I’ll admit that Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney animated films. And this past weekend with the new movie out, my daughter saw it twice. The soundtrack has been playing around the house and of course songs get stuck in your head. So, I keep finding myself quietly singing, “be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test…”
This has led me to spend a lot of time thinking about hospitality. It would be easy to limit our discussion about hospitality to what we offer on Sunday mornings. But the Bible doesn’t allow that. The scriptures actually have a lot to say about hospitality and it covers everything from having hospitable homes to how the people of God at large should practice hospitality.
When Paul describes the characteristics of a leader in his letters to Timothy and Titus he includes being hospitable in the list. While some might quickly point out that these passages are just about leaders, the reality is that there is nothing in either list that we shouldn’t expect to see from someone growing into maturity in their faith. Throughout the scriptures we see this hospitality as including providing a place of rest, food, drink, a place of fellowship and sometimes sanctuary.
A quick search for the word “welcome” returns many passages.
Judges 19:20 reads “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.”
And in Acts 28:2, “The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.”
It was even part of the accusations against Jesus as we see in Luke 15:2 “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
From the very beginning God has shown himself to be a God of provision to those in need. Even as he banished Adam and Eve from the garden, scripture tells us that God provided clothing for them made from animal skins. He later commands his people to offer provision for widows, orphans and foreigners. And Jesus continually uses a feast with guests as a picture for the kingdom of God.
All of this leaves me considering the words from the song I’ve been singing. Am I putting my service of hospitality to the test or am I choosing to keep things to myself? Am I welcoming to others in my home or do I protect it as a safe haven only for my close family? What would it look like for each one of us to begin to demonstrate a hospitality that displays care, grace and even self-sacrifice in loving those we invite in?