Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Friday, June 21, 2019
Entertaining Versus Hospitality
Entertaining Versus Hospitality
Denise grew up in a very wealthy home. Her parents were both prominent and highly regarded businesspersons who hosted many affairs in their palatial home. Many were the evenings in which Denise dined sumptuously with her parent's guests, almost all of whom were individuals of social prominence. Guest lists often included celebrities who were involved in international business enterprises abroad and desired her parent's influence to secure a particular outcome. Denise's home was listed in several magazines not only due to its size and decor but also because of its spectacular and opulent gardens. To maintain and even upgrade their lavish lifestyle, Denise's parents spared no expense. Unfortunately, Denise had come to think of her way of life as typical. It was unthinkable to her that others did not live as she did.
As Denise grew older, she became dissatisfied with life, for it seemed to lack meaning. Oh, she continued to participate in the social round of lavish parties her parents and others threw as part of her social obligations, but something seemed to be missing. Sometime during this turbulent time in her life, Denise decided to take a solo trip to a small country in South America to get away from the superficiality of her life. Out of curiosity, she decided to visit a little village miles away from the central city, to see how the native people lived. Denise hoped the experience would help her change something about her life. On her journey to the village, Denise marveled at the simple beauty of the land. The hills shimmered in the daylight as the countryside reflected the sun. No, it wasn't a glare, but a soft light seemed to bathe every tree and plant upon which she looked. Denise felt herself relaxing and thought that it was wonderful to be alive, a thought she hadn't had in a long time. Shortly after that, the bus -- if you could call it that -- pulled into town, and Denise got off. How simple and beautiful everything was.
Friendly and hospitable people were milling about everywhere, and most of them pleasantly smiled as they met Denise's glance. It was thrilling to finally arrive at the small village. In just a few minutes, it seemed that all of the shops closed right before her eyes. Bewildered, Denise wondered what was going on, and where everyone was heading. At last, she found herself alone in the street, lost, perplexed, and unsure of what to do next. Just then, an older lady passing by her living room window, saw Denise and bade her come to the door. Uncertain, Denise just stood in the street. Seeing her trepidation, a young boy came out of the house and said to her in broken English, "Will you join us for siesta?" Taking her hand, he led her into his home and to his grandmother. Once inside, Denise joined the simple family as they washed their hands and sat down to eat. Curious about their new guest who did not speak Spanish well, they communicated their welcome with hand gestures. Soon, Denise realized that if her hosts spoke slowly, she could understand them. She hoped in turn that they might be able to understand her broken Spanish, and so she attempted to speak. As the siesta time came to a close early that evening, the oldest daughter stood up, and bundled some food for Denise to take with her. Grateful, Denise tried to offer her hostess money but was kindly rebuffed. Coming close to her, the young boy who took her hand and led her into his home whispered, "to give us money is insulting; we do this because you are our guest."
Humbled, Denise never forgot her experience of genuine hospitality in that small South American village. And upon her return home, she spoke more often of that family's hospitality than she did of her parent's lavish and sumptuous entertaining affairs. You see, Denise had come to realize that there is a difference between entertaining and being hospitable. Her parents entertained to impress and amuse their guests. Fully believing the adage that "one hand washes the other," they anticipated that at the appropriate time, they would receive something of value in return for their efforts.
In contrast, the South American family expected nothing from Denise; they shared what they had. Despite the meager fare, Denise felt that her presence was desired and appreciated. This was such a far cry from her parents' practice of entertaining guests in order to make a good impression.
As prior lessons have stated, there is a difference between hospitality and entertaining. In the Middle East, hospitality is taken very seriously, for, without it, many travelers would perish in that dry, hot land. The taking into your home of strangers who are merely traveling through your area has been replaced with inviting people you like or want to impress into your home. At its core, hospitality is about the intimacy of sharing with others, while entertaining is about (you) impressing and amusing others.
The Bible defines hospitality as a "tangible expression of self-giving love… [which] springs from the hearts of those who have been touched by God's love and want to express that love in words and actions (to others)." In simple terms, hospitality is giving—it's sharing with others what God has so graciously provided for you. So, what has God given you? Perhaps you'll think of various possessions, degrees or career accomplishments. Perhaps you'll even look back at a time God healed you or a loved one of some terrible disease, or miraculously spared you from dying in that horrible accident. You may even look back at answered prayers, such as the test you passed, the job you got or the child He gave you. And these are all things to be grateful for, but, what about the intangible things He's given such as His Son? In John 3:16 we read, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God gave to you His Son; He gave you pardon and spared you from eternal death.
Furthermore, God gave you the promise of eternal life. What else has God given you? He gave His Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct you on your journey to the eternal kingdom. And in all this it can be seen that God has given Himself. Have you by faith working through agape-love received these things and made them yours? You cannot share what you do not have. You cannot give what is not yours.
The story of Mary Magdalene and Simon is perhaps one of the most striking examples of hospitality versus entertainment in scripture. Simon had invited Jesus to his home purportedly to thank Jesus for healing him from the dreaded leprosy, yet he did not display the common courtesies afforded a guest, let alone a guest of honour. According to Ellen White, Simon was more interested in the approbation of his esteemed colleagues, the Pharisees. Mary on the other hand was someone who gave her all to Jesus in a tangible expression of love. This was expressed through the pouring out of the lavish, incredibly expensive Spikenard – fit for a king, onto His head and feet, the washing and wiping of His feet with her hair, and her profuse tears.
While Simon, his guests and even the disciples, condemned Mary for her very real demonstration of hospitality, Jesus praised her. By Jesus' response, those who were condemning were rebuked, while Simon was rebuked for condemning as well as entertaining instead of being hospitable. In Luke 7:44-47 we read—
Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
The text establishes the contrast. Those who get a hold of God's agape-love are hospitable; while those who neither understand nor receive, choose to entertain. God wants to make us loving, hospitable people, who invite others into His presence; let's allow Him to have His way, so that others may be loved into His kingdom.