Here I will share a bit about what the Lord taught me about hospitality when my term was not renewed after being employed for more than five years in D.C. government. The loss of job security resulted in many valuable lessons for me and I am richer in our Lord for the experiences. One result is that the Lord allowed me to personally identify with Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
I read a book some months ago about a middle-class Christian college student and a friend who decided to live as “homeless” people for six months in about five different cities. My hometown, Washington, D.C., was one of those cities. He shared how he was deeply affected and changed by the experience. There were good accounts and not so good accounts that he shared. One thing that struck me strongly was that he expressed how hurt he was because of unpleasant treatment by some Christians. My heart went out to him.
After receipt of what I have come to call my “pink slip bonus,” I lived for a “season” on unemployment benefits. It’s a long story and this piece is not about that journey but one thing led to another and I ended up living in a homeless shelter for about eight months. I have no regrets, for indeed, it was a vital learning experience. While I sought employment, I attended church, Sunday school and Bible studies with Christians who knew of my status. It is common knowledge that I am in love with our Lord yet of those more than a few who knew, only one (excluding family) Christian extended hospitality to me. Another voluntarily gave me funds and a few other material things. Except two, no others invited me out with them or to their homes for so much as tea.
It was interesting to me how many Christians were in the shelter where I resided. One, in particular, was deeply anointed and taught me some vital lessons. Another Christian, (I’ll call her Dee) told me one day that she was going to go to a thrift program to get her some clothes. Dee had no income. As she and I walked together, the Lord spoke to me and told me to buy Dee some NEW clothes and He told me to go shopping WITH her. It was not just about buying the clothes, but about relationship, the Lord stressed. He brought to my remembrance how He fed the people with bread and fish, and that He ate WITH the people that He fed.
The Lord led me to help Dee in other ways, financial and otherwise. And He used her to teach me spiritually. Also, though I was on unemployment, I knew that it was important to share with others - that is gospel.
On another day, the Lord shared that He was tired of some professing Christians indulging in expensive clothing and items for themselves but directing His precious poor people to second hand resources for clothing and other material goods. That is why He led me on that day to purchase new clothes for my fellow Christian shelter resident, Dee. Still, I was only getting unemployment benefits but cheerfully purchased new clothes for her – nothing expensive but of good quality. And unbeknownst to me or Dee, that month everything in the store was at reduced cost. We did not notice any signage to advertise that fact. As we shopped, another customer shared the information with us. Based on that, I was able to get more for Dee.
A few months ago, I heard on the radio, an account where a Christian man (I’ll call him Bob) was led to love on his neighbor, Norman, who was a 62 year old hermit. They lived in a small town and the town's people (including the church folks) shunned Norman. Bob (who was about in his 30’s) was not inclined to be bothered with Norman because Norman was weird, disheveled, and socially “unacceptable.” Bob told the Lord that he did not want to deal with Norman. Long story short – The Lord, over the course of time, told Bob to invite Norman to his home to watch a program, to take Norman to a baseball game, to clean Norman up (when Norman did not bathe in the bathtub thoroughly enough, Bob actually went in to scrub Norman cleaner), to buy Norman a new suit, and - to take Norman on the family vacation! Off the family went with Norman in the car. When Bob observed Norman at an amusement park driving a "bump" car, somehow Norman drove and blocked people in. Close to the end of the ride, displeased that Norman had blocked them in, people started bumping and bumping Norman's car. The Lord spoke to Bob and told him that that is how people had done Norman in life - bumped him and bumped him. That truth deeply affected Bob. Later the Lord also told Bob to do repairs in Norman’s house and to clean Norman's filthy bathroom.
Bob obeyed, though initially, not always willingly, in all that the Lord told him to do for Norman. When the Lord knew that Norman was receptive, He told Bob that Norman was ready to receive salvation. He and a fellow Christian went over to Norman's house and asked him if he was ready to accept Christ. Norman responded yes. They led him to the Lord.
I cried as I listened to how the Lord taught Bob. Bob said that the Lord told him that many Christians love Him but that they do not love their neighbors. After Bob did all those things for Norman, his own ministry in music prospered bountifully! Bob had expressed that before then, there was not much movement there. Bob said that the Lord told him that he had to love his neighbor before his music ministry could prosper. Wow! What a lesson.
A Christian friend of mine shared with me that another Christian told her that when she phoned, at home, other church members, they were NOT inclined to engage. They are inclined for limited engagement at church but not inclined for home phone calls or other forms of bonding with other church members.
Certainly, many people have busy lives but when JESUS walked this earth in flesh form, even He allowed for interruptions to show compassion for people. How many times was He on His way somewhere when people interrupted his journey? Did He "blow them off" or dismiss them? No, he engaged them and tended to their needs. Now, of course there were times when interruptions were not allowed, for good reasons. The same is for us - but are we doing too much dismissal of people - using our busyness as an excuse? Lord, please help us all to know who, when, how, and what in regard to this matter.
One day I observed two women doing gardening tasks on city property. I inquired. They informed me that they had “adopted” that city parcel of land. They were caring for it with giving hearts. I have read reports of people “adopting” zoo animals. Of course, there is the formal adoption process of precious children. The Lord shared that people of GOD can “adopt” poor and needy people.
JESUS is about relationships. He dined with sinners and such. Why not set aside funds to, once a month, fund dinner or lunch out with a homeless and/or needy person or family? It would be a delight for them to be treated, at least monthly, to wholesome movies and concerts, games, and other forms of entertainment and pleasure. Many would appreciate the compassion demonstrated by such caring actions. They need people to love on them. Those forms of “adoption” can prove spiritually effective.
Some churches have large congregations and have outreach ministries to the poor and needy. Why not assign each church member, who is able, one homeless/needy person to “adopt?” That makes it a personal individual contribution. It is great to do collective charitable actions. GOD also expects us to make personal/individual sacrifices for others. His Word states for us to bear one another’s burdens – Galatians 6:2.
Financially, I do not have much but it is important that I extend hospitality. One neighbor is regularly invited to partake of food that I cook. Recently, I invited a Christian friend to a picnic lunch out with food that I prepared. Also, it was important to me to invite shelter residents and others to my home to fellowship. Of course, it must be stressed that the Lord’s guidance must be sought because it is unwise to have people in homes if the Lord does not lead the actions.
It is understandable that all people are not receptive for help. Some poor people are rude, ungrateful and do not demonstrate appreciation. Their aim is to misuse the kindness extended. Often they act out because of fears and hurts. They are to be loved, regardless. It is always wise, though, to consult GOD for the wisdom to know what to do in matters that concern giving to the poor.
Of course, people need to be responsible, and demonstrate a willingness to rise above poverty. Salvation is vitally necessary. Wisdom from GOD aids in what to do and how.
GOD is love in thoughts, and actions.
Who will “adopt?”
…given to hospitality
I Peter 4:9
Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
I John 3:17
But whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
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