What Martha Doesn't Know About Hospitality

Neil and I are a part of a small group that meets every few weeks.  It has been nothing but nourishment for our souls and for our marriage.  We get together with four other couples, eat a fantastic meal, and talk about marriage.  We're reading through This Momentary Marriage by John Piper (which, by the way, is a must read for married couples).  We look forward to every meeting and leave full in every way. 
As we started meeting together regularly, each couple took a turn hosting the evening.  We found ourselves sitting in beautiful homes, eating the most delicious food, and as wonderful as our time was together, I got more and more intimidated to host. 
If you know me well, you know I love hospitality. Neil and I both want our home to be a place where people feel welcome and loved.  I get a great deal of joy out of preparing and serving meals for others.  And for some reason, when the time approached where I would normally eagerly volunteer to host I held back.  I waited for others to offer their home.  I didn't want to invite these people, who I have grown to love and trust, into my home.
I had allowed my joy in hospitality to be hijacked by fear, comparison, and worldly standards.

Last year, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel with the Forge.  One of my favorite "sites" was our trip to visit the Negev Bedouin People. It was a lesson in hospitality.
You see, you can call on a Bedouin in a moment's notice and they will welcome you in, feed you, house you, and protect you with their own life.  It is a part of their culture.  So 50 of us came knocking on their door and in true Bedouin fashion, they were racing to see who would get the honor of serving their guests.  They prepared sweet tea and bread for each of us.  In Bedouin culture, they will care for you for three days without asking questions.  They don't even need to know your name.  They are subtle.  As you wear out your welcome, the tea becomes less and less sweet.  I am happy to say our tea was sweet that day. 
Here's what got me about our visit to the Bedouin people.  They gave out of what they had.  We sat on the floor in an open-air, temporary building.  And it was the most beautiful picture of hospitality I had ever seen. 
As believers, we are commanded to practice hospitality.  (Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 to name a few passages)  The truth is, that while I love to practice hospitality, I often do it on my own terms.  I invite people in when my house is in great shape, when I have time to prepare an impressive meal, and when I decide I would like to practice.  What I realized as I sat in the dirt and watched these people love complete strangers in a profound way is that my picture of hospitality had wandered a good distance from the biblical model. So here's a few thoughts from that visit.
  1. Hospitality is not:
    1. Place settings and good food (although we can love people with place settings and good food)
    2. Great customer service (although it is a blessing to practice great customer service
    3. Convenient
  2. Biblical hospitality is loving the outsider in such a way that they feel at home with you
    1. Hospitality comes from the word philoxenia- literally the love of the stranger
    2. Biblical hospitality invites others into your world, no matter how "messy" it is.
  3. Hospitality paints a picture of the hospitality of Christ. In the summer time at Pine Cove, when we welcome a kid in and we don’t just shrug and say hey.  We hug.  We jump up and down.  We go out of our way.  This is done to create a hunger for God in those we welcome.  And isn’t that how he welcomed us from the outside? He embraced us when we were enemies.  Outsiders.  He sacrificed and went out of His way for us to make us a part of the family of God.
And here I am , just one year later, fighting the feeling that my home is not good enough or someone else can do it better.  It nearly kept me from opening my home. But that sweet lesson of hospitality reminded me that you don't have to be Martha Stewart to practice biblical hospitality.  Biblical hospitality can be practiced on paper plates in your half remodeled house with piles of laundry sitting in next room.  So, let the tea be sweet. Be eager to love and serve those you welcome in. May your home and mine create in others a hunger for the living God.


  1. I love that you have a blog- let the stalking begin bc I need more Amy Waters in my life! And I love you!! ;) And when I think of hospitality, you are top on my list. True story.

  2. Thank goodness you don't need a "Martha Stewart" home to begin practicing Biblical hospitality. I think that's why all the youth feel comfortable in our home....Martha Stewart definitely doesn't live at my house.!!! You have a beautiful home and you always make us feel so welcomed and loved when we come for a visit! Great words of wisdom for us all!

  3. Excited to share this. Such a wonderful reminder to have an open door policy: heart and home.