Thursday, March 12, 2015

Shunammite Hospitality

Some food, a bed, a chair, a table, and a candlestick...

No, this isn't some game of Clue... Colonel Mustard in the bedroom with a candlestick. (Though I do love a good board game!)

It's about a precious story of a woman with a great heart for ministry, specifically for the ministry of hospitality toward God's servants.

It was the great woman of Shunem who invited Elisha into her home.


noun hos·pi·tal·i·ty \ˌhäs-pə-ˈta-lə-tē\  generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests (Websters)

That's closely related to the word hospital.
Hospital... an institution providing medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick or injured people. (Websters)

Wouldn't it be great if our homes were little spiritual hospitals for those who entered?

The great woman of Shunem had a heart for hospitality. Do we? We are called to hospitality!

1 Peter 4:9 "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."

Romans 12:9-13 "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."


And we should strive to do it well.

Colossians 3:23 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" 

There is so much packed into 2 Kings 4 about this amazing woman's skill in the area of hospitality. This was the testimony she had with Elisha and his servant:

"...Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care..."

Whether you are on the foreign field opening your home to visiting pastors, groups, and other missionaries, or you are a missionary sender opening your home to missionaries, hospitality is an art and ministry that can be learned, strengthened, and fine-tuned.

(Confession... in America, I was terrible at hospitality! I am embarrassed at how bad I was! But through deputation and some training on the field, as well as observing people who have the gift of hospitality, I am growing and learning.)

Gleaning Hospitality Tips from the Shunammite Woman

2 Kings 4:8-17
"And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life."

She Had A Desire to Minister to God's Servant

This is where it all starts: Love for God and His people will give us a desire to minister to His servants. That desire will be the driving force in hospitality. Without that desire, without that love, our efforts will come across grudgingly and make our guests feel unwelcome.

She Was The One Who Initiated the Invite

She constrained him... He didn't have to ask her. People do not want to feel like they are imposing on us. Don't want for them to express a need. Ask. Offer. Reach out.

She Had a Perpetual Open Door

" oft as he passed by, he turned in..."

This wasn't a one-shot deal. Elisha knew he was always welcome. The Shunammite made it clear that there was always a place for Elisha and that she and her husband were always happy to see him coming.


She had the makings for bread ready for when he might stop by. She didn't wait until he popped up on the doorstep to go into scramble mode. She was ready. Anticipating. Hoping. When we are ill-prepared, it makes guests feel like they have caused us hardship.


She didn't just slap some stale crackers down on a plate. She fed Elisha well and took the time and effort to prepare him a chamber. Hospitality is work. There is no getting around it. But the more we love the Lord and people, the more the effort will seem light because it brings us such joy.

She Was Willing to Sacrifice

The truth of the matter is that whenever Elisha stopped by, she had to interrupt her schedule. But to her, it wasn't an interruption. It was an opportunity. It was a priority. She and her husband also had to take the time to prepare a chamber as well as sacrifice the space and furnishings. How willing are we to truly sacrifice for those who enter our home? How deep is our giving? How tight do we hold on to our space, our privacy, our things?

She Sought Out Elisha's Needs

She put herself in Elisha's shoes and thought about what his needs would be. He needed a place to rest. A bed. He needed a place to study and eat. A table and stool. He needed a candlestick for lighting. Elisha could have gotten by with just a bed and candlestick, but to the Shunammite woman it wasn't about giving him bare minimum. It was about meeting his needs. Ministering. In hospitality, we need to think through what our guests many needs may be and seek to reach out to those needs... physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs.

She Expected Nothing in Return

She didn't do these things with a desire to receive reward or recognition of any kind. She was blessed simply by ministering to God's servant. How often do we seek out appreciation, recognition, or reward for ministering to others?

Prepare to Be Blessed

The Shunammite may not have done these acts of hospitality expecting anything in return, but she sure was blessed because of it. God gave her the child she had always dreamed of having. When we host God's servants in our home and take good care of them, God blesses us.

Now let's get really practical. How do we translate this into real life in our homes?

To be continued...

by Charity, Southern Asia

1 comment:

Lou Ann Keiser said...

I liked your point about being ready, just in case. Good stuff!