Hospitality was a fundamental aspect of Middle Eastern culture during Jesus’ and present times. Hosts were expected to receive guest with open arms and guests were expected to accept the host’s offers of food, drink, gifts, and shelter graciously.
Not only was it custom for hosts to feed and shelter their guests, but it was expected of them to provide the best food and lodging within their means. Furthermore, hospitality was expected to be freely given at any time or in any place (Luke 11:5-8). Families who did not meet these standards, or were not hospitable at all, brought shame upon themselves. In exchange for the host’s provision, guests were required to honor the host and his or her family, and praise them for their hospitality to others to increase the host’s honor in the community (Strauss, 163).
The host-guest connection is defined by Christ as a relationship where the guest brings and offers peace to the host and his or her home and where the host takes in the guest and allows the guest to stay, eat, and drink (NIV Bible. Luke 10:5-7). Because hospitality was a common practice in Middle Eastern culture during Christ’s time, he explicitly instructed his disciples to pack only a staff, sandals, and a shirt.
“These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff -no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.'” (NIV Bible. Mark 6:8-11)
Whole communities were also held to hospitality standards as a whole. Jesus discerns between a good host community and a bad host community:
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you… But when you enter into a town and are not welcomed… I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (NIV Bible. Luke 10:5-12)
Hospitality’s chief function in Christian culture and history lay in the facility that it provided traveling early Christian preachers and evangelists. While spreading the news of Christ through Middle Eastern cities and villages, these missionaries always had necessary provisions (Strauss, 164).