How hospitable do we need to be?

The Bible tells us to show hospitality to strangers.

Heb. 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

What is the Biblical concept of hospitality? How much effort do we need to put into hospitality in order for God to consider us hospitable? Let’s begin answering this by looking at an extreme example of hospitality, then we will consider if our standard of hospitality measures up to God’s standard.

Genesis 19 tells us about two angels who visited Sodom. Lot did not know the men, but he went out of his way to help them and protect them. As you read the verses below, think about the words highlighted in red and what they tell us about Lot’s concept of hospitality.

Gen. 19:1 ¶ Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.

Gen. 19:2 And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.”

Gen. 19:3 Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 

Gen. 19:4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter;

Gen. 19:5 and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” 

Gen. 19:6 But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him,

Gen. 19:7 and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly.

Gen. 19:8 “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 

Gen. 19:9 But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.

Gen. 19:10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.

Gen. 19:11 They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.

Hospitality continuum: At one extreme, hospitality is the absolute lowest priority. At the other extreme, hospitality is the absolute highest priority. Where are you on this continuum? Where does God want you to be?Other than the fact that Lot valued his guest more than his own daughters, Lot was a good example of showing hospitality to strangers and entertaining angels without knowing it. Lot did not know these two men, but he went to great lengths to accommodate them. He greeted them, he fed them, and he even offered to house them overnight. Even though we are appalled that he would allow his daughters to be raped in order to protect his guest, his willingness to sacrifice his daughters shows how greatly he valued his guest. Verse 8 specifically says that Lot was determined to protect them because they had come under the shelter of his roof.

Because of the fact that Lot was willing to sacrifice his own daughters, I earlier called this an extreme example of hospitality. I don’t believe God expects us to take hospitality to that extreme; however, Lot’s proactive approach to hospitality is a good example for us. Lot did not wait for the men to ask for help, Lot approached them and offered his help.

What about us? Are we hospitable? Are we proactive about hospitality? Do we greet new people and offer to help them or do we wait for them to ask for help and secretly hope they don’t ask? Are we willing to go out of our way to help a stranger or do we merely do enough to avoid being rude? If we want God to give us credit for being hospitable, we need to do more than be passive about hospitality, we need to be proactive about it.

Heb. 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.


Further Reading

Does God have regard for you?

What should we know about angels?

Do we really want our culture to go in this direction?

What should we do when someone harms us?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”