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Why Hospitality Beats Entertaining

Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story.

Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared.

Entertaining, exhausted, says, “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.

Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.

But the two practices can look so similar. Two people can set the same beautiful tablescape and serve the same gourmet meal, one with a motive to impress, the other with a motive to bless. How can we know the difference? Only the second would invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind to pull up a chair and sip from the stemware (Luke 14.12–14″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Luke 14:12–14). Our motives are revealed not just in how we set our tables, but in who we invite to join us at the feast. Entertaining invites those whom it will enjoy. Hospitality takes all comers.

Why Be Hospitable?

Hospitality is about many things, but it is not about keeping a perpetually orderly home. After my deplorable tweet, I humbly attempted a do-over:

Orderly house or not, hospitality throws wide the doors. It offers itself expecting nothing in return. It keeps no record of its service, counts no cost, craves no thanks. It is nothing less than the joyous, habitual offering of those who recall a gracious table set before them in the presence of their enemies (Ps. 23:5), of those who look forward to a glorious table yet to come (Rev. 19:6–9).

It is a means by which we imitate our infinitely hospitable God.

So, more than five years later, here is my advice to myself: Forego the empty pleasure of entertaining. Serve instead the high-heaped feast of hospitality, even as it has been served to you.

This article originally appeared here.