Hospitality is one way the people of God can show His love to each other and to the whole world. Christ followers we are to be opening our lives by sharing our meals, possessions, and homes with close friends, fellow believers, complete strangers, the needy and our families.
This attitude of generosity and unusual kindness was a hallmark of the early church and was frequently encouraged by Jesus Christ in the Bible.
Let’s look together at the practice of hospitality in the Bible and then see some practical ways that we can engage in welcoming others.
What is Biblical Hospitality?
The NIV women’s study Bible defines hospitality this way:
“Hospitality is the practice of welcoming, sheltering, and feeding — with no thought of personal gain — those who come to your door. Much more than elegant menus, elaborate table settings, or lavish entertainment — hospitality is sharing what we have and who we are with whomever God sends.”The Gift of Welcome, NIV Women’s Study Bible
35 Best Bible Verses on Biblical Hospitality
The New Testament writers early church emphasized the need for hospitality by believers to show the love of Jesus. We see both examples and encouragement of hospitality all over the actions of early Christians.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. -Romans 12:13
Short and sweet. This reminder from Paul gets to the heart of hospitality–that we should love and care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And be generous by sharing our homes and tables with anyone in need.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. -Hebrews 13:1-2
This verse is harkening back to Abraham and his encounter with the three angels he hosted. I love this reminder to believers that there is no way to know the heavenly impact of our hospitality.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. -Galatians 6:10
Hospitality is one of the simplest ways we can “do good” in the world. You don’t have to donate $10,000 to charity or move across the world to serve Jesus–there are people in your faith and local community who need good done to them too.
And is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. -1 Timothy 5:10
Paul in this passage is telling Timothy, his apprentice in church leadership, to organize the financial care of some widows in the church. These women are to be older, non-working, and those who have dedicated their lives to showing hospitality and living godly lives.
Dear friend, you are acting faithfully in whatever you do for the brothers and sisters, especially when they are strangers. Therefore, we ought to support such people so that we can be coworkers with the truth. -3 John 1:5,8
The apostle John dedicates a large portion of this very small book to praising the faithfulness and generosity of a “dear friend” and brother in Christ, Gaius. Gaius shares with missionaries and teachers of the Bible–even when they are strangers to him.
This short passage reminds us that hospitality towards those in full time service is encouraged and expected.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. -Hebrews 13:16
This passage acknowledges that at times, sharing generously will be a sacrifice. You may have to cut back somewhere else in your budget so you can afford the extra groceries when you host or watch one of your possessions get inadvertently damaged by a rowdy toddler-guest.
It’s okay. God sees your sacrifice and it brings a smile to His face.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. -1 Timothy 6:17-19
You have been blessed to be a blessing! Your house, your pantry, your backyard, your patio, your car, everything you have is a gift from God. So choose to be generous and ready to share the blessings God has given you with others.
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” -Matthew 10:42
When we show kindness to others in tangible ways God sees it as kindness to Himself and will reward us (maybe not on earth, but certainly in the heavenly realms).
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. -1 Peter 4:8-10
Sometimes hospitality feels hard. We’d rather stay closed off and comfortable, but this Scripture reminds us to not begrudge hospitality. Instead, our open-handed living shows off all the different facets of God’s grace like a sparkling diamond in the sun.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:7-9
Hospitality can become wearisome in certain seasons of our lives. This passage reminds of us the principle of sowing and reaping. Our hospitality is sowing spiritual truth and love into others and unselfishness and generosity into our own lives. That is some tasty spiritual fruit that is worth not giving up on!
Not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. -Ephesians 6:6-8
This verse is actually talking about how a servant is to respond to their master. But since we are all called to serve one another, it is a great reminder that even when we feel stretched by hospitality we are doing it for the Lord, not for the attention or praise of man.
We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. -1 Thessalonians 2:12
Hospitality is a way we can walk out our calling as Christ followers to many who are lonely, hurting or simply need a friend.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. -2 Corinthians 9:7
Although, this passage is talking about financial giving, true hospitality should also be given cheerfully as a gift to God.
The Practice of Hospitality
The practice of Biblical hospitality is just that– a practice. The more you do it the easier it gets!
I can remember in our cramped early apartment as a young married couple some of the first friends we invited over to share a meal with us. They were gracias and we were excited to connect with them in a deeper way. We even got out old toys of ours for their young kids.
What hospitality has looked liked for our family
We’ve had friends over when our house is deep cleaned and when there are piles of laundry to be folded and still dishes in the sink. Because we’ve practiced hospitality it becomes easier to say…
- “Why don’t you come in for a second?”
- “Do you want to eat dinner with us?”
- “How about a playdate next week?”
- “Yes! We are happy to host them overnight!”
Right now our family regularly hosts a small group of families from our church at our home about twice a month. We all bring food to share and we provide the location and facilitate the discussion.
Would it be easier to take it easy on Sunday afternoons, instead of spending it preparing for our guests? Yes, absolutely. And it is our privilege and joy to welcome fellow believers to our home to hang out, eat, parent and talk about following Jesus together.
What is the Gift of Hospitality?
Christian hospitality is a spiritual practice, but also a spiritual gift. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says, “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good:”.
A spiritual gift is given to each Christ follower at their salvation by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, specifically for building up the body of Christ.
According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.-Romans 12:6-8 CSB
You may see those gifted in hospitality often hosting others at their home overnight or for a dinner. Many times these are more than just friends or family. True Biblical hospitality will open its doors to anyone in need.
The Bible calls all of us to hospitality. Even if hospitality doesn’t appear to be your spiritual gift you can still choose to practice opening your home, sharing meals and conversations with whoever God brings into your path.
Just as some may be gifted in teaching, but we all teach in some ways others are gifted in evangelism or giving–we are all called to obey the clear commands of Jesus to “go therefore and make disciples”.
Hospitality is the same way. Scripture commands and encourages it, so (even if it’s not our gifting) we regularly participate in it as a way of honoring our Lord Christ and reflecting His generous hospitality and welcoming heart.
12 Examples of Hospitality in the Bible
Old Testament Examples
Abraham to the angels at the Oaks of Mamre. — Genesis 18
One of the most classic examples of hospitality, Abraham prepares a meal and welcomes in three strangers, who turn out to be angels and God Himself.
Pharaoh to Jacob’s family — Genesis 45:16-20;47:7-12
After Joseph has served him so well, Pharaoh extends hospitality to his family and allows them to settle in a rich, portion of land and provides for them.
Rahab to the spies — Joshua 2:1-16
Rahab was boldly generous to the spies, providing food and lodging for them and also hosting and hiding them in her home. Even though she wasn’t an Israelite, her faith in God was rewarded and she became an ancestor to Jesus!
Boaz to Ruth — Ruth 2
In the book of Ruth we see Boaz extending more than the required generosity for widows to Ruth and by extension, Naomi. Ruth is another foreign woman who becomes included in the genealogy of Jesus!
David to Mephibosheth — 1 Samuel 9:7-13
Although David owed Mephibosheth nothing, he extend to him all the benefits of a beloved son, in honor of his friendship with Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan.
The widow of Zarephath to Elijah — 1 Kings 17:10-24
This poor widow used the last of her resources to extend hospitality to Elijah and was blessed with miraculous provision.
The Shunammite woman — 2 Kings 4:8-37
This wealthy woman and her husband created a guest room, a small room on the roof of their house, for Elisha to use.
RELATED: 35 EXAMPLES OF FORGIVENESS IN THE BIBLE
New Testament Examples
Jesus to the host of the wedding feast at Cana — John 2
In Jesus first recorded miracle he blesses the host of the wedding of Cana with a gift of hospitality. Running out of wine wasn’t the mark of a good host, Jesus graciously supplied the hospitality the host was lacking.
Martha to Jesus and the disciples — Luke 10:38-42 and John 12:1-2.
Martha was a generous and hospitable follower of Jesus who often opened her home to the disciples and Jesus during his ministry.
Zaccheus to Jesus — Luke 19:1-10
Jesus may have invited himself over, but Zac ran to make this hospitality happen! His act of generosity demonstrated that his life had been changed by Jesus!
Lydia to Paul and Silas — Acts 16:15
Lydia was a wealthy business woman who regularly opened her home for the church to meet in and provided a place to stay for those traveling sharing the gospel.
Native people to the shipwrecked on Malta — Acts 28:1-9
Although they had nothing to gain the people of Malta, were generous in sharing with Paul and his fellow captives and sailors after their shipwreck.
Resource for Learning More About Hospitality
- Just Open The Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation
- The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection In Your Own Front Yard
- Bread and Wine: A Love Letter To Life Around The Table
Although hospitality shouldn’t be motivated by reward, often in the Bible we see examples of God blessing those who are generous and hospitable–spiritually or physically! May you be encouraged by God’s Word to begin practicing hospitality in your life in big and small ways!
How do you show hospitality in your everyday life? How do you make hospitality easy?
I’m one to invite people over and then “cook” take and bake pizzas! Easy, peasy lemon squeezy and the kids are always happy!