A Little Help in the Kitchen

Hospitality is a way of showing friendliness, and what better way than to break bread together? But hospitality can be draining and stressful. Take a look at our friend Martha. She was entertaining the Lord Himself at her house, and she let the stress of all the preparations cause her to act foolishly. She needed a little help in the kitchen, and her annoyance at her sister is recorded for all time right there in the gospel of Luke (10:39-42) where the Lord gently but pointedly corrected her.

I have a lot of affection for Martha. Don’t you?  Had I been in her shoes, with my sister hanging out in the living room while I was madly trying to put on a fabulous feast for who knows how many, my name would be right there in Luke instead of hers. I think I know how she felt, though I am still surprised that she had the nerve to go ask Jesus to do something about it. I think I would have just stewed and scowled and been grumpy in the kitchen, snippy and chilly at everyone until I got my heart right.

For some reason, hospitality is good for us. Elders (bishops) are to lead the way in it (1 Timothy 3:2) and Peter gives a broader command to all Christians to “use hospitality one to another without grudging” (I Peter 4:9). He tells us that hospitality is going to be hard for us, so he gives us a heads up warning to do it without griping.

Why is hospitality so good for us? And if it is so good, why is it so perilously easy to stumble into sin over it? I haven’t figured this all out yet, but I have a couple of thoughts so far.

I believe, first of all, that hospitality is good for us because it is hands-on, real-life,  experiential Christianity. When you are a host or hostess, you are assuming a role of servant. You are waiting on people, and it is a load of work. Just in case you have forgotten how much work it is, consider this: First you plan a menu and clean the house. You set the table, shop for the groceries, do the cooking, pour the wine, serve the meal, look after everyone before, during, and after the meal, and then you clean up all the mess. And meanwhile, as you are doing all the above things, you are making conversation and getting to know your guests better. So what’s the big deal with that, I ask?

I think that the answer is that hospitality requires self-sacrifice, and we all need lots of practice with that. Self-sacrifice does not come naturally to us. It must be a work of grace or it will result in a spectacular belly flop. If it did not require so much, we would not be tempted to grumble about it. So God wants us doing it a lot so that we will get good at living for others and quit fussing about the work and the mess involved. In other words, hospitality is a means God can use to make us more like Him and less like us.

When you invite strangers, friends, or family to dinner, you are bestowing on them. You are opening up your life and your home and giving them something of yourselves. The temptation comes when you want to be appreciated and don’t think you are, when you think everyone has forgotten what it cost you to put the food on the table.  I think Jesus wants us to forget about ourselves and think about others as we practice  hospitality. And this goes against the grain. That’s why we are tempted to get grumbly.

Our Lord’s response to Martha was kind and gentle. He was unwilling to jump on Mary. Mary was not in the wrong. Maybe if Martha had sweetly asked her sister to help, the story never would have made it into the Gospel story. She was missing the self-sacrifice part and was thinking too much about what it was costing her to serve. She was keeping score. In other words, she was thinking about Martha and not about her guests.

Hospitality is an important way in which we can imitate Christ. Feeding others is a potent way of becoming more like Jesus.  We need more than just a little help in the kitchen. We need grace! Jesus invites us to sit down with Him at His table and feast on Him. He girded Himself and washed the disciples’ feet. He served. He died.  He is the Hospitable One.

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12 thoughts on “A Little Help in the Kitchen

  1. Thank you for feeding a stranger – for welcoming us into your home on such short notice. Our transition time is drawing upon us quickly. Rod only has two more days of work here and then he’ll be headed towards Moscow in less than a week. Exciting times for the Story family!

  2. You have such a kind way of instructing and rebuking us. Thank you for that insight into Martha. The working wasn’t what the problem was as was her attitude. We are lead to believe that she was wrong for working. Sure there are many ways to look at the situation just as there are for the Prodigal son.

    Also, thanks for the encouragement to us Georgians. I don’t know how you all can stand this stuff for more than a day. Actually, the problem down here is that it turns to ice, pretty white clumps of ICE.

  3. God’s providence is amazing! I was so discouraged last night about a coming guest to our home and how it is effecting all of us differently. Your words are such an encouragement. Thank you for the reminder of this perfect lesson from Scripture.

  4. Thank you for this. Very beautiful. I am starting to really not mind doing the work, at least the cooking part, which is fun. The clean-up afterward is still a work of grace. Something tells me Martha had a lot more practice at hospitality than i have, and she still struggled. >>>

    One interesting thought for me is that part of the hospitality necessarily involves making the work disappear. No one enjoys himself if I’m a martyr, so it must be clear that I’ve enjoyed the process. And sometimes a little “Will you please carry out this trash?” to one of the single guys goes a long way to making them feel more at home, less like Company For Whom I Labored.

  5. My family lives quite a distance from church and so we don’t often have people over (in fact, we are frequently on the receiving end). Do you have suggestions for how I as an adult-daughter-still-at-home can make opportunities to practice hospitality?

  6. Hi Erin,
    Yes, I have a couple of ideas. You can invite people who live close by, even if they don’t attend your church. You can go ahead and invite people over from your church, even if it is a bit of a drive for them. They may not mind at all, especially if you suggest they come early and visit before dinner. Or you can ask a family if you can bring dinner to their house after church. Then you can prepare some things that you can carry in your car and serve it up to them at their table, or if it is nice weather, you can serve it up at a park. As an adult daughter, you can do much of the preparation and can act as a co-hostess.

  7. Thanks, Mrs. Wilson, for sharing your insights on Martha and Mary.

    To Erin, who posted above; my family also lives quite some distance from church, on a little farm. One we did to be hospitable, especially in the summer, was to invite people from church to come stay with us for a couple days, and we would prepare some food ahead of time, prepare an RV to be the guest house, and we would take them on hikes, to the beach, or just let them play with the animals. That was a big undertaking, but it was a lot of fun, and all the kids in my family helped out in various ways. Another thing we did if we were invited to someone’s house was to ask what we could bring, and bring a cooler full of food, such as home made bread, milk from the farm, a meat dish, potato salads, and we would offer to clean up. (That way our hostess wouldn’t be so daunted by having a family of ten over for lunch or dinner.)

    Blessings.

  8. Thank you for sharing. I loved this post. How many times am I like Martha and thinking about ME rather than those I’m called to love and serve?

  9. This is great Nancy. I would be right there with Martha myself. I am learning to be less prideful and ask for more help in my preparations rather than assume people can read my mind and know what help I need. Our hospitality preparations have become much more joyful as a result.

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