In the fourth chapter of his first letter, Peter writes:
9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Now, the issue we must decide is: Are these two sentences one thought (that is, is Peter using the spiritual gift of hospitality as an example to instruct his readers to use their spiritual gifts for each other’s benefit), or are they two separate instructions (that is, is hospitality just an extension of the discussion of showing love that immediately precedes it, and the commission to use spiritual gifts another, separate, extension)? Well, let us consider that a spiritual gift, in the most basic of terms, is some special ability that God gives His followers in order for them to be better able to support other Christians and to bring more people into salvation through faith in Him. Are some people better at being hospitable than others? Yes. Does it seem perfectly reasonable that God may enable a person to be particularly hospitable? Yes. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate to accept hospitality as a spiritual gift, while also keeping in mind that it is something we are all expected to strive for (as is the case with many spiritual gifts – we are all commanded to share the gospel, for example, but those with the gift of evangelism are simply better at it).
So, with all that established, what precisely is hospitality? Well, the Greek word is philoxenia, which literally means “love of strangers.” Philoxenia and its variant philoxenos are only translated as hospitable and hospitality, and are found a grand total of six times in the New Testament:- In 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8, it is listed as one of the character traits a person with the gift of pastoring (read: leader in the church, not just the head preacher) must exhibit.
- In 1 Timothy 5:10, it is listed as a character trait that a widow must have exhibited in order to receive free charity from the church.
- In Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2, it is listed as a primary expression of God’s love flowing through you.
Now let’s look at a few examples of how this looks in our world today (just a *brief* list):- A person who, when they see someone new attending church for the first time, makes a point to welcome them and invites them out to lunch or over for dinner.
- A person who is willing to take in travelling Christians who can’t afford a hotel, or welcomes overflow house guests from other members of the congregation to stay in their own home.
- A person who is just generally friendly to everyone, even random strangers they run into at the grocery store.
This one is a bit hard to describe or categorize right off the bat…let’s look at a few examples from Scripture before I launch into a jumbled speech. ;-)
Acts chapter 9:36 Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did.
37 And it came about at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.
38 And since Lydda was near Jopaa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, “Do not delay to come to us.”
39 And Peter arose and went with them. And when he had come, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.
Exodus chapter 31:
1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, [regarding creating God’s tabernacle – His temporary temple]
2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.
3 And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship,
4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze,
5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.
6 And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you.
From these two passages, and particularly from the second one, it is abundantly clear that in some cases, God gives His followers certain physical, tactile skills – even trades, related to their jobs – that He intends them to use specifically for His glory. This definitely falls into our definition of spiritual gifts. (Now, while I 100% believe that all talents are given to us by God, I personally think that only those talents used somehow to specifically and directly bring glory to God and be involved in ministry work should be classified as out-and-out spiritual gifts.)
Now, there are probably a million examples of this spiritual gift at work, because God can use any ability to advance His kingdom! Consider 1 Corinthians 12:5, “And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” I’m going to list just a few here:- A musician who serves on the worship team at church, or writes and/or performs Christian songs.
- A writer or artist who produces books, paintings, poems, sculptures, articles, photographs that glorify God and/or share Christian messages.
- A skilled cook who donates their food to bake sales for the church, to a local homeless shelter, or to some other sort of food-providing ministry.
- A scientist who uses their knowledge to argue for Intelligent Design.
- A mechanic helps single women and widows in his church with oil changes for their cars for free.
- A tech guru who sets up a website for the church.
This spiritual gift is mentioned in a long passage on marriage in 1 Corinthians. We’ll look at just a few verses here, since we are specifically honing in on this one subtopic:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn [with lust, presumably].
32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord;
33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife,
34 and his interests are divided; And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
So, what’s Paul saying here?- Marriage is not a bad thing (it is a wonderful gift from God to humans), but if you can handle it, staying single is better simply because you’ll have more time to devote to God. Think about it – when you’re in a relationship, you have to devote a lot of time to spending time together in order to keep the relationship strong – and this is time that could be spent in prayer, Bible study, ministry, etc.
- So, although we have seen above that marriage is good, but singleness is better, here’s the clincher – if you can handle it. People who skip marrying run the risk of struggling with lust and falling into sexual immorality.
- In this, staying single is not for everyone. It is something that God has gifted a select few with – the spiritual gift of being able to handle being single and to resist sexual temptation.
One more note on this – singleness can be a temporary gift. That is, it can be part of God’s plan for your life for you to remain purposefully and willingly single for a while (and during that time, he will definitely gift you with the strength to handle it), and then to marry later on. (I speak from experience here.)
And Just a Quick Bit of News and Housekeeping…
We’ve just got six spiritual gifts left to study:- Prophecy
- War/Physical Protection
I anticipate these taking up two more posts, probably on (late) Friday and Monday. After that, we will return to verse-by-verse Bible study, this time through the Gospel of Matthew.
I’m planning to do a major revamp of the layout of this blog, both for visual appealingness and for ease of use, very soon - *hopefully* this weekend (but possibly next). Is there anything you’d like to see added or changed? I’d love input – help me help you! ^_^ If there is anything you’d like to mention, you can leave a comment below or drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks!
Let’s Make it a Conversation
Do you, or does anyone close to you, have any of the spiritual gifts we talked about today?Can you think of more examples of hospitality and various crafts?
Anything else you want to say? :-)