Part II of our series on Opening Your Home
It is no exaggeration to say that references to God’s hospitality saturate each page of Scripture. For example, we know that…
- God serves as host to humanity as the one who provides food and clothing for all (see Gen 1:29-30; 2:9; 3:21; Psalm 104:10-15; 136:25).
- God particularly cares for the alienated person ( see Exodus 22:22-24; Deut 10:17-18; Psalm 145:14-16; 146:9).
And the central story of the Bible? God extending hospitality to the most alienated people of all—the Israelites—and, through them, to the whole human race. The Old Testament identifies the Israelites as alienated people who are dependent on God’s hospitality (Psalm 39:12; see also Heb 11:13). God graciously received the alienated Israelites and met their needs. He redeemed them from Egypt and fed and clothed them in the wilderness (Exod 16; Deut 8:2-5). He guided them as sojourners into His own land (Lev 25:23), where He offered them health, long life, peace, and fertility (Deut 11).
Note that on earth, God extends his hospitality to all people, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. As Jesus says in Matthew 5:45, God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
We usually misunderstand this. We get confused when good things happen to bad people. We expect that God should send good things to the good and bad things to the bad.
But that is not God’s character. On earth—the “home” to which God has invited us—God is always a gracious host. He gives good things to all of his guests, even the ones that behave badly.
Because he is a generous host.
When Jesus talks about “reward,” it is for the life to come, not this life. Look up Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:23. Where do they say we receive our reward?
We really need to understand this: this present life is not a life of rewards and punishments. Sure, there are consequences of sin in this lifetime, and the Bible even talks about God chastening those he loves. But we misunderstand God’s character when we look at what happens to people in this life and say, “God is rewarding them” or “God is punishing them.” In this life, what we receive is God’s gracious hospitality, regardless of whether we deserve it or not. That is the fundamental meaning of grace—God’s undeserved favor.
It is in the next life that God holds us accountable for the hospitality we are receiving from him presently, in this life.
So when people ask, “Why do the wicked prosper?” what is the answer? The wicked aren’t really “prospering;” instead, they are receiving—and abusing—the grace of God, for which they will be held accountable in the life to come.
God’s gracious hospitality is also the basis on which Paul says that all human beings are held accountable by God in the life to come—even those who have never heard of Christ in this life. Paul writes in Romans 1:18-23:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
In the language we are using this month, we could phrase Paul’s thought this way: God’s hospitality is evident to everyone. God has made it obvious to everyone that they are being hosted. It is obvious that they receive gifts and goodness that they do not deserve.
As a result, they have no excuse not to acknowledge their host.
However, many do not acknowledge God as host. Instead, they think of other things—nature, animals, fake gods, even other people—as their hosts or benefectors. Or they just credit their own abilities.
And as they worship these things, everything about their understanding of the world (and of themselves!) becomes foolish.
If thankfulness to God keeps our minds from futility, how futile (i.e., bereft of thanks) is your thinking today?
Eric, glad to have stumbled upon your blog. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. Hope you are doing well!
Good to hear from you, too, Dave–praying all is well with you and your family!