It’s pretty usual for people to believe that by taking care of themselves first that they’ll be happier. Trouble is that experience and scripture disagree. I have found that pursuing the happiness of others is the best way to ensure my own happiness.
Most of us guys don’t know what we’re getting into when we get married but I sure believe that I married well. Christa is a fantastic cook and loves to open our home to others where she can practice her gift of hospitality. Over the years I have learned that my gifts in pastoring and evangelism are very well served by Christa in hospitality – and surprisingly, our family is happier when we host more often.
We also mix hospitality to both friends and acquaintances. The best stories come from unusual people who share our table. This spring we invited 3 neighbour families for a welcome to the neighbourhood BBQ. We’ve been here about 8 years, the back lane neighbours about 60 years and two folks beside us moved in during the winter. Even though my children ate a small table in the living room, when they were done, they joined us at the table to hear the stories and to laugh with us – they didn’t want to miss anything. We still have good laughs with those neighbours.
8 ways I have experienced increased happiness because of hospitality
1. Breaks down cultural and social barriers – We started our journey of hospitality in our community by inviting teenagers for soup and buns. Once a week we would sit around the table and talk about what was on their agenda. After dinner we would have a short Bible teaching and pray for each other (most of these teens were not ready to call themselves Christians but they were growing in faith.
2. Hospitality to strangers is hospitality to Jesus – Matthew 25 directly tells the followers of Jesus that they can actually touch and help Jesus by inviting strangers into their homes for a meal. The flip side is also true, that when we turn people away, that we’re turning away Jesus. Do you remember that it was this very situation that marked the beginning of Jesus’ life. No doubt, everyone knew that Mary was carrying a baby that didn’t belong to Joseph (small towns have no secrets) and while the inn may have been full, there also may have been no room for “that sort of woman.” We have the opportunity to write a different story for Jesus’ own mom.
3. Breaks down loneliness – there are many people in your church who have not eaten with another person for months or years. At work, there’s someone who doesn’t feel like cooking for 1 or who just needs to eat with another “normal” family. When people come to our home, it’s a normal house – you can’t control 4 kids for longer than the introductions – people get to see it all. My kids also love to get to know different and interesting people.
4. It’s a doorway into the church – Michael Harvey says of the UK that there are 1,000,000 people who would come to church if they were just invited. Perhaps an invitation to dinner could lead to a an invitation to church. Or, inviting someone to church and then to dinner can help with making friends within the congregation.
5. I get more friends and fewer acquaintances – For us, one of the great joys in hospitality is the deeper connection and friendship that grows simply by sharing a meal. One goal for me in hospitality is to have more friends – people I know and love.
6. I may get to entertain angels – Hebrews 13:2 gives us an astounding picture of inviting a stranger to dinner and finding out that it was an angel. From time to time I wonder about the folks who are coming to me for help, if they’re angels. As far as entertaining angels or entertaining Jesus, I think I’d take Jesus but an angel will do!
7. Doing what our Father is doing. A significant message of Jesus is that God is looking for friends who will work with him in what he’s doing. I know that God has been inviting many people to his banquet table – the great stuff he gives us now and the great stuff he’s preparing for us later – so by being hospitable, I get to do what God is doing, now.
8. Trying out new menus. Christa’s favourite part of hospitality is trying new recipes and filling containers to send home with our guests. This is a universal way of saying, “I love you!”
There are many reasonable excuses to not invite strangers and acquaintances into our home but we are committed to the happiness and joy in others and we’ve experienced greater happiness in our own family at the same time. Anyone can increase the happiness of people around them simply by inviting them to share your table, and likely, your happiness will increase too.
Do you have any stories of hospitality increasing happiness at your home? I’d love to hear them.