It’s the age-old question that everyone recalls when they see a picture of a cup partially filled with liquid: Is the cup half-empty, or is it half-full? Although this common rhetorical question is often used to determine whether you are an optimist (half-full) or a pessimist (half-empty), I’ve been wondering if it might be a better gauge of how one views the art of hospitality and giving. Oh, yes, I know that goes against the grain of philosophy and psychology, but I think it is an appropriate test on how we use the resources God has given us!
In David’s most beloved psalm (Psalm 23), the overflowing cup reminds us of God’s abundant provisions throughout life. It’s good to remember that an overflowing cup does not keep all those blessings within itself; it lets them spill out to bless others (v.5). The author of Hebrews in 13:1 admonishes me to let brotherly love “continue”, an admonishment that is not always easy, but it implies that these actions go on indefinitely! My selfish human nature, which is encouraged by commercialism, tells me that I deserve to keep those blessings all to myself. But if I hold back, I might deprive myself the pleasure and joy of “entertaining angels” (v.2).
In a world where instant gratification and personal satisfaction is of utmost importance, placing others first and the concern for their welfare is a foreign concept to most. Is this reflected in the church? Do we give God our tithes and offerings first (maybe even a little more) and then buy the latest music, go to the movies, a new outfit, or splurge on a new gadget? Or do we upgrade our cell phone because we “need” it and then give God what’s left? Hebrews 13: 1-6 speaks of prisoners and marriage- people and a relationship that in our current culture have been all but forgotten. James notes the widows and orphans are also to be cared for (Js.1:27) and Paul reminds the Philippians to consider others better than themselves (Phil. 2:3-4). It is very clear, whether you are reading in the Old Testament or the New, that God is concerned with how we treat others because it is a reflection of how we treat Him (Prov. 19:17; Mt. 25:31-46). But do we really recognize that all which we have is really His? Paul exhorted the Corinthians to look forward to and take part in opportunities to give (2 Cor. 9:6-11) because they could not out-give God. Although we often say someone has the gift of hospitality, it is never listed as such. Rather giving is expected to be a natural part of our walk of faith (Rom. 12:10-13). We give because God first gave to us.
William Barclay wrote, “Christianity was, and still should be, the religion of the open door”. But oftentimes I find myself guilty of using my home as a refuge and retreat rather than the hub of hospitality God desires for it to be. If I opened the door of my home to reach out to others, both believing and non-believing, what kind of impact would that have? Would my hospitality minister to the needy, the sick, the imprisoned, maybe even the angelic, or would it be squirreled away and hidden like the slave who buried what the master entrusted to him? (Mt. 25: 24-29) The author of Hebrews perceives my home as a cup filled with God’s blessings, but with a twist that only God can orchestrate, my question now is when it comes to the good things God has given me should my cup be half-empty or should it be half-full?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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