Learning Hospitality From Women In The Bible
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a hospitable person as someone who is “friendly and welcoming to visitors or guests.” As a Christian, being hospitable entails being generous, not only with our material possessions, deeds, and also, in Spirit, seeking to further the kingdom as we serve others and please God (Hebrew 13:16).
The Bible shows us a few examples of people who were hospitable and why it is so important. In the New Testament, there are many passages in which we read how hospitality is a requirement for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8). Thankfully, we do not need to have these titles to display hospitality towards others. In fact, some of the following women weren’t even mentioned by name, let alone titles, in the Bible, but their legacy was on of hospitality and service to those around them.
Simon’s Mother in Law
In Mark 1:29-31, we read about a man named Simon, a disciple, who placed his trust in Jesus to heal his mother in law. And as soon as He did, “she began to serve them.” The Bible doesn’t specify what her name was or what exactly she did to serve the men who were there, but if you read the chapter leading up to this moment, you will learn about Jesus’ baptism and read about him being tempted in the wilderness. In the following 13 verses we read about the very busy beginning of Jesus’ ministry, gathering the first disciples, driving out unclean spirits, and healing many, including this woman in Capernaum. All before leaving for another town the next day to preach, cleansing a leper, and then finally returning to Capernaum.
This woman could have gone out to share the news of her healing but instead she chose to serve Jesus and the men that were with him. I could imagine her maybe making them a meal, washing their clothes, or preparing a place for them to rest. Hospitality, for this woman, seemed to be a form of worship for what the Lord had done for her.
In Luke 2:36-38, we meet a prophetess named Anna. From her actions, it is no secret she loved the Lord. Verses 37 and 38 say “she did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna may not have served others by providing them with physical needs like Simon’s mother in law, but instead she served others by praying for their spiritual needs and a sharing about the One who had come to redeem us all.
Phoebe and other women in Rome
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” -Romans 16:1-2
It is believed that Phoebe served others by generously giving monetary contributions to the church and missionaries like Paul. In this same chapter, Paul mentions other women as well, like Priscilla, Mary, Rufus’s mother, and Nereus’s sister. He also mentions some additional names who scholars believe were women who served the church in Rome, like Junia in verse 7 and Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis in verses 12, 13, and 15. Scholars believe these women were likely patrons and supported the local church out of their means.
In Acts 16:11-15 we read about Lydia’s conversion and shortly after read in verse 15 that “after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged [the apostles], saying ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon [the apostles].” For Lydia, opening up her home was a way to serve others.
The Shunamite Woman
“One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. 10 Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.” -2 Kings 4:8-10
The Shunamite woman was a married wealthy woman who was able to provide meals and also shelter for a weary man, Elisha. This is just one example of the women in the Old Testament who opened their homes and provided for visiting prophets and guests.
After reading these examples, you might think. “That’s a tall order, Meagan. I don’t have the means to provide shelter or fund a missions trip.” And while that may be true for many of us, we are, however, followers of Christ.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -Romans 12:9-21
Many things on this list include Christ-centered hospitable acts like loving one another, contributing to the needs of others, rejoicing and weeping with others, feeding others and giving them something to drink.
Here are some practical, fun, and inexpensive, ways you can be hospitable:
Go out of your way to say hi to someone new at church or campus ministry group. This one is hard, and if you’re an introvert like me, maybe even harder, but this small gesture can make any guest feel welcomed in a new environment.
Write a card. I like to keep stationary cards around, these are perfect for an encouraging note, congratulating someone, or even a sympathy card.
Pray for one another. Nothing makes me feel more at ease than getting a text from a loved saying they have just prayed for me.
Host a cookies and tea gathering with some girls you might not know too well. You can deepen community and invite new people to share the good news of Jesus by opening up your dorm room or home for a simple snack.
Meet up with someone for coffee, because sometimes it is easier to just meet outside your home and instead at a more convenient location. Use this time to encourage one another and pointing the other person to Christ.
Bring someone a meal. At my church, when a woman gives birth we all take turns bringing meals to the new parents, this could also be helpful when someone is sick or has been having long days at work. This lessens their load and also allows us to love on one another.
You, me, along with women in the Bible who demonstrated hospitality, can share the good news and further the Kingdom of Christ by being hospitable towards others.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. -1 Peter 4:8
What are other ways can you be hospitable?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meagan is Jersey girl doing life in New York City, as a Kindergarten teacher. She recently got engaged to her best friend and looks forward to marrying him in July of this year. Meagan loves the Lord and serves and worships at a church plant. During her spare time she likes to read, travel, and eat good food.