More Than a Meal

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the opportunity to practice hospitality. There’s something about colder weather that makes us want to gather inside and enjoy food and fellowship, and of course the holidays are a great excuse for parties. I’ve only been married for two years, so I’m still new at being the hostess, but I’m already developing my own perspective on hospitality. And here’s what I’m learning…

Hospitality is about people, not about your house or the food or the decorations or how the table is set. It’s not about having matching towels in the bathroom or gourmet appetizers or an amazing punch that everyone will want the recipe for. Yes, it’s good to clean your house so that people will be comfortable, but if you make the “things” more important than the fellowship, you’ll really miss out on what you could have.

I was thinking about this the other day as I prepared for company. With a busy (and teething) nine-month old, I was doing pretty well to have the bathroom clean and the laundry out of sight. Our meal was simple: baked chicken, rice, bread, a vegetable. My friend offered to bring dessert (always say yes… it allows your guests to give, which adds to the “togetherness” of the meal). The table was set simply: a tablecloth, a couple of small pumpkins and a few candles served as decorations. Definitely not fancy. But as we ate and enjoyed each others company, I couldn’t help thinking of a certain house in Bethany that Jesus visited for dinner…

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10: 38-42)

The first time I thought about this passage in conjunction with my own hospitality, I thought perhaps I was being a bit presumptuous. After all, Jesus isn’t visiting me, and sitting in my house teaching. But the more I thought about it, the more it felt like a good application. Our fellow believers are the body of Christ, aren’t they? So to have fellowship with them — to encourage and challenge one another, to share God’s grace, to build each other up with the words of our Lord – that’s the “good portion,” isn’t it? Certainly a much better portion than being “anxious and troubled about many things.”

There’s nothing wrong with having a fancy dinner. Just check your heart and motivation. Are you trying to impress, or serve? And if you find yourself getting stressed over the wrinkles in the tablecloth, or the 35-ingredient first course, I’d suggest you step back and reassess what you’re trying to accomplish. The world can “entertain.” Only God’s children can have the kind of fellowship that feeds our souls.

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conversations between sisters in Christ

  1. says

    I SO agree. I never wanted to have people over when I was pregnant because we were living in a messy 1 rm apartment and I wasn’t doing much cooking or cleaning.

    Now we’re in a bigger apartment and I realize that it doesn’t mean anything without the people and the hospitality. If you could see the state of disrepair of most apartments here in St. Petersburg and yet the warmth with which people receive guests…there is much to learn! Some of my favorite “hospitality” moments were actually in a college dorm.

    Also, I am guilty of always trying new recipes that are too complicated for my cooking skills…when will I learn? Maybe we should have a recipe exchange on here? ;)

  2. Samantha says

    What a good post! I love how you said, “(always say yes… it allows your guests to give, which adds to the “togetherness” of the meal).”
    I love it when I ask if I can bring something and people say “Yes”. :)
    Hospitality is about the people- not how clean or fancy things are. SO true!

  3. Nathalie Dorado says

    Amen! Im especially touched by the last line. Less stressful and more signifigant when your intentions are to glorify the Lord in all that we do.

  4. Alice W says

    This is a lovely article, Jeannie. Thank you. I’m very struck by how much of Jesus’ ministry centred around sharing a meal and hospitality. Sometimes it’s the little things we do for others that make the biggest difference. :-)