Reformed Articles

In Praise of Unfussy Hospitality

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As a young newlywed, I was eager to be hospitable and gracious. In my mind, though, hospitality was reserved for those who were especially gifted at cooking and flower-arranging, with a large house and a crystal chandelier to go with it. Since I had neither stellar culinary skills nor a spacious, well-decorated home, the prospects looked grim.

Then I met Diane. Diane was known for hosting people in her home at the drop of a hat, for giving pedicures to the elderly women in our church, and for having a humble and gracious spirit that immediately put others at ease. 

I remember the day Diane invited me, along with a few other young women, over to her home for a tea. A well-known pastor’s wife and author was speaking at our church retreat. The speaker knew a few of us already, and Diane thought it would be fun for all of us to get together and share what God was doing in our lives. 

On my way to her house, I wondered what Diane might serve for such an important event. Elegant croissants or cucumber sandwiches? China cups filled with sweet, flavored tea? You can imagine my surprise when I arrived at Diane’s home to find a stack of mismatched paper plates and the leftovers from the church retreat—all spread on the kitchen counter. 

As it turned out, we had a delightful time together eating leftovers, sharing about our new seasons of life, and making bracelets for an upcoming mission trip. I don’t think we even had a cup of tea. But it really didn’t matter. 

That day is etched in my mind as a pivotal paradigm shift. Biblical hospitality isn’t about the impressive menu or Pinterest-perfect table settings. It’s about making people feel welcome. It’s being more interested in the lives of others than you are in having the roast cooked to perfection. 

Biblical hospitality isn’t about the impressive menu or Pinterest-perfect table settings. It’s about making people feel welcome.

Diane’s simple example encouraged me and has been reproduced in my life countless times. It’s the kind of hospitality that can be practiced by apartment-dwellers and homeowners, by single people and large families, by Christians experiencing financial strain and those who can afford to be extraordinarily generous. This hospitality is accessible to every host and every guest. And while there is a place for fine china and gourmet food, unfussy hospitality results in several multiplying effects.

1. Unfussy hospitality focuses on people, not preparations.

It’s easy to become consumed with having our house in perfect order or making just the right recipes. But there’s a difference between merely entertaining, which aims to impress others with our gifts and possessions, and true hospitality, which simply aims to make others feel welcome. As we practice hospitality, our chief desire is for people to enter our homes and feel loved and cared for. 

Unfussy hospitality isn’t afraid to invite others into our less-than-perfect homes and routines. We want to serve others well so they will see Jesus and desire to follow him, bearing kingdom fruit. We want them to be drawn to the love of the church, not because of our elegant china, but because of the kindness shown them.

2. Unfussy hospitality isn’t formulaic.

We often think of hospitality as inviting someone into our home for a meal. While that’s one wonderful example, hospitality carries a much broader definition. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia (“love of the stranger”). We can show others love by making them feel welcome in multiple ways: inviting them to coffee, listening well, planning a playdate for the children, taking them a meal or gift, noticing when they’re hurting. 

When we restrict hospitality to cooking food for others in our homes, we neglect myriad other ways to love the stranger. Just as God creates each person with unique gifts, we each have unique ways of showing hospitality.

3. Unfussy hospitality allows mutual relationships to develop.

Instead of presenting the host at her best—makeup on, table set, decorations in place—unfussy hospitality allows guests and hosts to know one another. Inviting a young mom over for lunch after Bible study reveals my imperfect house with its pile of breakfast dishes and school papers. Grilled cheese and leftover soup aren’t polished, either. 

But transparency breaks down the barriers between guests and hosts and allows for mutual sharing and burden-bearing. Friendships are forged as we see each other not as our polished social-media accounts portray, but as fellow sojourners in need of companionship. 

4. Unfussy hospitality encourages others to practice it on their own.

Maybe you’ve been a guest at an event with magazine-worthy table settings or gourmet food. It’s tempting to think, I could never do something like this! Unfussy hospitality, on the other hand, is simple. It makes even the most ill-equipped cook feel like she can offer hospitality—even if it’s ordering pizza. 

The effect is contagious. Paul’s charge to “practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13) and to “show hospitality without complaint” (1 Pet. 4:9) seems attainable when we see others doing it simply. People are much more likely to practice hospitality when we prevent it from becoming an exhausting, time-consuming affair. 

Unfussy hospitality focuses on people, not preparations, on loving others well instead of worrying what others think of us.

Unfussy hospitality encourages others to be welcoming and generous people. It focuses on people, not preparations, on loving others well instead of worrying what others think of us. God’s name is magnified when we humbly open our hearts and homes to those around us.

May we never underestimate how the lonely and hurting can be blessed by our listening ears, and a warm bowl of canned soup.