Growing up in a preacher’s family afforded me some blessings that were priceless. Some of my most vivid memories as a child have to do with those times when gospel preachers, as well as others, would visit in our home, sit around our cramped dining room table, and enjoying my mom’s good cooking. In fact, when I was quite young (and maybe not so young) I remember sneaking out of my bedroom when I was supposed to be in bed, creeping as closely as I could to the room that everyone was in, staying up late talking, visiting, and laughing until they cried. I didn’t want to miss any of the good times! You’d hardly believe the carrying on unless you were a first-hand witness! Isn’t it true that you really don’t get to know people until you have them in your home and you can sit down and enjoy a meal together and fellowship with one another on a more personal level?
One of the qualifications of an elder, who must have a wife, is to be hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2). I think it goes without saying that his wife is expected to be hospitable, as well. It’s interesting to me that there are no biblical qualifications set forth specifically for the preacher’s wife. God desires all Christian women be hospitable. In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives some instructions to Timothy regarding widows. A widow, in order to be supported by the church, should have a track record, so to speak, of service to others. Paul told Timothy “Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Timothy 5:9,10). In other words, if she is a widow over age 60 and she has no other family to care for her, support from the church is still dependent upon whether or not she has demonstrated a life of service to others, including hospitality. That includes elders’ wives, deacons’ wives, preachers’ wives, and every other woman in the church.
You know the cliche’: ABILITY + OPPORTUNITY = RESPONSIBILITY. The reality is that each of us has the responsibility to show hospitality. It’s up to us to improve our ability and take advantage of the opportunities, and there are opportunities all around us. That being said, it is also true that as the preacher’s wife, we often have more opportunities to show hospitality to others. Sometimes this is due to the fact that we are made aware of opportunities earlier than others. Additionally, we may find ourselves in a congregation where very few people are actively involved. The reasons may be quite varied – some may be elderly and it takes what little energy they have just to get to services. Others may not know any better. If they’ve not grown up in a home that practices hospitality, then it can be very intimidating and uncomfortable. It’s amazing to me how many people have not had the benefit of growing up in a home in which guests were invited in. This even includes preachers’ wives!
One thing that preachers’ wives must guard against is thinking we have to do everything ourselves. If we are not careful, we can rob other people of the joy of hospitality. Instead of taking on all of the work ourselves, think of ways you can include other women of the congregation. Sometimes people are willing, but they just don’t know what to do or how to do it. Help other women, especially young women who may not have had good role models in their mothers. Teach them some practical tips that will make it less stressful to show hospitality to others.
What people often don’t realize is that the ones showing the hospitality are often the ones who come away feeling blessed. If my mother had not been hospitable, our family would not have had the opportunity to get to know many wonderful people. Those personal times with people serve to create bonds with one another that simply could not be created otherwise. Just think of what Mary and Martha would have missed had they not shown hospitality to our Lord. What if Prisca and Aquila failed to show hospitality to Paul?
Next week I’d like to discuss some practical aspects of hospitality. What is it, exactly, and how can we go about it without getting stressed. Do you have any tips to share?