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Hospitality in the Bible and How to Practice it

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What comes to mind when you think of “biblical hospitality”? A Pinterest-perfect table setting with china and cloth napkins folded into tulips? It can be, but it is much more (and less) than that.

Hospitality is defined as “Hospitality is the friendly reception and treatment of guests, or strangers, warmly and generously.” Hospitality in the Bible adds that we honor and obey God by serving those around us joyfully.

Hospitality is about showing kindness to those in your home and offering them the warmth of a shared experience. Hospitability comes from an attitude that places others first above our own needs – it’s truly beautiful when believers embrace this mindset! 

Practicing biblical hospitality has wholesome rewards for both guests and hosts; as such, we should enthusiastically seek out opportunities to do so whenever possible.

Hospitality conjures up images of care and comfort. Whether the guest is a patient needing medical attention or an explorer seeking refuge for the night, hospitality offers them shelter and sustenance.

image of woman washing another's feet with the text hospitality in the Bible what it means and how to practice it

We usually associate hospitality with offering a place to stay and meals – often at no cost! It’s a fantastic gesture that reflects kindness, warmth, and generosity.

Beyond the basics, biblical hospitality is much more than simply opening your doors. It can be referenced four times throughout the ESV translation of the Bible – where a more profound look reveals its true essence as an act of love and welcome. 

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Romans 12:13 (ESV)

and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

1 Timothy 5:10 (ESV)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:9 (ESV)

Hospitality is more than just good etiquette; it shows genuine love and care to strangers. It’s about reaching out with action and affection, taking someone in without judgment or hesitation.

Ever asked yourself why being hospitable is so essential? Well, here’s the thing: it can be incredibly easy to offer up all forms of hospitality – such as food and a place to rest your head – without any kind of love. 

However, if you really want to get on board with biblical hospitality, there needs to be an added layer; real connection and care that comes from the heart.

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Hospitality takes more than just a helping hand – it requires an open heart. Anyone can offer the outward gestures of hospitality, but genuine kindness demands something deeper: transforming how we see and treat each other.

1 Peter 4:9 says we are to show hospitality to one another without grumbling. If we’re going to show authentic godly hospitality, then grumbling and complaining while giving food or shelter are not truly demonstrating biblical hospitality. 

Hospitality is more than just a way to welcome someone you don’t know — it’s about engaging with them in an authentic, warm manner. Peter takes this idea of connecting on a personal level even further and goes above and beyond when meeting and providing biblical hospitality to strangers.

Hospitality in the Bible: Strangers and Friends 

Peter reminds us that hospitality isn’t just for strangers – it applies to everyone we meet! He says in 1 Peter 4:9, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” In other words, be friendly and inviting even when you don’t feel like it!

We are called to show love to someone different from us, too. It could be that Muslim neighbor, atheist cousin, or even an illegal immigrant. Everyone deserves kindness and understanding – including the political refugee or people with a criminal past. 

We shouldn’t judge people for their background but instead extend the hand of hospitality in the Bible.

We are called to open our hearts to those who share the same beliefs and lifestyles and those with different stories that come into contact with us. 

We can show love by welcoming widowed members of our congregation or embracing a young family whose relatives may be distant – thereby creating an atmosphere of connection in any community.

Show love and kindness to those in need by offering sustenance, clothing, and a place of refuge.

Invite others into your lives with the same love Christ Jesus has for us. Biblical hospitality isn’t just about doing something nice; it’s about having an open and compassionate heart.

The Motivation for Biblical Hospitality

Let’s dig deeper into hospitality by exploring why it matters. What compels us to extend kindness and a warm welcome to others? 

Why should we make room for strangers at our tables, in our homes, and within our hearts?

God has asked us to be hospitable toward one another, but we tend to disobey. We often need to remember what is expected of us and hospitality’s importance in living out our faith

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

Romans 7:7-11 (ESV)

As Christians, we don’t just put on a good show of hospitality out of a sense of duty; it’s an expression and reminder that God loves us so deeply. This same truth should drive all our actions – simply because Christ loved us first!

Genuine hospitality is far more impactful when rooted in gratitude than obligation. Obeying commands out of a sense of appreciation encourages joy and enthusiasm, whereas forced obedience can feel burdensome. 

Gratitude brings about the best outcome for both parties! This is also true of hospitality in the Bible.

Jesus is the ultimate gift, providing us with spiritual refreshment and renewal. We can never thank Him enough for His willingness to give Himself so that we may live in joy.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:37-38 (ESV)

God has graciously provided us with a spiritual sanctuary while we travel through life here on Earth; His Church is our temporary home away from home.

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)

and Heaven as our eternal home 

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:2-3 (ESV)

Christ has opened the doors of God’s family to all people – no matter who we are or where we come from. Therefore, we have an incredible opportunity and responsibility to show love, kindness, and understanding towards our brothers and sisters in Christ by living together in harmony.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15:5-7 (ESV)

Through Christ, we’ve been lavished with God’s unconditional love. So let us embrace our brothers and sisters out of gratitude for this gracious gift rather than duty alone – showering them with the same joy-filled acceptance that has been so freely given to each of us.

We are Blessed to Be a Blessing

God’s promise to Abraham was powerful – He promised to bless him, make his name great, and that he would be a blessing in turn. 

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” 

Genesis 12:2 (ESV)

According to God’s promise to Abraham, His blessings have a far-reaching effect – not just for Abram and his lineage but all families on earth. So it is through the future blessing of Jesus Christ.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:3 (ESV)

This is the purpose of God’s blessing to Abraham: that others would be blessed. 

But the phrase is also true in another sense, since 

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 (ESV)

As we consider the scriptural passages that instruct and challenge us to practice hospitality, most of us recall a time when we tried to extend friendship or an invitation and were rejected. I encourage you not to let that stop you from extending the hand of friendship. Rejection stings, but God makes it clear that we are to practice hospitality – don’t let human pride prevent you from obeying God.

Recently, my husband and I decided that once a month, we were going to invite a couple from church that we wanted to know better to lunch or dinner. We made a list of several couples not in our social circle and started inviting them. We asked two, and both said, “yes, sure!” but when it came to setting a date, they kept putting us off. It hurt. Our pride was injured, but we didn’t let that stop us from inviting others. We plan to do this monthly to obey God’s hospitality command and enjoy fellowship with other church family members.

Hospitality in the Bible

Hospitality is a timeless practice that has been passed down for generations. From stories in the Bible to God’s gracious welcome of us, hospitality offers an endearing reminder of our spiritual connection and community with each other throughout history.

Christ revolutionized how we think about hospitality by displaying a radical acceptance of everyone who crossed his path. His example has inspired centuries of people to open their hearts and homes in loving welcome.

It is important to note that the Bible passages above were written in Greek. 

In the Greek language, the language the New Testament was written, hospitality is “philoxenia,” or literally, “love of strangers.” 

In Bible times, hospitality was a way of life; strangers were welcomed into homes since inns and hotels were scarce. Traveling meant being on foot for days or even weeks at a time – making safe havens along the journey an absolute necessity.

Talk about a long journey – Mary and Joseph traveled 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.  

In Jesus’ times, hospitality was a must. So it was common for people to offer their homes as accommodation for weary travelers – without any expectations in return.

For some insight into the early origins of hospitality in the Bible, let’s look at a passage from Genesis 18.

And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.

Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.”

And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Genesis 18:1-15 (ESV)

Arab travelers seeking respite from their wanderings were welcomed with open arms: no hotels, but plenty of hospitality that came directly from the good people who lived in camps.

Abraham understood the power of hospitality. So he offered travelers a place to stay before they even asked, knowing this was an opportunity for kindness and connection. 

It was a huge privilege to attend, nurture and house the visitor.

Jesus emphasized hospitality to those in need and even strangers. In Matthew 25:35-36, He shared valuable examples to help us live out this important virtue.

 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)

Abraham’s example in the Bible of hospitality shows us that we all have a sacred responsibility to treat each other with kindness, creating welcoming atmospheres for visitors and those close to our hearts alike.

Are we, like Abraham of old, prepared to extend the hand of hospitality and open our homes and churches to others?

Are we ready to embrace both friends and strangers as God’s people, His oikos? 

Oikos, an ancient Greek term, translates to the modern ‘household,’ but the Greeks had a more expansive meaning for it. It connects friends, family, and colleagues altogether, highlighting a sense of community and support.

image of Bible in hotel room on bedside table for the post hospitality in the Bible and biblical hospitality

Hospitality is a powerful way of breaking down barriers and opening up to those who may be very different from us. It’s finding ways to bridge the divide between strangers by making them feel like part of our family, connecting with them at an underlying level beyond words or surface differences.

More Examples of Hospitality in the Bible

The Jailer

You might not expect someone in charge of the jail to be a good model of hospitality, but in Acts 16:19-33, we see just that.

Zacchaeus, The Tax Collector

This was a genuine conversion because most tax collectors were unwilling to leave their money and easy-living job. Still, Zacchaeus not only showed Jesus hospitality, he must have shown hospitality to what the religious leaders called “a guest of a man who is a sinner,” speaking of Zacchaeus, but Zacchaeus didn’t care because, as Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”

And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Luke 19:3-8 (ESV)

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.

Luke 19:9 (ESV)


Lydia is a prime example of hospitality that we can learn from in the same chapter where Paul and Silas encountered the jailer. On one Sabbath, they headed to a riverbank outside the gate, hoping to find somewhere to pray – and lo! They found Lydia there surrounded by other women who had gathered together.

Paul, Silas, and Luke had the pleasure of staying with Lydia. She provided a comfortable space to rest their heads during their travels. It’s possible they stayed in her home for days or even weeks. This could explain why Luke often uses the pronoun “we” when referring to this trio.

“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. 

Acts 16:13-15 (ESV)

Gaius of Corinth

Paul was a prisoner in Rome but still found ways to spread the gospel! Through his travels and connections, Paul eventually ended up at Gaius of Corinth’s house, who he had baptized. Despite being under house arrest with limited freedom of movement, Paul continued preaching without any bounds.

I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

1 Corinthians 1:14 (ESV)

Paul’s generosity was well-matched by that of Gaius, who opened his home to not just Paul but the whole church at the end of Paul’s third missionary trip! But, of course, it takes someone special – and brave – to be hospitable despite potential risks. Fortunately for us, there are those like Gaius out there willing to pay any price necessary to follow Jesus’ teachings.

Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

Romans 16:23 (ESV)

Wrapping Up What the Bible Says About Hospitality

In the Old Testament, hospitality was a deeply held value for the Israelites. What’s more, God had always instructed them to ensure visitors were shown a warm and generous welcome – from offering food and drink upon arrival to helping those in need with their burdens while they stayed.

 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:33–34 (ESV)

God set an incredible example of hospitality when He rescued the Israelites from Egypt, freeing them to return home. And Abraham’s legendary welcome of three strangers continues to demonstrate how fully embracing others can be a powerful and meaningful act.

Throughout the New Testament, it’s clear that hospitality was a cornerstone of Jewish culture. Through big and small acts, people opened their hearts and homes to welcome Jesus as He traveled around with His disciples – extending generosity in all forms.

Hospitality is a foundational characteristic for Christian leaders and followers alike. The New Testament has plenty of verses that remind us to be hospitable – in fact, it’s even listed as one of the qualifications for elders according to the book of Titus. 

but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

 Titus 1:8 (ESV)

It’s amazing the impact we make when being hospitable! We can further God’s work, host angels without even knowing it, and show nonbelievers how much they’re loved, not to mention our love for Him. What an incredible opportunity hospitality provides us with every day.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew 25:34–36 (ESV)

God desires Christians to be exemplary citizens, exuding His loving connection through their daily choices. By living differently than the rest of society, they can show the world what an intimate relationship with Him looks like in action.

Hospitality represents the ultimate expression of God’s love and grace – a divine desire to restore our connection with Him.

How to Show Biblical Hospitality at Home

Hospitality in the Bible can look like this:

  • Inviting a non-Christian family out to pizza after the baseball practice
  • Sharing a cup of coffee with a single mom in your neighborhood
  • Inviting a couple from church over for lunch after services.

Hospitality is not about having a perfect home to show off for guests. It is not about what a fantastic cook you are. It IS about extending a hand in friendship to another of God’s children.

One tip: Before practicing hospitality in your home, you should cleanse your home with prayer.

Here are some ways to get started on practicing biblical hospitality:

  • Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals. Pinterest is great for this!
  • Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality. (Consider both church members and others in your community)
  • Invite one person, couple, or family per month.
  • Start simple—spontaneously inviting someone home after church is a great beginning.
  • Pray that our God, a great example of hospitality, will give you joy in practicing biblical hospitality.
  • Pray over the above scriptures on biblical hospitality and ask God to open your eyes to those who could use an extension of your hand in friendship and hospitality.
  • Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals.
  • Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality.
  • Make a plan to invite your first guests soon.
  • Start simple—spontaneously inviting someone home after church is a great beginning.
  • Pray that our hospitable God will give you joy in demonstrating his character to others.

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How to show biblical hospitality in your church

Here are some ways your church can integrate hospitality into its ministry.

  • Are you welcoming your community to worship and events at your church? Make sure visitors don’t feel like outsiders by providing the basics – give them helpful info such as where they can park, what room their event is in, and of course, make sure it’s easy for them to find out where exactly it all takes place. Sharing these details makes a world of difference!
  • Heading to a new church can be daunting, but with the right welcoming environment from start to finish, it doesn’t have to be. You’ll want your newcomers’ experience at your church to feel special and like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That’s why you should ensure someone greets them as soon as they enter—to direct them where needed and show that their presence matters. It may seem small, but this extra gesture goes a long way in making people feel welcome!
  • When planning, why not make room for the ‘both and’? Celebrate both young and old with activities designed especially for them. Blend together cherished traditions and new ones -morning or night- that appeal across generations.
  • Invite the community to join in with your events. Hosting get-togethers are an excellent opportunity for newcomers and spiritual seekers alike who may not feel comfortable joining traditional Sunday services – it’s an open invitation to everyone.
  • Stepping outside the box and looking at the bigger picture can pay off. Getting creative with bringing different groups together creates a unique opportunity to collaborate! For example, why not combine family ministry events with singles get-togethers; it could provide an engaging, memorable experience for everyone involved.
  • Our stories are the fabric of our lives. As we open up and share them, treasured memories come alive along with painful experiences – all part of who we are. Sharing what has happened in our life journeys makes conversation among us richer as even greater understanding emerges from each other’s tales.
  • Unplanned guests can be a surprise, so make sure to always have your hospitality game on point! Open arms are the way to go, even if they didn’t RSVP or show up in their Sunday best – open arms are the way to go. Make all visitors feel welcomed and comfortable when stepping into church.
  • Ensure you don’t forget your guests after the event or church service. Then, after they’ve gone, extend an invitation to come back and participate in a few specific opportunities. If you have their contact details, drop them a quick message of thanks for attending with the hope that they’ll visit again soon.

We all know the importance of hospitality, yet when we try to offer it and are rejected, our trust can become shaken. It’s easy for Satan to take advantage of this vulnerable moment in an attempt to keep us from honoring God with more attempts at extending kindness – don’t let him win!

As we’ve seen, God values hospitality in the Bible and is often connected with blessings. Jesus extended hospitality even to his enemies, telling us to do likewise. 

We can embrace this virtue more in our own lives by welcoming visitors into our homes and opening ourselves up to strangers.

The examples of biblical hospitality found in scripture offer both encouragement and inspiration as we, too, strive to be able to care for others. 

Hospitality empowers us to show kindness and compassion no matter who comes through our door. No matter how small or large an act may be, the impact can be truly remarkable when done out of love.

May we all seek God’s direction as He offers us opportunities to exercise gracious hospitality while still staying true to His Word

What other verses come to mind when thinking about biblical hospitality? 

As you consider these stories from the Bible, may you discover new depths of grace and mercy for yourself and those around you!

For more detailed information on biblical hospitality, check out these great resources:

How else can you practice biblical hospitality? What would you add?

You may enjoy this video on Hospitality in the Bible and The Biblical Importance of Hospitality by Kevin Queen.

Or one of these recommended resources for further study:

Table Grace: The role of hospitality in the Christian Life by Douglas Webster

The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life by Dustin Willis, Brandon Clements

Biblical hospitality is one facet of living the Proverbs 31 life. For more on this, see this previous post.

Because of Him!


Biblical hospitality is one facet of living the Proverbs 31 life. For more on this, see this previous post.

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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Ana Fernandez

Sunday 22nd of April 2018

What about introverts or those who struggle with social interactions?I am on the Autism Spectrum and could not possibly do what is suggested in the article because my social and conversationsl skills are not up to par.

Ericka Washington

Monday 27th of September 2021

Introverts have to have some type of outlet. We don’t normally walk up to others and invite them into our homes, however, we can smile and say hello for a start. Greeting someone in guest services of your place of worship, is also a start. Practice is key.


Sunday 22nd of April 2018

Hi, Ana - thanks so much for sharing. Start by just inviting someone for coffee. We don't have to do huge things to show hospitality - just love one another :) Thanks for stopping by.

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