Sunday, September 8, 2013

Be Hospitable to One Another Without Complaint

In I Peter 4:9 we find these words: “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” I must admit this morning I was looking for an easy “one another” when I chose this one. But I have once again been reminded that the Bible contains infinite wisdom from an infinite God and so “easy” just isn’t going to happen…instead, what you get is wow, wonderful, and amazing!

I began with using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, looking at the Greek word translated in this verse as hospitable. It is a compound word like cup-cake and head-rest. The two words making up the word for hospitable are philos meaning beloved, dear, friendly, and xenos meaning alien, stranger, not of one’s family. Therefore, biblical hospitality means to treat aliens and strangers as if they were our dear, beloved friends.

Next, I looked for other verses using the same word, and found Hebrews 13:2 by simply using my Bible’s cross-reference column. This verse says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Just such a thing is actually recorded as happening twice in the book of Genesis. Abraham is hospitable to three strangers who pass by his tent. One of these men is the Lord Himself who makes the promise of Isaac’s birth (Genesis 18:1-33). The other two men turn out to be angels who then go on to the city of Sodom to rescue Lot and his family prior to the city’s destruction (Genesis 18:22; 19:1-29).

Turning to the story in Genesis 18:4-8, we find Abraham making lavish preparations to entertain his three guests. He begins by offering to wash their feet and bring them a piece of bread. But ends up instructing Sarah to “quickly” prepare 33-quarts of flour for bread cakes and gives a choice calf to a servant to cook. I suppose some of this exuberance might be just cultural, but I think this example is here for us to follow in the sense that what we give to our guests should be of the best we have to offer. Abraham did not choose the lame calf; this would be like picking out all my expired food cans for giving to the homeless shelter.

So, looking back at our key verse, we see that when Peter instructs his readers to “be hospitable to one another”, he isn’t really talking about sharing lemonade on the porch with your best friend. As Abraham’s example shows, the kind of “giving” required here is sacrificial. A gift which costs you nothing is no gift at all. Also remember the xenos part of hospitality means we do this for aliens and strangers, not our best friends. Yes, it is quite OK to kill and eat the choice calf with friends and family, it’s just that to do so isn’t part of biblical hospitality.

Now let’s consider the requirement Peter has added to the end of this “one another”. He expects that we would carry out this extreme sort of entertainment for complete strangers “without complaint”. Turning back to my Strong’s I found the Greek word translated here as complaint can also be translated as grumbling, muttering, and murmuring. But Peter isn’t talking about simply putting on a smile while you serve your guests. This idea of “not complaining” is really quite serious in the eyes of the Lord. In I Corinthians 10:10, we find that the Israelites grumbled in the desert after the exodus and God judged them. I recommend you read the actual account of these events in Numbers 16:41-50. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary says, “Such grumbling is sin, for it does not accept what comes from the hand of our good God.”

To better understand the true meaning of “complaint”, I used Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary, looking at the antonyms (opposites) provided. 1) eulogeo, this is where we get our word for eulogy and it means to speak well of or to bless and to praise. 2) eucharisteo, this where we get the word Eucharist, it means to give thanks and the gospels use this word to record that Jesus “gave thanks” during the Last Supper for the bread and the wine. In case you may think eucharisteo might mean just a polite thank you, let me show you to Luke 17:16. Here we find the story of a leprous Samaritan who was cleansed by Jesus. The man then “fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks [eucharisteo] to Him.”

Armed with this information, let’s look back at our key verse once again, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” Peter is telling us to be sacrificially gracious to our unknown (alien) guests while blessing and praising them as if we were giving a eulogy or like they had just cured our leprosy! Yes, this is way more than a polite smile with a cup of tea between good friends.

As a final thought, several words in this study have reminded me of the Choice Son who was slain for me when I was lost in my sin and still alienated from God and outside His family. The Perfect Example of biblical hospitality was given us in the life and death of Jesus Christ, Who was without possessions and home, yet gave His all, His life, for a world full of strangers, and without complaint. You see, there it is: wow, wonderful, and amazing!

Romans 5:8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


  1. Hi Barbara! I am so happy that you wrote this post. I had no idea how deep the message was with Peter and hospitality. The idea that we meet everyone with the same joy as a 'cure' is a real challenge, isn't it?

    I will need to meditate on this for a while. Thank you! I benefit from your wonderful research.

    1. Hello Ceil, I’ve always called what I do here just Bible study, but I think you’re right, it is more like a big research project from my school days!

      My post today on humility was just a few paragraphs that easily printed out on a single page, but my notes were sprawling over 9 pieces of paper.

      The challenge is always trying to pull it together so everyone sees the depth and beauty that I did while doing the study. Sometimes I think I’ve done it, sometimes not. But I’m so glad you said you like this. Thank you!

      Have a nice week,