31 Days of Simple Goodness: The Key to Hospitality

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in Blog Posts | 0 comments

I think I finally get why Martha was so frustrated with Mary the day that Jesus and others were in her home.

What’s the key to hospitality?

Remember the story?

Martha was busy.
Mary was not.
Martha got mad.
Mary was clueless.
Martha told Jesus on her sister.
Jesus had the final, kind word.
Mary chose what was best.
The end.

I have taught on this passage before and I’ve read books on it, too.  We women love this story and we hate this story.

We love it because we have been in Martha’s sandals caught up in our robes as we made our guests feel welcome by our selfless preparations.  We began with great intentions.  We ended in tears because we were bearing so much to do on our own! “HELP ME! If you help me then we’ll finish faster and I, too, can sit awhile with Jesus and the guests…(sniffle).”  We vow to not repeat this pattern but like pregnancy and childbirth, we forget the pangs and do it all again.

We hate it because we want to be like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet amidst all the frenzy soaking in His wisdom and laughing at His jokes, giddy with His attention toward us.  “Oh Jesus, tell everybody about the time you were hammering in your dad’s workshop and the goat came running through!  It’s a funny story, y’all!”

Yet, I get why Martha was called to be busy, focusing on all the preparations.  She understood what the word “hospitality” means in the biblical sense. 

Hospitality means to show kindness to strangers and/or to entertain strangers.

I have thought all this time that she was stressed out the wazoo because Jesus was in her home.  But, Jesus was her friend who stayed in her home on numerous occasions as He was traveling through.  He had seen her home with the dirty pots, the floor with crumbs, the bed linens hanging out back, and her hair dirty.  But, those strangers coming into her home had not.  She wanted it to be nice for them!

On those rare occasions when I have opened my home to strangers, I have gone to greater lengths to make sure the dust was gone, the food was perfect, and the environment welcoming.  It’s a first impression after all!

In this story of the two sisters and their Savior friend, I believe Jesus is saying to them and to us that we should make our homes inviting, but not so much in the way we spruce them up for others.  But rather, we should first make our hearts welcoming to our guests by having spent time with Him.  By doing so, our spirits our more alive and gracious.  We owe no apology for the dust or the undone things because if our hearts are set up to be welcoming to strangers, our home’s appearance is going to be okay without having tended to the minutiae of the nitty-gritty as pets run scurrying for safe cover away from the shouts of our hospitable (ahem?) spirits.

But Jesus has the last word in the story and I think we can take it to heart as we prepare for guests like Martha did yet desire to be Mary at His feet.  He never fussed at Martha.  We read it that way sometimes.  I think He was not fussing at Martha because He knew she knew His word on hospitality but in that moment He also knew what she really needed was to sit at His feet so her heart would be more hospitable to the strangers (and her own sister) entering her home to see Him.

And that’s the key to hospitality, my friend!

To prepare our hearts before Him so that when others come to our homes, it is Jesus they see and take note of, is the key.  Not our shiny counters, nor pretty sofa pillows.  Not the scented candle, nor the fingertip towels.  Yes, those things are nice, but the true welcoming Presence of your Savior friend is far more memorable to others coming into your home than any of the tangibles they’ll soon forget.

It’s that simple.  And it’s good.

{PS-While sharing with my husband the gist of today’s post, he reminded me of something.  If you have little ones with whom to share sweet books, my husband’s all-time favorite as a little boy was If Jesus Came to My House.  It has been re-illustrated and is the same sweet story but with color pictures. This story shares what hospitality is like from a child’s perspective.  I hope you’ll grab a copy for your family to share.} 

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