There is a town in central Florida called Celebration that has a charming, old-fashioned downtown area. The businesses that line the streets often have dog water bowls and little baskets filled with dog treats to entice you to stop and look in their windows. You can imagine my dog Georgia’s incredible joy when we discovered this! The downside for the other dogs is that her stop at the bike rental water bowl completely depleted their offering.
Now mind you, my girl is no angel, but the kindness these folks show the local dogs made me think about the scripture about “entertaining angels” in the book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 13 New International Version (NIV)
13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Providing hospitality is a common theme in the Bible. Think about travel in those days; inns were few and far between, or completely absent all together. Travelers could only get by with a little help from unknown friends, so providing shelter and a meal was commonplace.
Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 18? Three strangers came along as Abraham was sitting outside his tent. He jumped up and offered them water, bread, and the shade of his tree:
Genesis 18 Common English Bible (CEB)
18 The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. 2 He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply. 3 He said, “Sirs, if you would be so kind, don’t just pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought so you may wash your feet and refresh yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me offer you a little bread so you will feel stronger, and after that you may leave your servant and go on your way—since you have visited your servant.”
They responded, “Fine. Do just as you have said.”
Abraham offered the standard of care: water for foot washing and a little bread. But look what actually happens:
6 So Abraham hurried to Sarah at his tent and said, “Hurry! Knead three seahs of the finest flour and make some baked goods!” 7 Abraham ran to the cattle, took a healthy young calf, and gave it to a young servant, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then Abraham took butter, milk, and the calf that had been prepared, put the food in front of them, and stood under the tree near them as they ate.
It was a five-star meal. Course after course of breads, meat, butter, milk … he opened up a smorgasbord of hospitality for these three men. And mind you, while we’re in on the fact that it was the Lord whom he entertained (read vs. 1 again), Abraham wasn’t. He was simply extending gracious hospitality because he had it to give …. thereby, entertaining angels.
How would you respond differently if you suspected that the hungry, dirty people needing your hospitality were the Lord and his angels? Would you lavish your resources on them, or offer water and a little bread? Would you close the door in their faces?
Jesus was very clear when he said that whenever you have offered the cup of cold water to the “least of these,” you have entertained him. So keep on showing hospitality to strangers. Keep on feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the unclothed, and most of all, keep on loving one another as your brothers and sisters.