The act or practice of being hospitable, that is, the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers, with liberality and goodwill.
The Bible and Middle Eastern conceptions of hospitality
In Middle Eastern Culture, it was considered a cultural norm to take care of the strangers and aliens living among you. These norms are reflected in many Biblical commands and examples, for instance:
- Exodus 22:21 21 "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.
- Exodus 23:9 "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.
- Leviticus 19:10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
- Leviticus 19:33 " 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.
- Leviticus 19:34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
- Leviticus 24:22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.' "
- Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
- Pharaoh to Abraham (Genesis 12:16)
- Melchizedek to Abraham (Genesis 14:18)
- Abraham to the angels (Genesis 18:1-8)
- Lot to the angel (Genesis 19:1-11)
- Abimelech to Abraham (Genesis 20:14,15)
- Sons of Heth to Abraham (Genesis 23:6,11)
- Laban to Abraham's servant (Genesis 24:31)
- To Jacob (Genesis 29:13,14)
- Isaac to Abimelech (Genesis 26:30)
- Joseph to his brothers (Genesis 43:31-34)
- Pharaoh to Jacob (Genesis 45:16-20;47:7-12)
- Jethro to Moses (Exodus 2:20)
- Rahab to the spies (Joshua 2:1-16)
- Man of Gibeah to the Levite (Judges 19:16-21)
- Pharaoh to Hadad (1 Kings 11:17,22)
- David to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:7-13)
- The widow of Zarephath to Elijah (1 Kings 17:10-24)
- The Shunammite woman to Elisha (2 Kings 4:8)
- Elisha to the Syrian spies (2 Kings 6:22)
- Job to strangers (Job 31:32)
- Rahab (Joshua 6:17,22-25)
- Widow of Zarephath's (1 Kings 17:10-24)
- Martha to Jesus (Luke 10:38; John 12:1,2)
- Pharisees to Jesus (Luke 11:37,38)
- Zacchaeus to Jesus (Luke 19:1-10)
- Simon the tanner to Peter (Acts 10:6,23)
- Lydia to Paul and Silas (Acts 16:15)
- Publius to Paul (Acts 28:2)
- Phoebe to Paul (Romans 16:2)
- Onesiphorus to Paul (2 Timothy 1:16)
- Gaius (3 John 1:5-8)
- "Romans 12:13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
Contemporary usage seems rather different from historical uses that lend it personal connotations. NO. Today's hospitality conjures images of throwing good parties, gracious hosts entertaining, etiquette, Martha Stewart or even talk shows, or, the hospitality services industry as it relates to the entertainment and tourism business. On the other hand, hospitality used to be, and may still be, a serious personal duty or responsibility.
Hospitality is a prosaic word, even trivial, that everyone can relate to, perhaps even more concretely so outside of North American culture. It seems perhaps even a candidate for having something like a universal meaning or agreement, if not positive value.
In the western context, with its dynamic tension between Athens and Jerusalem, two phases can be distinguished with a very progressive transition: a hospitality based on an individually felt sense of duty, and one based on "official" institutions for organized but anonymous social services: special places for particular types of "strangers" such as the poor, orphan, ill, alien, criminal, etc. Perhaps this progressive institutionalization can be aligned to the transition between Middle Ages and Renaissance (Ivan_Illich, The Rivers North of the Future).