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I know a lot of people who are great at hospitality. I’m really happy for them. As for me, I am a fairly insecure hostess. I’ve always been able to come up with several reasons why our home is not the best for having people over. Items on this list have included (but are not limited to):

  1. Our apartment is too tiny.
  2. We don’t have a ton of money or a lot of nice things.
  3. I don’t know how to decorate my home and people will laugh at my lame attempts.
  4. Okay, so we live in a house now, but we don’t have a dining room.
  5. No seriously, the tiny eating area can’t even fit our family of five comfortably, much less guests.
  6. What if we invite people over and it’s awkward? I’ll die if it’s awkward.
  7. My kids are weird at the dinner table.
  8. My kids are loud at the dinner table.
  9. My kids are so weird and loud at the dinner table.

Most of my reasons revolve around not wanting to be judged by people who are wealthier/cooler/better decorators/parents/conversationalists/(you fill in the blank) than me. The problem is that the Bible is super clear that hospitality is important. If you search the Bible you’ll find countless verses and stories throughout both the Old and New Testaments of people who willingly opened their homes and showed kindness to all kinds of people.

A few months ago our family was hosted by a sweet Burmese family in their tiny, simple home. For dinner we ate bacon-wrapped asparagus and drank Kool-Aid in plastic squeeze-it bottles. Our kids had sword fights with old fishing poles and large sticks they found around the house. We had a great time. My ideas about just who is qualified to host began to change. Our Burmese friends showed me that you don’t have to be fancy to open your home. You can share what you have even when you don’t have a lot. And if you’re willing, people will have fun. People will even be blessed. It suddenly occurred to me that this is also biblical (sometimes I’m slow). In 1 Kings 17, a widow took Elijah into her home and fed him even though she had only a handful of flour and a tiny bit of oil left for herself and her son. In God’s eyes she still had no excuse not to host even though she had so little. She was obedient, and both she and her guest were blessed.

Anyone can host; the idea that you have to have a certain level of financial stability, a big, beautifully decorated home, and a family who has it all together before you can host is a myth. Equally a myth is the idea that you can host only people of your same financial status/ethnicity/language/religious background/food habits. Anyone can host anyone. The dictionary defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” The Bible’s definition of hospitality would even further expand the dictionary’s, encouraging the friendly reception of guests, visitors, strangers, travelers, saints, and enemies. In short, open your home to everyone! I realize there are situations in which this can’t and shouldn’t be applied (before opening your home to an escaped convict, perhaps you should visit your prayer closet), but I am trying to expand my own definition of hospitality. I am attempting to take to heart Romans 12:13, which says, “Always be eager to practice hospitality” (NLT), and I am trying to keep an open mind about whom I’m willing to practice on.

So these are all just pretty words and grand aspirations unless they are put to the test, right? God is awesome at helping me practice what I preach. Case in point: Thanksgiving 2016. While our family had several invitations to go to friends’ homes and eat, we wanted to take the opportunity to open our own home and host. I asked my husband, Jordan, to extend the invitation to some of our friends who are also his coworkers at World Relief, as well as any refugee clients who didn’t have a place to celebrate. We ended up with our two close friends, Erin (who works with Jordan), and her husband, Jeremiah, and a young Afghani couple who came to the U.S. as refugees two years ago and their nine-month-old son. I was a little nervous about the potential awkwardness that might result from our cultural and language differences, but that was actually not my biggest concern. In our group of ten, we had one peanut-allergy sufferer, one person who has a gluten and dairy intolerance, one person who has both Celiac disease and Type 1 Diabetes, and one Muslim family who eats according to strict Halal specifications. Let me summarize it this way: our menu needed to be free of peanuts, dairy, gluten, bacon, and alcohol. And we needed to know the carb count on everything. And this was Thanksgiving. Take a minute and think through your typical Thanksgiving menu. Huh.

Here’s the truth, though. Preparing this meal turned out to be so much fun. And you will never believe me, but it was delicious. Was the conversation flawless and free of all awkwardness? Nope. Did the Lord miraculously multiply the square footage of our kitchen so we could all fit? Nah. We set up a huge table in the living room and it was unconventional but fine. Were there moments where our religious and cultural differences had to be acknowledged and worked around? Yep. And no one died. Were there fun, sweet moments where we all laughed, where there was great conversation, where a baby’s laugh cut through all the language barriers, and where there was real community? YES.

Hospitality isn’t just about feeding people (just like Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food). It’s about receiving people with kindness and inviting them into your home and making them feel they belong. It’s believing God when He says that anyone can host anyone. It’s about making your home a safe haven for all kinds of people, which has been our family’s dream for a long time. That is hospitality. It is a gift that doesn’t always come naturally to me, but it is a gift I will keep on pursuing until it does.

About The Author

Hannah Bemis

Hannah Bemis lives in Spokane, Washington, with her husband, Jordan, and their three kids. She works as both a mom and as a private tutor, and loves writing about what God reveals to her through the chaotic and mundane events of everyday life. She and her family attend Turning Point Open Bible Church, also in Spokane.