Jump Start # 2404
1 Peter 4:9 “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”
Our verse today combines an action with an attitude. The action is awesome. Hospitality, at the core means the care of strangers. We know it better as friends having each other over for dinner. It’s going out with some folks after services. It’s receiving a card of encouragement in the mail. Hospitality means someone is thinking about you. It shows that you are loved. We preachers are often on the receiving end of much hospitality. We preach these simple lessons and folks open up their homes and cook like it was Thanksgiving. It stretches our waist lines and expands our spiritual hearts.
But Peter sticks an attitude with this wonderful action. Do the hospitability, but don’t complain about it. Other versions use the word “grumbling.” Don’t grumble. God has never been a fan of complaining. Israel did that long and hard in the wilderness and it wearied God and He allowed that faithless generation to die in that wilderness. We like to complain. The weather, the traffic, the way our favorite team is playing, the economy, politics, the temp in the church building, the length of sermons, the price of food, the long lines at stores—we sure can complain. And when we preachers preach about complaining, it comes across that we are complaining about complaining!
Hospitality is an important step in helping new families fit in and get to know others. Hospitality is a wonderful way to really talk, share and help one another. But, there is that complaining part. What Peter is showing, similar to what Paul did in Corinthians with love, is that the good that we do can be ruined by our sour spirit and complaining heart.
Why would someone complain? This just cripples the wonderful time some can have.
First, hospitality involves a sacrifice on your part. If you have people over to your house, you need to clean it, put stuff up, run the vacuum and all of that takes some effort on your part. Then, there is cooking some food. There is an expense and time involved with that. The very nature of hospitality is sharing, and, to be honest, some simply do not want to share. They want to keep all that they have for themselves. Why do they practice hospitality then? Maybe they were pressured into it. Maybe they thought it would bring some positive return to them.
Second, some may complain because they are always doing the hospitality and are never on the receiving end of things. If I have you over, then you ought to have me over. Not everyone thinks that way. Not every one feels that way. That is not always necessary. There is no rule about that. And, you can nearly hear the complaints falling off the pages of your Bible. “Why is it always our family who has to do these things?” “Why doesn’t anyone else ever do anything?” Those are great questions and some people just couldn’t answer them. And the complaints fall, and it just wrecks any good that can be done. It sours our hearts towards others. We begin to judge and make false thoughts about others. “Well, they have so much. Why aren’t they doing more?” Maybe they are and you just don’t know about it. Maybe they aren’t and they need to learn and you could just be the right example, that is, if you stop complaining.
Third, some people just don’t understand the good that comes from hospitality. I have a yellow folder in a special file cabinet. It holds all the thoughtful cards that people have written to me through the years. They have thanked me for being there, for helping them, for teaching them. When the dark days come, and they do, and I begin to wonder if I’m doing any good, I go to that folder. It reminds me of all the lives that have been touched by the glory of the Lord. Some don’t know how to do hospitality. They have come from homes in which they have never had anyone over other than family. They have never written a card of encouragement. They have never learned. So, it’s hard for them to do it because they are not sure how.
Fourth, some are intimidated by others. They got to someone’s home and there is a banquet with all the fancy things and they even have three forks at the table. You love it. It’s amazing. But all through this, you are thinking, “We could never do this.” We don’t even own that many forks. And, you feel that you must match what others have done, and you can’t. So, you don’t. Hospitality is more about the company than it is the food. It’s more about fellowship, sharing and connecting than the spread on the table. To be honest, I’ve been to some places, and it’s over-kill. Too much food. Too much fancy. Paper napkins, with plastic forks, and paper plates and a hotdog—is just fine. Have some fun together. Sing some songs together. Get into a deep discussion together. Through the years I have met some very wealthy brethren. I have eaten some very fancy food in a very fancy fashion. It was fine. I have also sat on folding chairs around a card table and have had some of the best times ever. Hospitality isn’t about trying to “one-up” the next guy. That ruins the good that comes from it.
Fifth, some people are just not the best house guests. Some don’t watch their kids too well. That’s happened to us. Some people don’t know when to go home. That’s happened to us. Some filled their plates with so much food, that I had to order a pizza for my kids after everyone went home. Yes, that’s happened. I had people say, “I’ve never been in a preacher’s house before” and off they go exploring as if my house was on a home tour. I’m not sure what they were expecting, maybe a red phone that was a direct line to Heaven? It’s just a house. We’ve had people spill drinks, drop plates of food and clog the toilet. But you know what? None of those things stopped us from having people over again. We’ve had people over and they left without even thanking us. We’ve had a few things broken after people were over. But none of those things kept us from having others over and none of that was worth complaining about. Who are we going to complain to? And, when you do, isn’t that a bit like gossip?
But all the good that has come from hospitality is well worth all the things we had to do. Because when people go home, you have dishes to do, chairs to put up, floors to be swept again. It’s ok. The connections spiritually, and the good that is accomplished is worth all of that. This is what I believe Peter is getting at. Do it, but don’t complain. Do it, and don’t talk about others. Do it and watch the good that comes from this.
We may have hundreds of friends on our phone and Facebook, but we can’t have anyone over from church? Why is it? Place is too small? Don’t let that bother you. Don’t have much to offer? Ask them to bring some things as well. Don’t know what you will talk about? You’d be surprised how smoothly conversations flow when brethren are together. Invite two couples over—one that you know well and one that you don’t know so well. That works.
Be hospitable…that is the mark of a warm and friendly church. But don’t ruin it by complaining.