Hospitality (Hebrews 13:1–3)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Amid the various concluding exhortations in Hebrews 13, two have a special relevance for work. Let us begin with Hebrews 13:2 where it says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:1–2). The verse alludes to Abraham and Sarah entertaining visitors (Gen. 18:1–15) who turn out to be angels (Gen. 19:1), the very bearers of the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:10), which figures so prominently in this book (Heb. 6:13–15; 11:8–20). These verses also remind us of the many acts of hospitality by Jesus (e.g., Matt. 14:13–21; Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17; John 2:1–11; 6:1–14; 21:12–13) and those who followed him (e.g., Mark 1:31; Luke 5:9), and parables such as the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1–4; Luke 14:15–24).

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Hospitality may be one of the most underrated forms of work in the world—at least, in the modern Western world. Many people work hard to practice hospitality, even though for most people it is unpaid work. Yet few, if asked what their occupation is, would say, “I offer hospitality.” We are more likely to see it as a diversion or a private interest, rather than a service to God. Yet hospitality is a great act of faith—that God’s provision will bear the expense of giving away food, drink, entertain­ment, and shelter; that the risk of damage or theft of property will be bearable; that time spent with strangers will not diminish time with family and friends; and, most of all, that strange people are worth car­ing about. Even if we have to go out of our way to give it—to prison, for example (Heb. 13:3)—hospitality is one of the most significant acts of work or service that human beings can do (Matt. 25:31–40).

In addition, almost all workers have the opportunity to practice an ethos of hospitality in the course of their jobs. Many people work in hos­pitality industries. Do we recognize that we are fulfilling Hebrews 13:1–3 when we provide a clean, well-maintained hotel room, or a healthful, delicious dinner, or cater a party or reception? No matter the industry or occupation, every interaction with a co-worker, customer, supplier, client, or stranger in the workplace is a chance to make others feel wel­comed and valued. Imagine the witness to God’s love if Christians had a reputation for hospitality in the course of ordinary business.