challenged by these broader applications of hospitality! I greatly appreciated your hospitality and open heart to us during the LHS! I know as God works in your heart even more that many people will be blessed! Love to you!

  2. What conviction! I know I act hospitably when it works for me. When I know I have the time and energy. When the folks coming aren’t a distraction or a nuisance or so different from me that I’m uncomfortable or scared. You’re right–that’s giving out of my abundance, not a recklessly generous heart. And I want to do that. But your question has caused me to see more cowardice than conviction. Thanks, Ter, for showing truth in such a clearly focused and easily transferable way! You, my friend, have nailed it yet again.

    • Opening house… and heart in a recklessly generous way can also give so much back to us, if we don’t let fear stop us. I appreciate how you model that… not easy, I know, but God can bless even a little bit of willingness!

  3. I wonder how our strengths and gifting plays into this. Though one may not have a natural bent toward hospitality, should it be an area of focus? I’m guessing that would not excuse us from not practicing hospitality when we have the opportunity. Wondering what others think?

    • Good point, Steve. I do think we are all called to hospitality, even if it is not a specific gift. Chittister’s quote give plenty of ways to apply hospitality in so many areas of life. And mainly, like so many things, I think it is the attitude that is key. Do I give sacrificially or only out of my abundance? That is the challenge.

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