Showing Hospitality in an Intentional Yet Cheerful Manner

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”

—Genesis 18:3

You just finished your lunch. The sweltering heat of the midday sun was uncomfortable. What would you want to do next? Hmm…you seem to be dozing off. It’s nap time!

Why was Abraham “sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day” when he could have taken a nap instead or done something else? It appeared like it became Abraham’s practice as John Wesley puts it, “to seek an opportunity of doing good, by giving entertainment to strangers.” “Abraham,” says Matthew Henry, “was waiting to entertain any weary traveller.”  What a hospitable man!

After appearing to Abraham to reaffirm his promises, ordaining circumcision as the sign of the covenant, God appeared again to Abraham (Genesis 17, Genesis 18:1-2). God and his two companions with him (Genesis 18:1, 3-5, 8-10, 13, 16, 19:1) took on the form of men. (Abraham saw them as three men standing nearby; he talked with them; he gave them water to wash their feet; and, he gave them food to eat.)

Abraham had a sense of urgency in extending an intentional yet cheerful kindness to the strangers so that “he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them (v.2).” Not only that, he also showed respect to them by bowing low to the ground. (cf. Romans 13:7)

Abraham was not the type of man who would just pronounce well-meaning yet empty benediction, “Go in peace; keep [warm] and well feed,” but does something about the physical needs of the strangers (James 2:16 paraphrased). This very man who sought to extend favors to the strangers did actually beg for favor for them to stay so that he could serve them. “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by,”   Abraham said (v.3). He called one of the strangers “my lord” and twice did he refer to himself as “servant.” (vv. 3, 5)

Abraham was sensitive and keen at seeing the needs, and he was too eager and more than willing to help. He offered practical help. He offered to bring them water so that they could wash their feet and rest under the shade of the tree (v.4). Washing of the feet was customary at that time. Abraham offered to give his visitors something to eat so that they could be refreshed before they go on their way (v. 5).

But the food was not ready-to-eat. There was no refrigerator. Perhaps there was no leftover from their lunch. There was no convenient store in the corner. There was no hotline for fast food delivery. But the spirit of urgency was there. So, Abraham hurried back into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” (v.6)

“Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it (v.7).” Although the preparation was done in a hurry, it was well thought of. Abraham prepared and gave the best of himself and of what he had—fine flour and a choice, tender calf. The hospitable Abraham made the stay of his visitors very refreshing and comfortable. He made them felt welcome. He even stood near them under a tree while they were eating.

The writer of Hebrews must have had Abraham in mind when he wrote the exhortation, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).”

This story, though on a different light, reminds me of the good Samaritan who, as he travelled down from Jerusalem to Jericho, came to where the man was—the man who was robbed, stripped of his clothes, beaten, left half-dead, and ignored by others. The Samaritan when he saw the dying man took pity on him, went to him and bandaged his wounds, took the risk and was willing to be inconvenienced to take him to the innkeeper so that he would be taken care of. The good Samaritan took the extra mile and was willing to paid any extra expense incurred in taking care of a total stranger. (Luke 10:25-37)

What if God did not show us kindness through Christ? (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:8-10)

We are given example by the Lord. Paul in Romans 12:13 exhorts us to practice hospitality. In what practical way can you practice hospitality? Are you willing to be inconvenienced? At what cost? You don’t have to tell us. Just do it with a cheerful heart–all for the glory of the Lord.


Author: Godfrey Gregg