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Open-Handed Hospitality

Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

1 Kings 17:8-9

Session One: Being generous with your hospitality

more than an inconvenience

Our lives depend on water. It controls our bodily functions and carries along our daily tasks of brushing teeth, flushing toilets, making dinner, and washing dishes and clothes. In times of drought, we observe water bans by washing fewer loads of laundry, allowing our lawns to yellow, shortening our showers, and dealing with dusty cars. We may hear alarming news reports, or see hikes in the prices of produce, but in countries with more developed economies, we rarely experience droughts as much more than an inconvenience. We bide our time and wait for rain.

eat and die

In 1 Kings 17:8–16, we meet a woman who has waited for rain. She is gathering sticks to light a makeshift fire to cook the dregs of flour and oil she has left for herself and her son. A widespread famine has driven her to the brink of death, and she knows she cannot hold on much longer. All her neighbors in Zarephath, a town on the Mediterranean coast once known for its exports of wine, olive oil, purple dye, textiles, glassware, and pottery have been brought to their knees. Then the prophet Elijah shows up at the town’s gates and asks her for water. As she turns to get him some, he also asks her for bread—a request that stops her dead in her tracks.

“I swear, as surely as your GOD lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit,” she says. “I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die” (1 Kings 17:12 MSG).

Can’t we feel her desperation, her desire to help, and her inability to do so? Elijah spies her faith immediately in her response—“as surely as your God lives”—and tells her that it is God who sent him and who will fill the jar and jug. “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” (v. 14).

obey and live

The text says that “she went and did as Elijah said” (v. 15). Picture her as she turns to walk to her house—a humble one, for a widow scrounging for firewood hints at her condition. Imagine the dust from the parched ground powdering her feet, the sun pouring over her like hot water, and Elijah following behind. What must have gone through her mind?

Her faithful obedience to welcome Elijah into her home and bake for him the meal she intended to sustain her and her son for a few final days yielded astonishing abundance: “And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah” (vv. 15–16).

you don't need fine china

In a culture chock-full of KonMari, “Instagram worthy” homes, HGTV, and countless cooking shows, we may shy away from inviting others into our living spaces for a meal, let alone a cup of coffee. We may perceive our spaces to be too small, too old, too dirty, or too cluttered. Or maybe our “jars” are literally empty, and we are experiencing famine like the widow because of real financial struggles as we wonder about our next meal. If we base our hospitality on these terms, however, we miss the point. In Christ our condition with Christ is similar to the widow’s at the end of the story—abundant and alive. Hospitality then, is a matter of life and death. How we respond to others can open or shut the door to the gospel.

Therefore, whether our pantries are stocked or stark, we can simply give what we have, just as the widow did, in obedience to Christ, and trust him to make what he will of our obedience and offer.

We don’t have to fuss over our spaces, tidy up, or make apologies. We can smile and say, “Come in,” and trust that the living water2 and living bread3 will nourish our guests with a message of “Come, follow Me,” which will forever ring of welcome (John 7:38; 6:35).


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Daily Question

In what ways are you practicing Biblical hospitality? In what ways could you improve? What would make that possible? Consider what may hinder you from extending hospitality to others and ask God to grow you in that area.

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Comments (9)

Hi Lori hope this gets to you, please let me know

I first heard the word hospitality when I answered question s at my first retreat. I was told that my gift was hospitality. I remember thinking to myself :well I worked in enough hotels as a room cleaner for many years. Don’t really consider that a gift. Then I worked at the Centre in the kitchen and I considered that feeding people was hospitality. I now see that I had pieces of what hospitality is but just starting to understand the meaning of this word. I need to stop worrying about how our home looks, what will I be making to eat etc. I waste so much time trying to make everything perfect and I finally get that if I am giving and doing my best then it’s good enough. for me it begins will fully trusting that I am enough. We are in a new area, the few people that we know are family and parents that we met at the arena. This was easy with my Wiarton family (which I terribly miss) after this crisis is over I face the challenge of sharing my gifts here. Keeping my eyes on Jesus, trusting that in God’s time I will be shown where and how He will use me to do His will

My fear is "I’m not good enough, my place is not good enough, my skills are not good enough" But then I remember But Christ accepted the "Not good enough" and made them Good enough. In my Child rearing years our home was messy, full of kids stuff, husband stuff , my stuff. But you know its funny it was also full of people. People would drop in on the way by, kids would drop in to see their friends. There was never a meal offered but a bag of chips or a plate of homemade cookies. I was usually embarrassed but no-one ever said anything. They would just sit now and we’d talk, laugh, argue, and just have fun. My kids often tell me now of the memories they have and none of the 5 ever mentions that the place was messy. Did it really matter NO!!

1.Welcoming people for meals, providing meals for people with new babies, inviting people to the fire, planning community group. 2. not worrying about the house (how clean or old it is), inviting more often, planning more, inviting people that I don’t know as well. 3. taking time to plan, pray for opportunity 4.

I love to invite people into my home. I especially like to have people over whom I know are not always invited places. I love to spend time with people. I need to worry less about the quality of my house. I tend not to invite people I feel may judge me or that I percieve as being better than me. I need to start inviting more people over and widen my hospitality circle. I need to get to know more people.

We invite people out to our place, but i could definitely grow in just inviting people into my life daily. It’s hard right now when I don’t see many people other than my family and friends to reach out of that circle, but I have been enjoying sometimes when I go somewhere just having a simple conversation with someone. I could also grow in welcoming every single person, even the ones I don’t feel comfortable around or I don’t know very well. I have a lot of growing to do, but I know God is working in my life.

I practice daily hospitality by conversing with people I come in contact with. I try not to be intimidated or to shy to speak to everyone and anyone.
I need to improve in many areas; but, I need not be concerned that my home is inconveniently located. I need to remind myself to offer hospitality and not be concerned with rejection.

I used to entertain a lot. Having friends over, big family dinners and corporate dinners. It is so much work for me now, as I get older, that I tend not to anymore. I am o.c.d. on having it be perfect. I wear myself out before the guests are even here. My daughter says I should just go buy take out or treat my guests out at a restaurant. But to me, that is not the same. And no one just comes over for a cup of coffee or an ice tea anymore. I tend to do more for people or give more now, to make up for it I guess.

This study is so good! So I am finding that the same lavish generosity and love that God IS, he puts out of me and any given point that I am willing to be available or used- it could even be a generosity of attention or listening- or a simple gesture – just generosity of spirit in general I am finding is a fruit of the spirit – it’s all Him – and I am conduit- and it HAS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON OTHERS AND ME AT SAME TIME ! It’s definately Gods way of giving people a taste of Himsef and that draws them to Him!

I connect with others throughout my day and on the street, but I am ashamed of my home. I could be less shy to share my space and know that how it looks is not the point. I have been hurt by those that I have invited into my space before and so I find myself more hesitant to invite others in. I need to grow and heal and continue to reach out.

Dear God, may you help me to over come my own doubts and fears and to trust that as I practice generosity I will walk into the blessings that await. I am so grateful for opportunities to practice living in accordance to who you are and who you call me to be. In your precious name, Amen.

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