Boundaries and perfection around hospitality and help

Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. (Romans 12:13 MSG)

If we’re not careful, we can create boundaries (to prevent burn out) based on one-off instances and rob ourselves of the blessing it is to be helpful. 

Perhaps you’ve been asked to make a second meal for someone in the same week, a third person in your small group needs help moving house this month, that couple with a young family are in need of a date night. The excuses are valid.

“I can’t afford the time or money to be doing that, imagine the cost over a year!”  

“That is really not my responsibility, I need to look after what God has entrusted to me and be faithful with that.”

“I need to create some balance.”

Tough call. Real need and real reasons not to help. But do we allow exaggeration to talk us out of the blessing it is to help another?

We don’t make meals every week, we don’t move friends every weekend, and we don’t babysit as much as we think we do.

In the moment we get overwhelmed and draw back. It reminds me of this verse:

This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance… You won’t lose out on a thing.” (Matt 10:42 MSG)

“Do I have a cup of water?”

“Can I see someone who is thirsty?”

I don’t need to offer anything I don’t have, I simply need to take each instance as it comes. If it is within my means to help that day, then I’ll give it a go and trust God with the details. The second part of verse 13 speaks of inventive hospitality.

Inventive hospitality (minus the perfection)

We often hear the word hospitality used to describe a gift ‘they certainly have the gift of hospitality.’ Translated this means- that person makes delicious food or their dinner table is presented beautifully.

When I think of my own hospitableness (it can be a word for today) I can’t help but remember the brownie that caught on fire and lay in the front garden greeting the guests as they arrived. The lasagna I served partly cold, a lamb dish; raw in the middle, and curries so spicy they couldn’t be eaten. Oh and our table rarely looks Pinterest worthy.

We talk ourselves out of helping another because we “can’t keep it up” and we talk ourselves out of being hospitable because we feel pressure to serve a three-course meal with matching wines on an impeccably set table. Hospitality is more a state of heart than a gift. This mean we can all participate regardless of how well we can cook and what our table looks like.

Check the Lex φιλοξενία, ας, ἡ 

Hospitality comes from the Greek word philoneksía, (Strongs 5381) pronounced fil-on-ex-ee’-ah. Derived from the words phílos (5384) “friend” and xenos (3581) “a stranger.” Philoneksia is warmth and friendliness shown to strangers; the readiness to share hospitality or generosity by entertaining in one’s home.

When we invite people into our home, we are inviting them into our heart. Food and setting is a mere backdrop. It’s the company and conversation that’s the real win. Get rid of the highlight reel mentality and instead, welcome the opportunity to allow others to experience a bit of your reality. For sure, do the best with what you have but, if we all wait for ‘perfect’, no one will ever enter our front doors.

Jack King, an Anglican priest in Knoxville recently wrote an article about ‘Scruffy Hospitality’:

‘Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have… We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’  -Jack King

On that note, I wanted to invite you over. I wanted my home to look its best, the way that it did at the beginning of this blog. The first image accompanied an interview I did for a friend on her blog, but in reality, it probably hasn’t looked that good since.

Today, because I want to have you over more than I want to portray the image of perfection, I am being a little brave and shameless and inviting you in anyway. Welcome…

Maybe you will judge? But, maybe you will be inspired to also put perfectionism aside and invite that person over that you have been meaning to for so long.

How about inviting someone over this week?

Oh and next time you see a need, ask: is it within my means to help, just this once?

Would love to know how you go.

Love and blessings,

If you haven’t had the opportunity to subscribe yet, I would totally love to have you join me. We muse over all things worship and living real before God. Bonus: new subscribers will receive ‘Now is the Time’ a three-day goal setting devotional.

3 thoughts on “Boundaries and perfection around hospitality and help

  1. I love the spirit of invitation you express in this post. I’m so glad the Scruffy Hospitality post inspired you to open your home to friends more often. And I love the theme of your website and the meditation on philonexia. Good thoughts for my own meditation as I seek to love my neighbors here in Tennessee.

    1. Hi Jack, I was totally inspired by your post. As someone who loves to entertain (usually with a well thought through menu) your words were a timely reminder that it’s about WHO sits around our table not WHAT sits on it.

      Thanks for writing and thanks for taking to time to read my reflections too.


  2. Love this Carly! Such a beautiful and delicate reminder that we don’t always have to have it together! And we have so much in our hands/home that can bless others! Stunning!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *