You’ve all heard the story. The new pastor of a local church disguises himself as a homeless person and sits outside of the church begging for money. Few people engage in conversation with him. Nobody offers him any assistance. He enters the church and sits down in the front and is asked by the ushers if he would sit in the back. He sits in the back and then later on in the service is introduced by the Elders as the new senior pastor of the church. (That’s the Reader’s Digest version — if you have no idea what I’m talking about feel free to check it out here.)
Now. Do I believe that that story actually happened? Probably not. But the heart of it always comes to my mind as we prepare to enter the holiday season. And it was especially brought to my mind during our Romans study a few weeks ago.
Paul writes Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Hold up. Wait a minute. I’m all about tossing my spare change to someone in need and sure, I’ll help someone buy food if they ask for it. But you’re telling me that I need to be looking for chances to show hospitality?
I don’t know about you all, but I’m a pretty selfish individual. I don’t give freely all that often. My immediate response when presented with a chance to give or show hospitality is “what is this going to cost me?” and based on some statistics about the American populace I think I’m in good company. Check it:
Forbes says that Americans spend $327.7 million on turkey, potatoes & onions each year in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.
The National Retail Federation says that in 2013-2014 Americans spent over $600 billion on Christmas.
The National Retail Federation projects that Americans spent a little over $8 billion on Halloween this year.
Meanwhile, in 2015 American’s donated a little less than $360 billion to a variety of charities and nonprofit organizations.
We spent nearly double on Christmas what we gave away in an entire year. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that hundreds of billions of dollars being donated is a great thing. Much of my professional career has been working at nonprofits and so I know first hand the gratitude that is felt by giving. But y’all….we are called to so much more than this.
Think about your own life. What would it look like to give truly sacrificially? And I don’t just mean break out your checkbook when you see a commercial that pulls at your heart strings — but what if you really gave? What if we said “Hey mom and dad. I really don’t need anything this year — so why don’t we spend our money on a family at the homeless shelter?” Or what we if we said “Grandma, I don’t really need 4 plates of turkey at Thanksgiving this year — do you mind if I invite a friend of mine who just lost his parents?”
Jump back up to that Romans passage. Does Paul simply call us to respond when we are made aware of needs?
Seek to show hospitality.
That means opening our eyes to the community around us. That means living intentionally. That means letting our pride down and being willing to share when we have needs with those around us. That means closing our mouths long enough to listen when other people are sharing their needs.
And this isn’t just financial. Remember how I said I work in the nonprofit world? Hospitality for my family may look like offering to babysit for friends, or having someone over for dinner, or just sending an encouraging letter to one of our students who we know is struggling. There is no black and white formula for what hospitality should look like. But there is a black and white formula that says we should be seeking it show it.
Take a look at how you’re spending your time and resources this week. What parts can you reallocate and use to show hospitality to others? Share your plan with someone close to you for accountability.
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Cover Photo: Wouldpkr T B