…rather he must be hospitable (Titus 1:8a)
What is hospitality? Most people associate it with inviting others into our homes. But I know from experience the mere act of giving someone a place to eat or sleep doesn’t fully describe this special gift.
When I was in Bible College, I had weekend ministries for all four years. During the first year, when I was a Youth Minister, a family offered me a bedroom to treat as my own. Because they raised cattle we had steak almost every night! And every now and then I would get in my car and discover someone had filled up my tank with the gasoline that was stored for the tractors.
My next three years were spent with some of the most wonderful people you can imagine as I preached in small churches in Indiana and Kentucky. I never had another steak gig like I did my first year, but I was treated like family, and had tons of people willing to serve as surrogate parents and grandparents. It there were exceptions, they were so insignificant compared to the overall experience, they aren’t worth mentioning.
Yes, hospitality is caring for people in our homes, but at its core it is the desire to make people feel like family, so they have a base from which to serve, or in some cases regroup. In Paul’s day this was important because traveling teachers didn’t have the resources to provide for all of their needs as they moved from town to town. And on occasion, when their safety was threatened, they needed a place to drop out of sight.
Hospitality is the act of opening our homes to others in the name of Christ, but it is also expressed collectively by a church family. The greeting we extend to guests who visit with our congregation in worship is hospitality.
So why “must” leaders be hospitable? As suggested already, in the first century hospitality was a matter of survival for traveling teachers, and leaders…well, they had to take the lead in caring for their needs.
But I think, perhaps hospitality is mentioned here in contrast to those who seek “dishonest gain” (1:7). Those who seek “dishonest gain” are always looking for a way to use the Lord’s church for their own purposes. Those who are “hospitable” are always looking for a way to use what God has blessed them with for the Lord’s church.
I don’t think the “must” in Paul’s list means every leader must offer everything he has to everyone, all the time. We all have limits, and sometimes we have to create boundaries for the welfare of our spouse and children. But our attitude should be one of sharing. And we should enjoy letting others use what God has given us.
I know how much hospitality meant to me as a young minister who served in new places with people I didn’t know that well. I learned first-hand how God uses leaders who share to prepare others for service. And a core group of leaders of this kind can’t help but set the tone for a church with an open heart.
Dear God, teach me to make others at home. In Jesus’ name Amen.