The Course of Hospitality
“Share with the holy ones according to their needs. Follow the course of hospitality.”—Rom. 12:13, NW.
1. Who originated hospitality, and how has he set its pattern?
JEHOVAH God is the Author of hospitality. From the beginning he has bountifully provided for all his creatures. Never stingy, never miserly, never illiberal, never ungenerous, Jehovah “furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.” Never coldhearted, never ill-disposed, never ill-natured, never ungracious, Jehovah is even “kind toward the unthankful and wicked.” Never partial in the abundance of his liberality, he “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” Always ready to share with his creation his inexhaustible riches, Jehovah sets the pattern for hospitality.—1 Tim. 6:17; Luke 6:35; Matt. 5:45, NW.
2. What does it mean to be hospitable?
2 Just what is hospitality? How broad is its scope? A modern dictionary defines it as “giving or liking to give a welcome, food and shelter and kind treatment to friends or strangers.” To be hospitable means to welcome others, not ignore them. It means to show warmth, not coldness; to be kind, not harsh; to be friendly-minded, not distant; to be approachable, not aloof; to be patient, not abrupt; to be thoughtful, not inconsiderate; to be prepared, not unready; to be generous, not stingy; to be given to sharing, not hoarding; to be interested in the needs of others and not just those of yourself. Hospitality is really a far-reaching demonstration of love, even “a test of the genuineness of your love.”—2 Cor. 8:8, NW.
3, 4. In ancient times who followed the course of hospitality?
3 In ancient times the nation of Israel followed the Jehovah-given course of hospitality. All benefited from this course, including the strangers or temporary residents in Israel. God’s law through Moses was specific that the Jehovah-loving stranger was not to be ignored but treated hospitably: “For Jehovah your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, mighty and fear-inspiring God, who treats none with partiality nor accepts a bribe, executing judgment for the fatherless boy and the widow and loving the temporary resident so as to give him bread and clothing. You, too, must love the temporary resident, for you became temporary residents in the land of Egypt.”—Deut. 10:17-19, NW.
4 Even before Moses’ time, Jehovah’s people knew the importance of following the course of hospitality. So outstanding and generous were they in impartial hospitality that 2,000 years later an apostle of Christ referred to them when he commanded Christians: “Do not forget kindness [footnote, hospitality] to strangers, for through it some, unknown to themselves, entertained angels.” Just imagine! Because of always being friendly-minded, openhearted and alert to the course of hospitality, some of God’s early servants had the thrillingly grand experience of entertaining angels.—Heb. 13:2, NW.
HOSPITALITY—AN ENRICHING COURSE
5. How was Abraham’s hospitality enriching to himself?
5 So the course of hospitality enriches those who follow it. Take Abraham, for example. One day he was seated at the entrance of his tent beneath the shade of the trees of Mamre. It was in the heat of the day. Suddenly he was aroused into the brightest wakefulness by the appearance of three strangers. He ran out to meet them. He bowed down to the earth, but not because he knew they were angels; for he did the same later to the sons of Heth. (Gen. 23:7, 12) Abraham then had water brought so they could have their feet washed. He bid them to recline under the tree. “Let me get a piece of bread, and refresh your hearts,” he requested. Came the strangers’ reply: “All right. You may do just as you have spoken.” But in actuality Abraham brought out “butter and milk and the young bull.” Abraham’s hospitality thus served as a remarkable prelude to the angelic announcement that Abraham and his wife Sarah would have their long-promised son. Later, Lot and Manoah, though unknown to themselves, entertained angels and so received a rich blessing.—Gen. 18:1-15; 19:1-22; Judg. 13:2-24, NW.
6. In Jesus’ day what blessings came to hospitable people?
6 In Jesus’ time the course of hospitality brought innumerable blessings to those who followed it. When people of good will invited Jesus, his disciples or his apostles into their homes, they received grand spiritual rewards. The thought of entertaining the Son of God itself is thrilling beyond words. Consider Mary, the sister of Martha, and how she received blessed spiritual truths “at the feet of the Master” because of hospitality. (Luke 10:38-42, NW) Consider Zacchaeus and his ready hospitality. Jesus recognized his hospitable spirit, for it was framed in the beautiful picture of Zacchaeus’ climbing a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. So Jesus said: “Zacchaeus, hurry and get down, for today I must stay in your house.” Hospitality helped Zacchaeus get the truth. And consider the two disciples who were journeying to Emmaus on the evening of the day Jesus was resurrected. Appearing in the form of a man, Jesus approached them. They failed to recognize Jesus. During the conversation that followed Jesus opened up the Scriptures to them. “Finally they got close to the village where they were traveling, and he made as if he was traveling on farther. But they used pressure upon him, saying: ‘Stay with us, because it is toward evening and the day has already declined.’ With that he went in to stay with them. And as he was reclining with them at the meal he took the loaf, blessed it, broke it and began to hand it to them. At that their eyes were fully opened and they recognized him; and he disappeared from them.” What heart-throbbing joy must have been theirs when they realized they had entertained, unawares, the resurrected Son of God! That joy would not have been theirs if they had not made it a practice to follow the course of hospitality.—Luke 19:1-9; 24:13-32, NW.
7. Today what similar benefit comes from being hospitable to our brothers?
7 Following the course of hospitality today also brings great enrichment. When we show hospitality to our brothers we benefit in a very practical way: with spiritual stimulation. The conversation of worldlings cannot encourage us in Kingdom work, but the theocratic conversation of our brothers does. Certainly a household that entertains a circuit servant or offers a meal to a pioneer cannot help but benefit and be uplifted by spiritually-enriching conversation.
8. How will a person of good will, by extending hospitality to Jehovah’s witnesses, not lose his reward? What, then, may hospitality be a sign of?
8 Those not in the truth who show a hospitable attitude toward Jehovah’s witnesses will also be enriched. Jesus said they would: “Whoever gives one of these little ones [his followers] only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.” Jesus’ promise does not mean that by a single act of hospitality anyone can get through Armageddon. But it does mean that those who show a hospitable spirit toward Jehovah’s witnesses will receive a fitting reward: spiritual enlightenment. For if people are openhearted materially to us because of who we are, they are likely to receive spiritually in like manner. Sometimes, as during conventions, people invite Jehovah’s witnesses to stay at their homes without charge—just because of who we are. We, in turn, give them bountiful spiritual blessings. Then, if their hearts are right, they come into the truth and are in line for everlasting life. So hospitality given us by people in the world can be, like Zacchaeus’ climbing of the tree, a sign that one is righteously disposed and ready for the truth.—Matt. 10:42, NW.
HOSPITALITY TO STRANGERS
9. Why should we not forget kindness or hospitality to strangers?
9 But what now of the apostolic command not to forget kindness or hospitality to strangers? There is a vital reason for being kind to strangers: it makes it easier for them to get the truth. Did not Jesus provide 5,000 free meals for strangers? Jesus’ hospitality was exercised in connection with advancing the good news. So today hospitality can serve as a channel for advancing the good news.
10, 11. In what ways can we show a hospitable spirit toward strangers? What benefit follows?
10 Many are the ways we can be hospitable and kind. Sometimes brothers invite persons who they believe are lovers of righteousness into their own homes for a meal; they then use the opportunity to open up to them the Scriptures. Not a few employers and fellow workers in factories, stores, etc., have benefited from this hospitality shown by Jehovah’s witnesses.
11 Whenever you do an act of kindness to a stranger he is impressed. He sees that you are different. Your friendly-mindedness and heart-deep kindness contrast with the harshness and coldness of the world. Small acts of kindness bring big results. On a train, for instance, a brother’s helping an elderly man or woman lift a suitcase onto the luggage rack is an act of kindness. A conversation begins, a conversation that turns into a witness. When you go out of your way to give directions to a stranger it leaves a lasting impression; if you have given the stranger some Kingdom literature, he will likely read it with heightened interest because of your kindness. So, often, because of kindness, you open up the way to advance the Kingdom message that would never have existed had you not been kind and hospitable.
12, 13. (a) What parable did Jesus give to illustrate the importance of neighborly hospitality? (b) In contrast to the clergy, how have Jehovah’s witnesses been hospitable to their “half-dead” neighbors?
12 Because of their kindness and hospitality, Jehovah’s witnesses are like the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable: “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and gave him a beating, and went off, leaving him half-dead. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side. But a certain Samaritan traveling the road came down to him and, at seeing him, he was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said: ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’”—Luke 10:30-35, NW.
13 Satan’s beastly system of things is responsible for the present “half-dead” condition of the people. Political, commercial and religious highwaymen have robbed and beaten mankind. In spite of all its professed Christian religions, Christendom, like ancient Judah, is a dangerous place in which to live: “The whole head is ailing, and the whole heart sick; from the sole of the foot to the head there is no health in it—nought but blows and bruises and bleeding wounds, that have not been pressed nor bound up nor softened with oil.” Who have shown neighborly hospitality to these “half-dead” people? Not the clergy! The Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religionists, though observing the “half-dead” spiritual condition of the people, and though commenting about it time and again in the pulpit and press, steer clear of the people, remain aloof, refuse to render healing spiritual aid and so have passed them by on the opposite side of the road, just as the Jewish priest and Levite did. But Jehovah’s witnesses, like the good Samaritan, have gone out of their way to help the spiritually half-dead people. With spiritual oil and wine, the healing truths of God’s Word, they have bound up the wounds of those “that sigh and that cry over all the abominations” in antitypical Jerusalem.—Isa. 1:5, 6, AT; Ezek. 9:4, AS.
14. To extend spiritual hospitality, what kind of preparation is important?
14 We know not where we shall find a “half-dead” stranger who is eager to have his wounds bound up with oil and wine. Just as the Samaritan carried enough oil and wine and was prepared for emergencies, so Jehovah’s witnesses today must always be prepared by having on hand enough oil and wine of God’s Word. Yet sometimes brothers go out in field service without adequate “oil and wine,” and they run out of literature just when they meet a “half-dead” stranger. Some brothers take little or no “oil and wine” with them when they go on a journey. What will they do if they meet a stranger who shows signs of being half-dead spiritually? Since time is limited while you are traveling, it is most difficult to help bind up spiritual wounds unless you have “oil and wine” that can be applied then and there. Even at their homes, brothers sometimes neglect to keep on hand a wide variety of up-to-date Kingdom literature. When a stranger comes to your door, are you supplied with the oil and wine to heal his wounds, whether they are caused by evolution, trinity or spiritism? So be thoughtful. Be prepared. Keep this oil and wine wherever you are, whether on a train, boat or bus, out walking or motoring, or at home. Then when a ‘robbed and beaten’ stranger is found, you will be prepared to be hospitable—anywhere, any time.
15, 16. (a) The Samaritan’s using his “own beast” to bring a stranger to an inn compares with what hospitable act of Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) What quality is a must for servants in a congregation? Why?
15 The good Samaritan did more than just apply oil and wine; he used his own beast to bring the stranger to an inn, where he could receive better attention. So Jehovah’s witnesses gladly use their own automobiles to help a good-will stranger come to the Kingdom Hall, where he is received hospitably and tenderly cared for. The proprietors of ancient inns were often noted for their hospitality. So servants in a congregation should reflect an inn-like, hospitable spirit. So important is this hospitable spirit that without it one is not qualified to be appointed a servant. At 1 Timothy 3:2 (NW) the apostle explains that everyone who would be an overseer must be “a lover of strangers,” or, as the footnote says, “hospitable.”
16 What is it that gives a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses a warmth not found in the world? Is it the Kingdom Hall? No, a Kingdom Hall may be the most beautiful and the newest in the country and still contain the coldest, iciest congregation. Rather, what makes a congregation warm is all the brothers’, especially the servants’, following the course of hospitality.
17. At the Kingdom Hall how can brothers manifest hospitality?
17 Servants, does an atmosphere of welcome prevail at your Kingdom Hall? Are strangers made to feel right at home? Are they taken on a tour of the hall and the charts, convention pictures, etc., explained? Is the Kingdom Hall opened far enough in advance of a public meeting so that a stranger never has to wait outside? Do the brothers readily share their songbooks and The Watchtower with a stranger? In congregations where the servants make it an unfailing point to welcome all, strangers and brothers alike, there is such a glowing warmth that brothers are reluctant to leave the Kingdom Hall after a meeting.
18, 19. (a) What happens when servants forget to follow the course of hospitality? (b) Without introductions how can reserved brothers find an easy approach to strangers?
18 But sometimes servants forget the course of hospitality. Then the whole congregation does. And what happens? Instead of the warm, inn-like atmosphere, a Kingdom Hall gets the railroad-station atmosphere. Do you know what that is? You walk into a railroad station. No one pays any attention to you. No one talks to you. You walk near people but no one looks at you or cares that you are there. You sit next to people; they never so much as lift their heads up from what they are reading. If they do and you smile, they do not smile back. It is just a place to sit and wait; and you are always glad when the waiting is over and you can get out. This is a railroad station. Now what would happen if servants ever allowed a Kingdom Hall to get that railroad-station atmosphere—and a stranger walked in?
19 Why, the stranger would say to himself: ‘Some hospitality! They are kind to me when I talk to them on the street corner or when they come to my door. Now that I’m here in their own midst they don’t even notice me. Maybe they don’t want me. I wonder if I should come back again.’ Yes, that can happen. It has happened. Never let it happen in your congregation. Be on the alert to welcome strangers. If some brothers are naturally reserved, they can find an easy approach to strangers by using questions, such as: “How did you like the talk?” or, “Our meetings are different from those of other religious organizations, aren’t they?” And, of course, there need never be any hesitancy about speaking of the obvious—the weather. After one visit to the Kingdom Hall, a stranger should no longer be a stranger, but welcomed in a warm way, as if he were a brother. “Welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us.”—Rom. 15:7, NW.
20. What does it mean to “follow the course of hospitality”?
20 So we shall indeed do as the apostle commanded: “Follow the course of hospitality.” To “follow” the course of hospitality means more than just having the desire to be hospitable; it means to make a practice of it, to seek after the course, to be ever alert to exercise kindness and to use every opportunity to pour “oil and wine” on the spiritual wounds of strangers. But never think that this enriching course of hospitality is something reserved for strangers. For it is by our kindness and hospitality that we can also show convincing evidence of our brotherly love. “With reference to brotherly love, you do not need us to be writing you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another . . . But we exhort you, brothers, to go on doing it in fuller measure.” By following the course of hospitality toward our brothers, yes, by sharing “with the holy ones according to their needs,” we can show our love “in fuller measure.”—Rom. 12:13; 1 Thess. 4:9, 10, NW.