When Hospitality Hurts
There is a couple. They live in their car. They live in their car in Minnesota. They live by parking on my street. They’ve been there since the summer. They come and they go. This is not easy for me.
I’m a Christian Hedonist, and I’m supposed to be so happy in Jesus that I overflow with hospitality and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (see Matthew 7:12). If I were living in a car, what would I want from this rich guy who lives in that red house right there who has a hundred thousand times more than I do? What would I want? It’s not easy for me to go to bed at night. What do I do?
Well, I’ve got these motives. I’m supposed to be full of Jesus — so happy in him that I just go out there and invite them in. And there are mental issues going on. We’ve been together to Jericho Road. They have transitional housing options in front of them that are easy. We have paid for the fixing of their car. We have put them in motels three times. We have done everything we know to do to get this couple on the road.
“I’m supposed to be so happy in Jesus that I overflow.”
She’s pregnant. The baby will be born in three weeks. She’s living in a car. I’m saying to them, “They’re going to take your baby. They won’t let you have a baby in the car.”
There are mental illness issues. They can’t see hope. They can’t see a future. They pride themselves and say, “We can make it. We do make it.” It’s remarkable how they make it. They get $523 a month from the government. The guy stands on the corner and probably makes $28 an hour with his little sign. I give him money. No shame. This is our society. There’s no easy fix here.
But it was six degrees one night. It was after Christmas. I had given them money: “I’m not letting you out there during Christmas Eve. No way. Here’s $300 and a Bible. Go read the Bible and stay in a hotel and have a nice Christmas dinner.” But it’s six degrees now, and I said to Noël, “I can’t sleep tonight with them out there. Is it okay? I mean, we have two empty bedrooms upstairs. Can I just go knock on their window and invite them in?”
And I’ve got a great wife who responded, “Sure.” I mean, I quoted some verses. Do you know what hospitality means in Greek? Love of strangers — not just friends — strangers. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
So I went and knocked on the window. He rolled it down. “Hi, it’s really cold. I don’t want you in your car tonight. Would you come and spend the night with us?” He turns around to his wife, snuggled in the back, all cozy and warm — it’s toasty in there. They talk. And he turns and says,“Thanks anyway.” It’s six degrees. “Thanks anyway.”
I said, “Come on. I would be really happy if you did this,” which is a very hedonistic thing to say. “Thanks anyway.” I said, “Look, you have to get a place. There are three places. We can put you in any of those places. We can pay for the gas to get you there.” He said, “We’re still looking.” And what he means is that there are places we don’t want to be, and we’ll choose.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
So when I walked into the house, I had two big feelings. One was sadness. “This is so broken. This world is so broken. People all around me are so broken, and I’m so sad I can’t fix it.” That’s one feeling.
And the other feeling was happiness. I knocked on his window, and my wife is all in. We conquered our selfishness and we conquered our fear. We conquered our greed, and we were willing to let him take our computers in the middle of the night if that’s what he’s going to do. That’s awesome joy. It’s an awesome joy, and it’s different. It’s more.
I just want you to figure this out with me. I’m still struggling. That was an absence of necessary overflow. It wasn’t spontaneous. It was a struggle, and I had to preach to myself, “It’s going to be okay. He’s going to take care of you: ‘I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you. I’m on your side. It’s going to be more blessed to give more.’ More blessed? What if he? ‘More blessed.’” I’m real. And another test will come, and I’ll probably wonder, “Am I my real now?”
I mean that’s part of John Piper’s struggle is, How much evidence do you need to be at peace with God? Join me in the struggle. So I’m saying, be biblical in your preaching.
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