II Kings 4:8-10 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. 9 She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”
Three verses in the middle of a story: Almost a side note to what is happening in a larger story. This unnamed Shunamite woman of wealth is kind, generous, hospitable. Richard T. Ritenbaugh writes in the Forerunner, “The story takes place in the territory of Issachar in northern Israel. Shunem overlooks the fertile Plain of Esdraelon (Jezreel) toward Mount Carmel more than 15 miles distant where the prophet has a home.” Issachar means “discerning, one of great wisdom” and Shunem means, “double resting place.”
Hospitality. In the South, it is a cultural expectation of girls to excel in this. I do not! I suffer from perfectionism and therefore cannot do the hospitality thing because the house is not spotless, the meals are not homecooked, the house is not decorated to look like Southern Living homes. In other words, if I cannot impress you, I am not going to do anything. Maybe, it’s just me. (Yes, I know this is a bad case of pride.) Our society is moving and shaking and we are busy, and we are no longer enjoying sweet tea on the front porch to just share our lives. The apple pie is not taken to the new next door neighbor. The pot of soup does not ever make it to the sick or bereaved in the community. The best I can do is invite you to lunch at a local restaurant and pick up the tab (thankful for a breakout session at the Gulf Coast Women’s conference many years ago where I learned this was hospitable!!! Whoo hoo!). Today,we are falsely connected to others with technology.
Here in this story we see a woman possessing the qualities of her people, (discerning and with great wisdom) who saw a need and used her home, her finances, and her time to meet the needs of a servant of God and provide his second “resting place.” This itinerant prophet was made welcome. His every need was met and he knew he was welcome. He was treated like family. His room, complete with a bed, a place to write, study, and read, was available. Meals were hot and homemade. He had a key to the front door. She supported his ministry. No pomp, no circumstance. Just genuine kindness. A humble act of worship.
So often we now just write the check to put up the traveling missionaries, revival speakers, band members, or interim pastors in the local Best Western or Holiday Inn Express. No connection. No sharing. No bonding. No real hospitality. No real welcome. I am told they prefer this, but I wonder…………..Do they really?
In the Greek, philoxenia translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.” Hospitality is a virtue that is both commanded and commended throughout Scripture.
Romans 12:13 “ When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality,” and Hebrews 13:2 “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers.”
One of my favorite scriptures is found in Genesis 18:1-8 where we read that when we practice hospitality to strangers, we “may entertain angels unaware.” It seems loving God gives us the desire to make room for His highest creation–others (strangers and friends alike).
Our Romanian friends who give every day to support twenty five orphans come to the United States annually to rest and raise support. For a short month they are able to drink a leisurely cup of coffee, eat a meal uninterrupted, read a book, or take a nap. Because people willingly use their resources to provide their transportation, lodging, meals, entertainment (boat rides, walks on the beach, pools, or just a bed and breakfast as they “pass by”) or purchase needed supplies this time of rest and relaxation is not only possible but productive. Our Romanian friends will tell you these children they “entertain” every day “are the least of these” and Christ is glorified.
(for more information on the House of Hope go to www.thefabricofhope.com).
There are many ways to take time out to serve–many ways to show hospitality; For the guy at the intersection with a sign, hand him a blessing bag or a Chik-fil-a gift card; For the orphan, adopt one or sponsor one; For the widow or shut in, go visit and sit awhile; For the new neighbor, an invitation to a cookout; For the new face at church, extend your hand, your smile, your lunch after church even if it is grilled cheese sandwiches; For the prisoner, write a card.
Time out to serve really is not about everything being perfect only profoundly heartfelt. Washing the feet of another (a pedicure) is washing the feet of Jesus. Giving a cup of cold water to the worker in your yard, is giving Jesus a cup of cold water. A phone call to a shut in is a phone call to Jesus and you will be the one blessed. As many people as you come in contact with every day are the number of ways to take time out to serve. This is having the heart, hands, eyes, ears, and feet of Jesus. It is commanded: I Peter 4:9, I Timothy 3:2, Proverbs 31:20, Romans 12:13. Titus 1:7-8, and Hebrews 13:1-2.
As we approach the Thanksgiving season, may we be thankful for all we have and generously share our resources in real ways that connect us to others not just around the world but personally in line at WalMart (turn that ordeal into holy ground).
Jesus is our example of hospitality: Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)
Happy Thanksgiving Treaders,