Last week I reviewed a book on hospitality for someone. It was good, but like most books on hospitality, it seemed to be directed at women. That’s not all bad; we need help! But Scripture’s command to practice hospitality is not merely to women. In fact, when we look at Scripture, it is almost always the men – the husbands – who are directing the hospitality. This is true from Abraham (Gen. 18:6-7) to Manoah (Judges 13:15) to Boaz (Ruth 2:14) to Gaius (Rom. 16:23), with a few notable exceptions, such as Abigail’s husband, the harsh and unkind Nabal (1 Sam. 25:3). Women like Lydia (Acts 16:15) stand out as examples of women leading their families in this area.
And yet today in the church, we treat hospitality as though it’s largely the woman’s job–unless the man happens to love cooking. Perhaps part of this is because, unlike thousands of years ago, men today work outside the home; very few guys are on hand to slaughter fattened calves hours before a dinner party. But perhaps another part of it is be an unhealthy mix of unthinking abdication on the man’s part, and unthinking dominance on the woman’s.
Regardless of a husband’s working hours, cooking abilities, or social preferences, there are things that husbands can do to lead in showing hospitality. Just as leading the family doesn’t mean that a husband does everything around the home, pays all the bills, and makes every decision, so leading in the area of hospitality doesn’t mean that a man must arrange the schedule, draw up a menu, and leave work early to clean the bathroom. Instead, there are ways to lead his family in showing hospitality while allowing his wife to help him in this, just as Sarah helped Abraham (Gen. 18:6). Here are five:
1. Initiate hospitality. Think about people whom you should have over and ask your wife if she would be able to arrange a time for that. It can be intimidating and awkward for a wife to ask her husband if they can have people over, especially if she is not used to hosting. But she is probably the one who is reading all the good stuff on hospitality commands out there and feels as though she should do something about it – don’t let her carry that burden alone. Put energy and thought into Scripture’s calling in this area, then do some planning.
2. Encourage your wife. This means giving her a boost where you can – keeping the kids happy while she finishes setting the table, etc. We know a family where the husband loves to cook and often makes most of the food for guests. That’s great. But encouragement will also be verbal. Very few women are totally confident having people into their homes for meals, especially strangers (which is part of our calling as Christians–Hebrews 3:2). Even when your wife is confident, it’s still a lot of work. Tell her that you are looking forward to this visit. Let her know that you’ll be prepared to help during the visit, whether that means pulling up a couple more chairs from the basement, or taking a screaming toddler away from the table. Tell her that she is doing a good job, and that it will be a blessing to your guests. Let her know that while she is doing a lot of the work, you are doing this as a team.
3. Lead the visit. When your guests come, you lead the visit. Don’t dominate it, just lead it: be at the door when the guests enter and offer to take their coats; hold the baby while your wife puts dinner on the table (unless you’re the one cooking); be prepared to keep up the conversation and steer it if necessary; pray before the meal and lead in family worship when the meal is over. Don’t let your wife carry the social burden, no matter how introverted you think you are.
4. Appreciate your wife. Let your wife know that you so appreciate her faithful work through the visit. Thank her for enabling you to obey God’s command to practice hospitality. Give her a hug when the guests are gone. And if you really want to show your appreciation, help her do the dishes when everyone has left. We have had quality husband-wife time debriefing over piles of dishes.
5. Pray. Thank the Lord for your guests; thank Him for the opportunity to serve in this way. Ask for forgiveness for the ways in which you failed as a husband, father, and host, during the visit. Ask God to make you more skilled in obeying this command, to better love your guests as you die to self in this area. Ask Him to send you guests and enable you to thoughtfully plan the number and frequency of hosting times. It takes wisdom to be devoted to hospitality without letting it dictate your life. And ask God to bless your hospitality for Christ’s sake so that people in this broken world can see and hear of His love.