You are instructed in Romans 12:13 to be “given to hospitality.” That implies that you should be known as a hospitable person. What is hospitality? It literally means to have a love of strangers. Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” In other words, don’t forget hospitality; the strangers you show hospitality to could be angels.
We have at least two examples in the Bible of individuals who provided hospitality to strangers who were angels. The first example is that of Abraham in Genesis 18:2-5 “So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, ‘My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.’ They said, ‘Do as you have said.’” He quickly prepared a meal for them before they went on their way. We later are told that two of these individuals were angels and that one was the Lord.
The second example is that of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Genesis 19:1-3 “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, ‘Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.’ And they said, ‘No, but we will spend the night in the open square.’ But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.” Both Abraham and Lot are good examples of showing hospitality. They had a love for strangers. They made them comfortable, provided meals for them and, in the case of Lot, provided a night’s lodging.
Hospitality doesn’t have to be to strangers. It can be to your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 1 Peter 4:9 “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” You shouldn’t complain about providing a meal or lodging for your fellow Christian.
Jesus describes His judgement in Matthew 25:34-36 “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” Part of the judgement He describes is based upon showing hospitality to the stranger and those in need. It may be a sacrifice on your part to show hospitality, but doing so pleases God. Hebrews 13:16 “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Obviously, it is important to be hospitable.
Jesus continues the description of the judgement in Matthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” I understand that Jesus is saying that when you serve other brethren and show them hospitality, you are doing it to Jesus. Hospitality is a way of serving Jesus.
One of the qualifications for elders or bishops is that they be hospitable. 1 Timothy 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach.” (Also Titus 1:7-8) The elder/bishop should have a love for the stranger and his fellow Christian and want to help them along their way. Besides providing a meal or lodging, it is a good opportunity to share the gospel or a word of encouragement. Even if you are not an elder, you should want to be hospitable.
The apostle Paul gave instructions about the church supporting older widows. Demonstrating hospitality is one of the qualifications for the church supporting a widow. 1 Timothy 5:9-10 “Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.”
Maybe you don’t think you have the resources or the ability to provide hospitality. Be eager to find even small things you can do for the stranger or your fellow Christian. Matthew 10:42 “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Maybe all you can provide is a cup of cold water. You can at least make them feel welcome. Be willing to provide what you can. Have you ever been a stranger visiting a church congregation where you were not known? How were you received? How would you have liked to have been received? Most of us would have liked to have received hospitality. I encourage you to be eager to show hospitality both to your fellow Christian and to a stranger. The stranger could be an angel or messenger sent by God.