Welcome to week two of our series on Hospitality! I’m glad you are here, and I know it’s not by accident. Today I am tackling the subject of Humility in Hospitality, a crucial but often forgotten element of true hospitality.
Imagine the upper room; 12 dusty sweaty men sitting there. Hungry and ready for supper, what they don’t know will be their last supper with Jesus before his crucifixion. Jesus cares about this time with his disciples, he wants to celebrate the Passover feast a little early with them, knowing what he will go through over the next twenty-four hours. But instead of demanding to be served on this night he was betrayed, he instead took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, and began washing the stinky, smelly, dusty feet of his disciples.
He extended hospitality to his disciples in the lowest, most humble of ways. And as he did he taught them; saying things like, “let the greatest among you become as the yougest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22: 26) and “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master.” (John 13:12-14)
Humble hospitality, the kind of hospitality Christ showed to his disciples when he washed their feet, is the kind of hospitality that we are called to show to others. And it may seem obvious, but I’m pretty sure that this kind of hospitality is sometimes the absolute opposite of what the world touts as “good hospitality”.
Hospitality isn’t always about having nice things. The perfect decor or place settings. All matching plates and silverware that you can check your hair in. It isn’t about a “well appointed guest room”, or how sparkling clean everything is. Of course, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with these things. And each of them can be used to serve and love those that come into your home. What it comes down to is HUMILITY and the HEART behind which you offer these things.
Are you sprucing up your house before company comes so that they’ll think highly of you? So that they will have a (probably false) impression that you “have it all together”? Are you setting the table to show off your possessions? Do you slave over the perfect meal so that everyone will think you’re great?
These things are all based in PRIDE. Eww. Remember, though man looks to the outside appearance of things, GOD SEES the HEART.
It might be more than slightly terrifying to start examining the heart motives behind your current expressions of hospitality, I know it was that way for me when I began my journey towards recovering from people pleasing and perfectionism. But let me tell you this; aligning your heart so that your hospitality is first rooted in HUMILITY, is the first step to freedom, as well as to actually serving the needs of others well. Then it can stop being about us, and start being about the people we are actually serving.
Hospitality is not one size fits all. It requires our humble heart’s attention and intention in order to truly be a blessing to those we are serving.
Sometimes I choose to love others well by providing with extravagance. I cook a fancy meal, I make sure the main areas are tidy and beautiful, and I take the time to arrange a centerpiece on the table. I do this for those who will be touched by the beauty, comforted by the cleanliness, and who will feel genuinely loved by the care and attention I have put into each aspect of the evening. Let me tell you who I DON’T do this for; my perfectionist friends. I do not do it for my ridiculously high standards, comparison and people pleasing motivated people. Because you know what…that’s not actually serving them very well. Since I know them, and am like them, I know that the whole night they will be comparing themselves to a false image of me, and they will be tortured every time I go over to their house, thinking that they haven’t done enough to measure up to my standards of hospitality. I know, because I’ve been paying attention, that it’s not helpful to them in the long run, even though the world would say that doing those things is what makes good hospitality.
So sometimes I choose to leave things relaxed. I don’t put on make up. I choose not to worry about the toys that are strewn about. I make something simple, yet, delicious. And I open my door and my heart to humbly share what I have. These are often spontaneous invitations, or just my regular weekly gatherings with friends and life groupers. I want my demeanor and my home to say “Come as you are. You are welcome here. No matter what kind of a day you had, no matter how you come dressed, no matter what you have brought or not brought to share, You are welcome here. YOU BELONG HERE.” And these are by far my most common gatherings we have in our home.
Here I can show the perfectionists that true hospitality doesn’t come from having everything together and perfect; it comes from having an open heart. Here I purpose to neither be too fancy, not too frumpy. I purpose to be somewhere in between so that everyone in between feels welcome and like they belong. And I don’t apologize for the mess (unless it’s truly appalling) and I don’t apologize for the fact that the dinner is late (at least I try, recovering perfectionism and all.) I let people in. And with humble affection, I metaphorically wash their feet.
Sometimes I have to love people sneakily. I have to go to some trouble for them, for example, dietary restrictions or a late lunch because they are driving up from the Springs etc…but I know they will feel guilty about it if they know that, so I pretend I was doing it just for me anyways. This is sometimes the most delicate balance. I want people to leave fed; emotionally and physically, but some people would feel exceedingly guilty if they knew to what amount of “trouble” I had gone to make sure that happened. So I’m sneaky about it; I pretend I was cooking lunch “just for me anyways” and I purposely hide any remnant of table decor etc, to keep them from falling under the weight of needing to repay. These are usually my friends that don’t know that Lord. They have a very weighty sense of things needing to be “fair” and “even”, and if I lavish too much grace upon them, they can’t receive it. It’s almost painful to them. So the way I love them best is to just spend time with them, and pretend like I didn’t do anything special for them at all. It’s good practice in not letting your left hand know what your right is doing, knowing that God sees what is done is secret and it honors him when I love people without all the clutter of my own selfish ambitions.
When we come to offer hospitality with humility; when we pay attention to those we are serving, and move towards them with intention, discerning how we can best love and serve them with our hospitality, that is when it becomes about their needs being met, and not our own “need” for praise and appreciation. This is so freeing; and of course its a micro-chasm of our life here on earth anyways; it’s not about us. It was never about us. It’s about Him.
So I challenge you to get alone with God and examine your heart’s motives for hosting/not hosting this week. Allow him to convict you even as he lovingly encourages you in the way you should go. And let’s let our hospitality reflect His grace and glory to those who enter our homes, and not our own desire to fluff our egos or our reputations. Let’s serve as Jesus did, with a heart of humility.