I’m taking a Bible study at my church right now called True Woman 101, a thorough and sometimes eye-opening examination of biblical womanhood. Last week we tackled the chapter on hospitality, as in, how women were made to welcome and serve others.
Before you throw tomatoes, ladies, please understand my paraphrase does a horrible disservice to the actual concept. It all sounds very lovely in the book, and I found myself wishing I had more talents in this area. As in, I wish I had a stronger knack for decorating and cooking and keeping my front doorstep free of bat droppings. But the truth is my home decor right now consists of whatever craft my daughters have concocted and taped to the wall, while cooking is still among my least favorite things to do right next to scrubbing toilets and plucking my eyebrows. Bat droppings? Well, bats eat mosquitoes so nobody should complain.
Point being, reading this chapter in my Bible study made me think of all my hospitality fails. Which led me to recall a post I wrote on it a few years ago—about the true purpose of hospitality. And I realized I needed my own reminder. So I thought I’d share it here again today for you and for me. Lord help us all.
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Play dates. Book club. Birthday parties. Dinner guests. All of these events flip me high into hostess mode—and it isn’t pretty.
“Can you please pick up your socks?!?” I bark at the little people in my maniac cleaning path. “Young lady, how many times have I told you, your sleeve is not a napkin. Now we have to change your shirt! Why is my spatula caked with purple Play-Doh? Aaack! Who crushed Chex Mix into the carpet? I just vacuumed!”
By the time the doorbell rings, I’ve de-cluttered six piles of crayon drawings and newspaper coupons, scrubbed three sinks and four countertops, baked a dozen blueberry muffins, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher twice, and scolded my family at least twenty times. All of this adds up to one frazzled momma smiling broadly on the welcome mat as though ushering guests into my home were no big fat hairy deal.
Hospitality is not one of my natural gifts. I try, but I lack finesse. My home is not stylishly decorated, some portion of my menu is often burnt, and most attempts at adult conversation are interrupted by a child either asking for juice or falling off a chair.
Does this make me a bad hostess? I used to think so. Until I dug into the Old Testament story about the queen of Sheba—how she’d heard that Israel’s King Solomon was exceptionally wise, so she trekked to his palace to see for herself. Let’s take a minute to read the story together—with my commentary in [bold brackets].
“When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. [Also translated ‘riddles.’] Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones [this lady was no beggar]—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. [What? No children butting in asking for cookies? Solomon must’ve had nannies.] When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD [burnt on purpose, unlike my appetizers], she was overwhelmed. [Overwhelmed by what? Solomon’s wisdom or his fancy lifestyle? Presumably both. Yet, she was a queen, so surely she’d seen opulence before. Something must have been different about this king. Read on.]
“She said to the king, ‘The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. [Note: She saw, and she believed.] Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. [Ding, ding, ding! She recognized that Solomon’s blessings came from the Lord.] Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness,’” (1 Kings 10:1–9).
Maybe she was skeptical at first. Maybe she was seeking hope. Whatever piqued the queen’s curiosity enough to embark on the journey to Solomon’s house, when she got there, she found what she was looking for. The luxury, the bounty, the sagacious discussions—it all pointed to one source: God. She left satisfied. She left changed.
She left praising God.
That is the point of hospitality.
We can make ourselves crazy trying to get all the details right—a clean house, tasty snacks, polite and smudge-free children. But if it’s not done for the purpose of sharing God’s light with other people, then we’ve missed the point. We’ve missed the opportunity.
There is one part of this story that stabs me. It’s when the queen of Sheba says, after immersed in Solomon’s household a while, “How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”
Could my friends say that about me? Or yours about you? How happy your children must be! How happy your husband, who continually stands before you and hears you nagging to take the garbage out before the guests arrive!
In our quest to host the perfect party, we moms can too easily neglect our happy officials. I’ve been guilty of this. I harp on my family because I’m stressed. I see them as obstacles to my chore list rather than the reason for the celebration. And it occurs to me—with a twinge of shame—that if I want people to see and believe that the Lord is good, simply by the way they’re treated in my home, then I ought to begin with my own family.
So welcome to my home, friends, in all its parenthood glory. God lives here. His wisdom reigns. And I’m going to demonstrate these facts by loving my family first and foremost, laughing when the pizza burns, and opening my doors wide for heartfelt fellowship and genuine conversation—interrupted though it may be by happy little officials begging for lemonade.
Will you join me?