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The Gift of Hospitality


img_3897Hospitality is listed in the Bible as a spiritual gift.  But anyone can become better at hospitality if they just practice.  Essentially, hospitality is making people feel welcome; and when you open your home for a dinner, a business meeting, a holiday party, or a one to one conversation, you can offer hospitality and make your guests feel welcome.

I learned hospitality first at home.  My mom and dad often had people over after work, especially in the summer, for a backyard cookout.  It wasn’t anything special, really.  It was just burgers on the grill and a lounge chair seat.  But people liked to come, and we had a few single people who became regulars—almost part of the family.  My father always made people had something to drink—even when I returned home as a “guest” after I married, he was caring and attentive to my needs.

When I met first met my husband and began joining his family for Sunday and holiday dinners, I learned more from my mother-in-law.  She always had a beautifully set table, serving dishes, and frequently, little favors at each table setting.  She silently taught me about the little “extras.”  I learned through observing.

When my husband and I had been married for quite a while, we began to host Easter breakfasts at our home when our church stopped having them.  We lived near to the church during those years, and it was convenient for our friends to have breakfast at our house.  This is when I learned that my husband had also picked up some things from his mom, and probably his grandmother, too.  He was the cook at these breakfasts, as he had previously been at church.  His little extras included warming the plates so the food would stay hot, warming the syrup for the pancakes, choosing attractive serving dishes.  This is where I took on the role of table setting.  Fortunately, we had received some lovely things as gifts when we were married, and this was an opportunity to pull those things out of storage and use them.  This home had more storage in the kitchen than our first home, and I was able to keep those items in an accessible place.  One of the little extras I used was individual salt and pepper shakers—one at each place setting.  Extravagant? Maybe.  But I had them, so why not use them?

Wimg_3900hen we moved again to an older home and began hosting our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I began to hone my skills as a table setter.  My goal was for my guests to feel that the holiday was special and they were special.  I wanted them to be filled with delight at the setting, even if they only experienced it at a subconscious level.

I am not always good about planning ahead, and I would sometimes get bursts of creativity at the last minute, forcing me to rush around and sometimes improvise.  But over the years, I have gathered a lot of things for my collection for table settings:  my mom’s silver table service, cloth napkins, napkin rings, colorful tablecloths and placemats, water goblets, a varied collection of creamer and sugar sets, butter dishes, gravy boats, platters, a punch bowl (for larger crowds, which I bought at an auction for $2.00 and it included the cups), centerpieces, handmade name cards, holiday dishes, and figurines.  One year, I took a Christmas poem I had written (but you could use any appropriate poem), and I printed it, pasted it on a colorful construction paper background, and set it at each place setting.

As the family grew, I hosted wedding and baby showers. Now here is where I gathered some help.  I am not great at the gift favors, and I recently enlisted my sister-in-law to help with those for a shower I was hosting.  There is nothing wrong with enlisting the gifts and talents with others to assist you in your hospitality.

Nimg_4143ow, I have a home business, and I sometimes host gatherings in my home.  Though not as elaborate, I try to take the same approach so my guests will feel comfortable and special.  Everyone wants to feel special, and the little extras show that you have taken the time to care.

I recently hosted a customer event at my home.  I learned from others who had shared and then modeled my event after those. I purchased what I needed to make my customer event uniquely mine.  And I bought everything at the dollar store, so I didn’t need to break the bank to pull this off. I didn’t have a specific plan when I went into the store.  It developed as I found what was available.  I found silver (plastic) trays and silver frames, so I had a theme going.  I had already purchased gold and white dispensers I needed, and I thought those colors would work well together.  When I went out to buy more frames, I ended up with black ones.  Okay, still works.  I just went with what’s available and made it work.  I chose a coordinating color tablecloth, and I was ready.

Maybe you don’t feel table setting is your gift, but you can still be hospitable.  Perhaps you are a great cook.  You notice I don’t talk about the food for any of my events.  My husband does the cooking.  I make some things, but I stick to the few dishes I’ve mastered and don’t try to get too wild with new things.  And when it’s a business meeting or a make and take, food isn’t the focus so simple is best.  Or maybe decorating cakes and cookies or making desserts is your specialty.  Make a dish that makes your guests feel special.

And it doesn’t have to be formal to be hospitable.  I admit, I used to use the good china for every occasion, but I finally figured out that smoked ribs in the summer don’t require a china plate for a picnic setting.  I’ve succumbed to paper—but I always buy Chinet plates.  Thick and heavy-duty so the plates don’t sag in the middle when loaded with food.  You can also find lots of fun and colorful, seasonal, tableware at a dollar store to spice things up, even if it is just a centerpiece.

Each of us has something unique to offer when we invite guests into our home for a dinner, an event, or a meeting.  If hospitality is your gift, this is your chance to shine.  And if it isn’t, you can take one or two ideas to add something special for your own guests.

The most important thing is to be there to greet them, introduce them to people they don’t know, and then, relax and enjoy them.  They came to see you.

PART 2: The Lord Appears to Abraham and Lot—A Study in Contrasts


Genesis 19:1  And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2  And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. 3  And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.

 Previously, we looked at Abraham’s response to the arrival of the Lord.  If you haven’t read Part 1, I recommend you read it before reading this.

Lot’s response to the appearance of heavenly messengers was dramatically different from Abraham’s.  First, Lot was sitting at Sodom’s gate!  Lot was “flirting” with death/evil/temptation. What a contrast.  Lot was not sitting at home outside of his own door, which is where he should have been.  He was sitting at the very entrance of evil—a place so evil, God couldn’t stand it any longer and was planning to destroy it any minute.  And it wasn’t God who came to Lot but two messengers.  Lot probably wasn’t in the habit of conversing with God.  Now, Lot DID rise up to meet the angels when he saw them, but he obviously didn’t see them when they were far off because he wasn’t looking.  Abraham had run to meet them.  Lot merely rose up to meet them and then bowed toward the ground.  Perhaps he rose initially because he didn’t even realize they were from God; then upon recognizing them, he bowed.

Sometimes, when we are out of step with God, we don’t see the things He does to get our attention.  It might take us a couple of times before we get it.

The fact that Lot bowed down tells me he knew the difference between holiness and evil.  He knew he was in a Holy Presence.  Another thing that tells me Lot knew good from evil is his response the men’s plan to sleep in the city square. When they said they didn’t need to accept his offer of housing, Lot pressed them greatly.  The Amplified Bible says Lot “entreated and urged them greatly until they yielded.”  He was a pest about it.  I think he wanted them to come to his home because he knew how evil the city was and what might happen to the men if they slept in the street all night.

I suppose it is also possible that he wanted them to come because he understood they were God’s messengers, and he wanted them in his home.  But he really didn’t offer them much in the way of hospitality.  He basically said, “Hey, come to my house and spend the night and then you can get up early tomorrow and leave.”  No wonder they said no the first time.  Kind of a lukewarm invitation, don’t you think?

So, Lot brought the men home with him.  However, Lot brought the trouble of the city into his own home as well.  He was hanging out at the city gates and the trouble of the city followed him home.  When we flirt with sin, it doesn’t just affect us; it also affects our loved ones. We carry it with us and it spills onto others’ lives whether we mean it to or not.

Lot’s offering of refreshment was greatly different from Abraham’s, too.  He offered them unleavened bread.  This was probably something that was on hand—not something that would require a lot of thought, time, preparation, or expense on the part of Lot.

What do we willingly offer to God when our hearts are not in the right place?  Do we try to give him the very least we can, just to keep up appearances? That’s what Lot’s actions make me think.

Now comes the part where the evil followed him home.  The men of the city show up demand the strangers come out.  “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may know them [intimately].”  (Gen. 19:5 AMP) And what was Lot’s response.  He tried to negotiate.  He offered his daughters instead.  He tried to sacrifice his own children to protect the godly messengers.  What was he thinking?  Was he trying to protect his own reputation with God? Was he afraid?  Probably both.

Lot also tried to persuade the evil men that their behavior was inappropriate.  He encouraged them to “not do something so wicked,” but then promptly offered up his own daughters.  The men respond by telling Lot he is in no position to dictate their behavior.  Obviously, Lot has no credibility as a godly man.  They don’t listen to him.  Lot had placed himself and his family in a position of danger. 

The men from the city violently attacked Lot, and the angels opened the door and reached out to save him.  The angels also saved Lot from total destruction the next morning.  But again, because of Lot’s lack of credibility, he failed to save his future sons-in-law because they didn’t believe him.  When he told them the city was going to be destroyed, they though he was joking.

Lot had been so caught up and enticed by evil, that he himself had trouble leaving Sodom behind.  The Bible says he lingered.  A word study of lingered will give you the literal definition meant here:  “To remain or stay in a place longer than is usual or expected from reluctance to leave.”  That definitely applies to Lot.  But I found the second definition of linger to be significant symbolically.  “To remain alive; continue or persist although gradually dying, ceasing, disappearing.”  Wow.  I think Lot was definitely remaining alive while gradually dying. He was continually persisting in flirting with the evil that surrounded him.  He made no move to change or take himself and his family away despite knowing the difference between right and wrong. He didn’t have to be living in that city.  He was not living the victorious life he could have had.  He was not living under the blessing of God like Abraham was. The angels saved him by snatching him out.

Lot had allowed himself to be tainted by evil.  Even after the angels saved him from certain death, Lot’s heart was not totally turned to God.  The angels told him to run away (from sin and the destruction) and NOT to look back.  They said, “Do not stop ANYWHERE in the valley.  Get to the mountains! But Lot literally says, “Oh no! Not that!”  I can’t run to the mountains.  I will die.  Let me just go to that little city over there.  It’s not far.

That city, Zoar, was STILL part of the valley.  The angels had just said not to stop anywhere in the valley.  Was Lot even listening?  No. . . let me just dabble in a bit of sin.  Let me get away from evil, but not too far away. Just far enough to save my life.

Have you known people who are like this?  I’m saved, but I don’t really want to be ALL in as a Christian.  I’d have to give up too much.  I still want to control my life.  I don’t want to do what God says; I’d rather make my own decisions.  God’s plan is too hard.  You want me to climb a mountain?  No.  I can’t do that.  Let me go to this place that’s close by.  I can get there by doing the same things I have always done.  It’s on the same level.  It won’t take that much effort to get there, and I won’t have to change my ways too much.  Thanks for saving me, but I’ve got things under control.

The angels permitted Lot to go to the city.  Why?  Because God never forces us to follow Him.  He leads us, but ultimately we choose how far we will go with Him.  I wonder what Lot missed out on by not going to the mountain top.

Eventually, Lot had to flee from Zoar out of fear, but he had already lost his wife and his potential sons-in-law.  His desire to control and run his own life impacted his daughters.  They made similar choices and decisions to take control of their own lives.  They decided they have missed their opportunity to be able to have children unless they get their father drunk and sleep with him, which they both do. They want to preserve their race through their own offspring.  But going outside of God’s plan is never a good idea.  Lot’s decisions had severe consequences for the rest of his family. God could still have redeemed the mess of their lives and provided them with husbands, but they didn’t wait.  They took the situation into their own hands.  

(Side note:  These girls were related to Abraham.  They were his grand nieces.  If they had grown up around him and heard his life story, they would surely have heard about Abraham’s experience of trying things out on his own. . . thus producing Ishmael.  They would surely have learned from Abraham that trying to do things your own way instead of God’s way has unforeseen consequences.  When kids miss out growing up with older generations, they can miss out on some great teaching.  Lot took his family away from Abraham.  Yes, Abraham sent him to choose his own part of the land; however, the relationships could have been maintained.  I don’t think they were.  I think Lot’s daughters might have had a different response to their situation if they had had Abraham as a role model.)

Lot really wasn’t serving God.  God basically saved Lot because of Abraham.  Genesis 19:29 (AMP) says, “He [earnestly] remember Abraham [imprinted and fixed him indelibly on His mind, and He sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when He overthrew the cities where Lot lived.”

Remember when Abraham entreated God to save Sodom if there were just ten righteous men.  There really weren’t any.  The only people who got out were Lot and his two daughters.

The lesson is clear.  We are much better off when we wholly follow after God and let Him direct our paths.  Sometimes we think if we let God direct us, we are going to miss out on things we want.  We are selfish.  But God’s plans are so much better.  When we follow Him, we really only miss out on destruction.

Follow wholly after God.

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