Do You “Follow the Course of Hospitality”?
IT WAS a warm day. A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, young and old, were working hard, cleaning, painting, and doing various chores in the process of renovating a Kingdom Hall. By mid-afternoon, they were getting rather tired, and some were sitting down for a little rest.
Just then, in walked three of their Witness sisters, carrying sandwiches, cookies, cakes, coffee, tea, and other drinks. What a pleasant surprise for those tired souls! The spontaneous expression of hospitality and love on the part of the three sisters not only refreshed the workers physically but also contributed much toward the warm and loving spirit among the entire association of brothers and sisters there that afternoon.
A Mark of True Christianity
Hospitality and love, of course, are not limited to such special occasions. Regarding his genuine followers, the Founder of true Christianity, Jesus Christ, pointed out: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” Likewise, the apostle Paul admonished his fellow Christians: “Follow the course of hospitality.” (John 13:35; Romans 12:13) In other words, the course of hospitality motivated by unselfish love for others is a way of life for true Christians.
Such qualities, however, do not come automatically when one becomes a Christian. Rather, one must work hard to cultivate them. This is especially so in today’s world, where the love of most people has grown cold, just as the Bible foretold. (Matthew 24:12) But what a contrast where such qualities exist! In a closely knit family, members enjoy one another’s company and are happy to spend time together. Similarly, when members of the Christian congregation associate regularly in meetings, the field ministry, and on other occasions, they really get to know one another. They become true friends, perhaps even closer than family members. (Proverbs 18:24) This bond of friendship between fellow witnesses of Jehovah serves as a strong hedge against the unwholesome influences of the world.
The Role of Christian Women
Even though all Christians are admonished to “follow the course of hospitality,” Christian women play a significant role in the matter. In fact, is it not usually the women, particularly the wives, who do most of the actual work in connection with showing hospitality? When the husband invites certain ones in the congregation home for some Christian fellowship, is it not the wife who usually cleans the house, prepares the food and drink, and does the cleanup work afterward? Even though the husband and children may be able, and should be willing, to lend a helping hand, it is inevitably the wife who bears the burden of seeing to it that everything is cared for properly.
Commendably, many Christian wives willingly exert themselves in order to show true hospitality to their spiritual brothers and sisters. Take, for example, Dip Yee, a full-time pioneer minister in Hong Kong whose husband is an elder in the local congregation. Even though it does mean a lot of work for her when they invite the brothers and sisters, sometimes even a whole book study group, to their home, she happily shows hospitality. “We keep the meal simple,” she says. “It is good to see the brothers enjoy the association so much and to be built up by it.” Indeed, through their hospitality Christian women play a very large role in building up a warm spirit in the congregation.
In view of all that is involved in showing hospitality, surely it calls for industriousness and self-sacrifice on the part of Christian women. But they can rest assured that their labors of love are greatly appreciated by their husbands and other grateful recipients. Of course, occasionally some may not show proper appreciation for what is done for them, but that is really no cause for becoming discouraged or resentful, or to stop being hospitable. Remember, while it is gratifying to receive expressions of thanks from others and to realize that our efforts are appreciated, we want to show hospitality primarily because it is the right and loving thing to do. Above all, it pleases Jehovah God that we do so.
Having the Balanced View
In these days of rising prices, some may hesitate to show hospitality because they feel that they cannot afford to do so. This is where it is important for us to have a balanced view of the matter. While having something special in the way of food and drink may add to the pleasantness of the occasion, it is not the most important factor. God’s Word very wisely points this out: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.” (Proverbs 15:17) What we have or serve is not the important thing. What is important and appreciated is the mutually upbuilding association and the spirit of love that we show.
Consider the case of Fung Hing, a sister in her 40’s with an opposing husband. She lives in a very small one-room unit in one of the mammoth public housing estates in Hong Kong. She is by no means well off. In fact, she has to do part-time work to supplement the family income. Yet, she is generous with what she has. When the Witnesses in the congregation come to her neighborhood to do house-to-house preaching work, she often invites them into her home for a little refreshment. Such a loving gesture not only is appreciated by her fellow Christians but also serves to show that one does not have to be well-to-do to show true hospitality.
As much as we may try to be moderate in our entertaining, however, we may still find it necessary to give up certain things in order to be able to show hospitality. Is it worth it? Certainly, if we are motivated by true Christian love. For what love is there without sacrifice? Both Jehovah and Jesus showed their love for mankind by making great sacrifices—Jehovah offering his Son, and Jesus his own perfect human life.—John 3:16; 15:13.
The early Christians also followed a loving course. Regarding the brothers in Macedonia, the apostle Paul wrote: “During a great test under affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty made the riches of their generosity abound. For according to their actual ability, yes, I testify, beyond their actual ability this was, while they of their own accord kept begging us with much entreaty for the privilege of kindly giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4) Their “deep poverty” and their going “beyond their actual ability” made their generosity that much more genuine and touching.
Whether one is poor or relatively well off, however, and in spite of modern conveniences, it still takes time, energy, and resources to show hospitality. Basically, then, the question is: Are we willing to exert ourselves so that others may enjoy the blessings of Christian association? Remember, “the generous soul will itself be made fat,” says the Bible proverb, “and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.” We can also take comfort in the thought that when we show hospitality in obedience to Jehovah’s expressed command and in imitation of his grand example, we are in effect “lending to Jehovah.”—Proverbs 11:25; 19:17.
Whom to Invite?
“When you spread a dinner or evening meal,” Jesus once said, “do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors.” Why not? “Perhaps sometime they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you.” (Luke 14:12) The point Jesus made here is not so much that we should not invite our friends and relatives for a meal. He did enjoy a meal with his friends at times, such as in the home of Mary and Martha. The thought is that our display of hospitality should not be motivated by the idea of getting something in return.
As Jesus went on to show, the ones we should consider first in extending invitations are those who will benefit most from the association. (Luke 14:13) They may include those in need of encouragement, those who are new in the truth, those who are timid or tend to be withdrawn, and those who are elderly. The upbuilding effect such association can have is seen from the remarks of Oi Yuk, an elderly sister who is very zealous but suffers from poor health: “The brothers often invite me to their get-togethers and show me kindness in many ways. It makes me so happy to be part of the big family!”
Obviously, the purpose of such gatherings goes beyond mere socializing. Rather, it is to build up one another and to strengthen the bond of love among fellow worshipers of Jehovah. Therefore, the emphasis should be on maintaining an upbuilding and encouraging atmosphere rather than on the richness of food and drink. Likewise, some thought should be given to the activities and conversations on such occasions. While not all activities need to center on the Bible or all conversations be on Scriptural topics, it would be wise and loving to keep them always upbuilding and encouraging. Competitive games, idle gossip, or disparaging remarks certainly should be avoided.—Ephesians 4:29, 31.
Rich Rewards Await the Hospitable
Though one should not show hospitality with the idea of getting something in return, this does not mean that the hospitable person gets no reward at all. On the contrary, showing true hospitality brings many rewards, though unsought. It helps one make new friends, and it strengthens old bonds. It inspires others also to cultivate the spirit of generosity and hospitality. (Luke 6:38; Proverbs 11:25) Above all, the most hospitable Person in the universe, our loving Creator Jehovah God, will see to it that the truly hospitable ones never suffer any real want, because he appreciates those who “follow the course of hospitality” as he does.