1 Peter – Chapter Four XX

by Ed Urzi

“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

When we think of modern-day expressions of hospitality, we may envision the act of entertaining guests or sending an invitation to friends to join us for an evening in our home. However, this reference to hospitality in 1 Peter 4:9 held greater significance for the first-century audience of this epistle.

Since many members of the early Christian community lost their homes and livelihoods through persecution, the concept of hospitality encompassed more than just a social gathering. When traveling ministers and persecuted Christians sought refuge, they often had to rely on the generosity of Godly men and women who lived in the towns where they stopped for the night.

From our modern-day perspective, we might ask why those individuals didn’t look for an inn or other lodging place for an overnight stay. The answer is two-fold. The first issue involved the cost of those accommodations. Next, we should remember that the options for lodging were limited, and mostly unsuitable during that era.

Unlike the professionally managed inns of today, the inns of the first century were often undesirable places to stay. As one source explains, “Well-to-do Romans avoided inns if possible, and either set up their own tents or stayed with friends. Roman writers… uniformly criticized inns for their adulterated wine, filthy sleeping quarters, extortionate innkeepers, gamblers, thieves, and prostitutes.” (1)

The following commentator offers a further explanation…

“The word ‘hospitality’ is the translation of a Greek word meaning literally ‘friendly to strangers.’ Thus the thought in the mind of the apostle is not that of hospitality shown to one’s friends who do not need it, but to Christians who in their travels for the Lord Jesus, or for whatever other reason, may be in need of food and shelter. The persecutions which some of these Christians were enduring deprived them often of the necessities of life, and such an exhortation as this was needed.” (2)

Finally, one source notes the far-ranging effect of this directive…

“Not only did the missionaries need hospitality; the local churches also needed it. For two hundred years there was no such thing as a church building. The church was compelled to meet in the houses of those who had bigger rooms and were prepared to lend them for the services of the congregation. Thus we read of the church which was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla (Rom_16:5; 1Co_16:19), and of the church which was in the house of Philemon (Phm_1:2 ). Without those who were prepared to open their homes, the early church could not have met for worship at all.” (3)

(1) Edwin M. Yamauchi, “On the Road with Paul,” Christian History magazine, Issue 47 “Paul and His Times.”

(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Peter 4:1-11] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

(3) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, “Christian Responsibility (1Pe_4:9-10)”