“You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” ~ 3 John 6b-8
Explanation of the Text: The ability to be hospitable does not naturally flow forth out of the normal disposition of most people. Yet hospitality is a beautiful way to outwardly show God’s love towards people. John’s third epistle provides a description of hospitality towards workers of our Lord.
Already John has commended Gaius for the love he showed towards these fellow workers and believers through his hospitality (3 John 5-6a). In the sentences following here in verses 6b-8 specific insights are given for the support of those who are doing the work of God.
We must first understand the overall premise here. John’s foundation for hospitality towards these people is substantiated by a moral obligation. They are workers of God doing the work for God.
With the moral obligation . . . and desire to fulfill it . . . upon our hearts, John instructs Gaius to send them out in a manner that is worthy of God. There is some debate about the exact significance of that phrase, with most settling on one of two meanings:
- Some suggest worthy of God refers to the mindset that they must be treated as though they were God Himself (in terms of hospitality).
- Others suggest the significance simply means to treat them in a way that would be pleasing to God.
Based on varying factors, it makes sense that John is more likely simply stating they must be treated in a way that would please God. However, it is important to note that these two points go together and they are not mutually exclusive.
See also though that we are able to learn about the character of the workers as well. John notes that they did not take anything from the Gentiles, meaning that they did not seek support from anyone that is an unbeliever. Because they have gone out in the name of the Lord, and therefore the workers concentrate on the desire to not disgrace the Lord’s name. To ask for support from those who did not believe would have made the Christian religion appear materialistic with some focused more on living off of the wealth of others rather than working themselves. It is only true believers that understand the the workers are doing something special in their work for the Lord.
While it is not unexpected that unbelievers would participate in Christian ministry, it is understood that all believers will, in varying ways. In the case here, John notes that those who support the workers join in as fellow workers for the truth.
Examination and Application of the Text: As generations become more self-focused, genuine hospitality is becoming a lost part of life. I am sure previous generations have lamented that about my generation, and so on. It is especially seen in the secular world. More focused on personal desires and comforts, one does not recognize the needs of others. I fear that this will infiltrate the church and be lost on believers as well.
We are not only called to be hospitable to others, but it is an outpouring to others of our love for God, not so that we can call attention to our love for God, but so that we can call attention to God’s love for others. The ability to be hospitable makes people comfortable and willing to develop relationships, thus impacting God’s work.
There is a greater emphasis on supporting those doing the work of God. As a missionary, I understand how valuable this aspect of the Christian life is. Like those that John writes about here, those doing the work of God are dependent upon the people of God for basic living needs. Without that generosity they would be forced to abandon God’s work.
However, it’s more than just meeting the living needs. Hospitality goes deeper to refresh, encourage, and help God’s workers. It is an opportunity to pour into the lives of individuals who are often pouring themselves out for the sake of others. Thus it ministers to them in ways that they may need and desire that they are not getting elsewhere. It becomes then not merely about physical support, but spiritual support as well.
I would suggest that until we take the opportunity to show genuine hospitality towards others, we often don’t understand the impact it can have. Hospitality is not merely part of the Christian life, it is the way of the Christian life.