“Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.” 1 Timothy 5:9-10
A picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, and so is a real-life illustration. To consider our second good work of hospitality, I want to share the following story from Edith Schaeffer’s life, found in her book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking.
“There was a railroad running through the town, Grove City, where Fran [Edith’s husband, Francis Schaeffer] was pastor after he graduated from Seminary. Often hobos or tramps—rather derelict-looking older men, unshaven and ragged of clothing, who traveled by riding on the bottom of freight cars, or hidden inside an empty one—came to our back door asking, “Cup of coffee, ma’am, and maybe some bread?”
“Wait a minute,” I’d reply, “just sit down there, I’ll fix you something.” It was too dangerous to invite such a stranger in, alone with small children; but it would have been wrong to send him away.
I would get out a tray, put the kettle on, and look in the fridge for some left-over soup. Into a small pan would go the soup, with the gas on under it. I would cut bread, enough for two big sandwiches (not too thin, he’ll be hungry) and wonder what sort of a home he had had when he was a little boy—and wonder who he is, or whether maybe he is an angel in disguise!.... A diagonal cut through the first sandwich showed red tomato and green lettuce attractively displayed in the slash. The walnuts crunched as the knife went diagonally through the second sandwich. Alternating these four triangles on a lovely dinner plate came next, with pickle trim on one, and parsley on the other. Now for the steaming hot soup left over from our lunch. I would put a good bowl of this on the tray, and the children would help me fix a tiny bouquet of flowers nested in an ivy leaf.
“What’ll he think of all that, Mummy?” Priscilla would ask with big, wondering eyes.
“Well, perhaps he’ll remember something in his past—perhaps he had a very nice home once, where he had meals prepared for him. Anyway, he’ll stop and think, and we’ll give him this little Gospel of John to read while he is eating. He can take it away with him and, who knows, perhaps he’ll do a lot of thinking, and some day, believe. Anyway, he may realize we care something about him as a person, and that’s important.”
Priscilla would hold the screen door open as I took it out, and watch his surprised face as he saw the tray.
“For me? Is this for me?”
“Yes, and the coffee will be ready in a minute, eat the soup first. This Gospel is for you, too. Take it with you. It really is very important.”
All this for a tramp? Flower arrangements for a tramp on a rainy day? Why? Is it worth it? Is it just romantic? Does he even notice? If the Bible is true, this is the way to be doing something “unto Jesus”, and at times perhaps to entertain an angel.”
“What a waste of time!” some might remark. But the ‘waste’ is what brings forth the most amazing results, many of which are hidden from us in this life.” (Taken from Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer. Copyright © 1977 by Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Now, I’m no Edith Schaeffer. Not even close. And with sharing this story, I’m definitely not encouraging any woman to offer a strange man hospitality when you are alone. Mrs. Schaeffer’s illustration takes place in a different time and age.
However, I am inspired by her story. I’m inspired to show hospitality as an extension of my husband’s ministry. I’m inspired to open my home to those who need to hear the gospel. And I’m inspired to put in the extra effort to make my meals attractive and tasty. Not because it’s romantic or sentimental—as Mrs. Schaeffer points out—but because it can bring glory to the gospel. For this reason, I want to follow Mrs. Schaeffer’s example and excel in the good work of hospitality. I hope you’re inspired by her story too.