A Messy Home / An Open Heart

While this may sound silly, one of the most conspicuous things about Jesus was His prioritization of parties and His radical teachings on opening your home. For Him, house parties weren’t just opportunities for food, and ‘grass-roots marketing,’ but so much more.

  • In John 2:1-11, Jesus performs His first miracle in His ministry. He takes a wedding party to another level when He turns water into wine. This inaugural miracle of the Messiah was announcing that the kingdom of God, and life centered on Jesus, is like a party.
  • In Luke 14, Jesus rebukes backwards motives for hospitality. He taught that the way of Jesus is to give freely, without expectation of reciprocity or notoriety. And so he tells them to invite over “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” who won’t be able to pay them back (14:13 ESV).
  • In Mark 2:15-17, Jesus has a dinner party with "many tax collectors and sinners," along with His disciples. And while he doesn’t sin with them, He does sit with them. In fact, many translations tell us He reclined at their table. When Jesus was judged for dining with the socially rejected, he responded, saying, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (NLT).

Jesus sets an example for enjoying company in one another’s homes, but we also see this modeled in the rest of the New Testament. In parts of Acts, it was the celebration of their union in Christ (Acts 2:42, 2:46, 20:7). In Titus 1:8 and 1 Timothy 3:2, being hospitable is a qualification for elders in the local church.

Dr. George Ross points out instances in Scripture where we see hospitality to outsiders being the catalyst for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus, which was a radical sign of love in a hostile culture. “The gospel advanced in the home of Lydia (Acts 16:15), at the house of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34), with Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth (Acts 18:2-3), at the house of Philip in Caesarea (Acts 21:8), on the island of Malta in the home of Publius (Acts 28:7), with Gaius (Rom. 16:23), and as a guest of Philemon (Philem. 22)” ("Hospitality in the New Testament").

The love of Jesus, and His Gospel, doesn’t just move forward through pulpits and pastors, but through kind and generous invites into the imperfect homes of imperfect people. I have been very fortunate to see a number of friends receive Christ since Jesus gripped my heart back in 2011. Sometimes it was over coffee, breakfast, or after a sermon, but most commonly their declarations of faith came after countless conversations on my couch, or around the dinner table. There was no formula that I was following, just an invite into my mess, so they might see that Jesus loves messy people, not just the Christians that seemingly have it all together.

Kevin DeYoung, in his book titled Crazy Busy, wrote “Opening our home to others is a wonderful gift and a neglected discipline in the church. But we easily forget the whole point of hospitality. Think of it this way: Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and the wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed. And yet, too often hospitality is a nerve-wracking experience for hosts and guests alike. Instead of setting our guests at ease, we set them on edge by telling them how bad the food will be, and what a mess the house is, and how sorry we are for the kids’ behavior. We get worked up and crazy busy in all the wrong ways because we are more concerned about looking good than with doing good. So instead of encouraging those we host, they feel compelled to encourage us with constant reassurances that everything is just fine. Opening our homes takes time, but it doesn’t have to take over our lives. Christian hospitality has much more to do with good relationships than with good food. There is a fine line between care and cumber. In many instances, less ado would serve better.”

But let’s not pretend that this is easy for all of us. There are all sorts of obstacles to this, whether it is rooted in perceived business, or familial upbringing, or a deeper shame. In any case, I’d like to lovingly address the two reasons I most commonly hear.

Obstacles to Practicing Biblical Hospitality

“My house is always such a mess.”
Everyone’s house get’s messy. Yet we all fall victim to a shame that whispers lies about who we are based on the dishes we have let pile up, or the table that is filled with junk mail that we haven’t yet trashed, or toys that the kids still haven't cleaned up. We believe the lie that ‘if people see what my house is really like, they’ll think less of me.'

Let me offer a different perspective. A mentor of mine used to have me over every Monday night to eat dinner with him, his wife, and his growing family. I’d usually walk in to a mess of games and toys with silly kids running around. It wouldn’t be uncommon for the preparation of dinner to fall behind other priorities, and for us to settle on frozen pizzas, yet again. But they didn’t need to apologize to me - their mess invited authenticity. Because they didn’t need to hide their mess, I saw that I didn’t need to wear a mask either. This environment was the place that brought about the most consistent growth in my adult life.

In a time where we cannot decipher the real from the fake (AI advancements, news headlines, photo filters, cake - iykyk), the world, more and more, is going to hunger for something refreshingly authentic. Maybe the dishes in your sink will make others feel less ashamed about the dishes in theirs. Maybe your open doors to a messy house will feel like more of an invite into true friendship, where hiding ins’t necessary.

Now, you don’t need to intentionally turn your home into a war zone to make people feel comfortable, but if a messy home is what keeps you from hosting, or if the stress of cleaning makes hosting a burden, then leave the mess, and let love and friendship be the goal.

“I don’t have a great house for hosting.”
I have felt this way at times, but this excuse of mine was shaken up when I visited a small town in southern Haiti that had recently been nearly-swallowed by a hurricane. And while these friends knew that I was likely stepping out of luxury in taking this trip, they smiled as they eagerly brought me into their homes, which had no furniture, no carpet, no tapestry. If they were lucky, they may have had a leaky tarp for a roof. But they didn’t apologize for their lack; they wielded what they had.

You and I need to remember that everything the Christian has is joyfully subjected to God. After all, our lives, and our possessions, are better in His hands than in our own. So if God has called you to open your home (which He has), let’s trust that he can make much out of the things we regard as insignificant.

Final Thoughts

The question isn’t whether you have been called to opening your home. What you ought to ponder and pray about is ‘to what extent.’ Will your home be a place to celebrate milestones of friends, family, and co-workers that often go forgotten? Will it be a place where you invite beefing parties to reconcile? Will it be a place for believers to gather to enjoy their common foundation on God? Will it be a place where non-believers can ask questions outside of the toxicity of social media? Or will it be a place where strangers and orphans find care and refuge?

No matter the aim, I pray that your home will be a place where you and your guests can come out of hiding behind the masks we feel society demands and step into honest friendship that results in peace, joy, and the demonstration of God’s love for messy people.
Further reading on this topic
The Simplest Way To Change The World by Dustin Willis & Brandon Clements
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Mitch Pinion
Content & Storyteling