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June 8, 2010

Martha Stewart Is Not Hospitable

Real hospitality is different than we think.

If you ask a group (I’ve tried this, so I know), “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word hospitality?” most people will say, “Martha Stewart.” And that’s just a shame, because Martha Stewart is not hospitable.

How can I say that, you ask?

I watched a Today show segment where Martha was illustrating how to decorate a gingerbread house. Meredith Vieira tried to follow Martha’s directions as they decorated it together. When they’d finished Martha turned the house to display the side she had done, rather than Meredith’s. Meredith asked her why she didn’t show her side, and Martha said, “We want it to look pretty.” Meredith looked offended and said, “Martha!” in a tone of surprise and hurt.

Hospitality is not providing the perfect meal in the perfect home by the perfect hostess. We’ve been led to believe that’s what it is by the Martha Stewart perfection that many of us secretly aspire to. I’d love to be able to turn out food and events that look like Martha’s, but I gave up on that long ago because of time and lack of ability (my gingerbread houses look like Meredith’s, not Martha’s).

I sometimes enjoy watching Martha’s show. I enjoy beautiful things, so it’s fun to see the amazing things she turns out. And I’m not dissing those of you who have similar abilities. More power to you. But I still insist that, in itself, is not hospitality. That’s cooking and craft skill. On her television show, I once heard Martha ask a man, “Didn’t your mother teach you anything?” That is not hospitable.

I heard a story when I was a child about a family who invited a man to dinner who had been homeless much of his life. He was uncomfortable at the dinner table because he’d rarely sat at one. The only utensil he could handle well was the spoon, so he grabbed that and used it for the casserole, the peas, everything. The father of the family followed his cue and also used only his spoon. Soon the homeless man was talking comfortably with them. That’s hospitality.

As Christians, especially, we should be aware of what the commands to be hospitable truly mean. Just take a look at these verses:

Romans 12:13: “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

1 Timothy 5:10: “She must be well respected by everyone because of the good she has done. Has she brought up her children well? Has she been kind to strangers and served other believers humbly? Has she helped those who are in trouble? Has she always been ready to do good?”

1 Peter 4:9: “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

3 John 1:8: “So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.”

What do you think? What is true hospitality?

Related Tags: Hospitality


Hasn't hospitality gotten to be a dying art, or a fading gift ... that whole spirit seems to be as rare as hen's teeth in this crazy busy culture. We're so ratcheted up trying to survive that we don't take time to just be ... and offer that gift of being together with others.

But, wow ... when you meet someone with that gift and she shares it with you ... what delightful, refreshing moments you end up sharing together.

And it has nothing to do with the appearance of her gingerbread house, her home, or her table. It's all about the gentle generosity of her heart ...

Wonderful post! Thank you for the timely biblical article that emphasizes true hospitality. Awesome!!

There is a similar story that takes place around the Sabbath table in a Jewish home, where a guest spills wine on the table, and the host then turns over his glass of wine. True hospitality.

It seems that Martha Stewart would best be equated with the Martha of the bible and not the essence of hospitality. It was Mary in the infamous Jesus scene who was at her Master's feet laping up his words and teachings. It seems that hospitality would begin with that same type of interest and commitment to relationship that Mary had for Jesus.

Hospitality continues with appropriate signage in the building, so people know where they are going and can find what they need.Hospitable acts like someone shaking your hand at the door, acknowledging your presence, offering to show you where the restrooms are, or where the nursery is for your children.

Excellent article with point well made. Spontaneous times of fellowship, without weeks of preparation & stress, are the best of times.

Great article. Reminded me of a book I read, Martha to the Max by Debi Stack. It is a
humorous version of how we can be more like Mary rather than Martha!!

Personally, I think Martha of the Bible gets a bad rap; she wasn't necessarily snotty/perfectionistic like a certain other Martha is, she was simply overwhelmed by preparing a meal for a bunch of men (Jesus plus 12! Wouldn't you be a little stressed if you knew you were having Jesus over for dinner?!) I identify with her stress over wanting to be a good hostess. Martha S, on the other hand, obviously doesn't display a similiar concern for her guests. I'd want her to cater my wedding but not invite me over for dinner!

True hospitality: making me feel comfortable in your home. Trust me, that's not easy to do, as I am generally uncomfortable outside of my own home.

perhaps a "MarthaMary" combo? cuz we all can't just sit around when company is over nor should we be so busy that we don't focus on relationship.

I find hospitality very difficult. I am not a "people person" and long to sit in the background.. what will I talk about, what will they think..., the what if's grab me and then I'm frozen in terror. Just typing about it brings on anxiety. Such foolishness to some but very real to me. I long to be known for being hospitable but can't seem to get over the panic I feel.
I used to admire Martha S. until I heard her put people down who were "beneath" her like conservatives and praise the liberals and hollywood types. I just don't have anything in common with her. Why waste my time even on the pretty things she does when I have to listen to all that she says.
I tip my hat to all of you who open your homes at a moments notice. My dear friend and pastor's wife is like that, she is my hero.

I am speaking about Unity at an upcoming conference and it seems to me that one of the first steps toward unity is true hospitality and kindness. Thank you for this article.

Yes, sure is fact to be care for and be hospitality is the way of showing respect and not to judge. Martha S. not sure if she does not attend to church or have she read Bible? maybe not or maybe she have? if she did read Bible this will be a great turn over for her life.She grew up not happy in childhood life, and there are alot of mistakes she had made and of course we all makes mistake and learn to pray and read Bible.
I surely pray for Martha S. to read Bible and get to know God.
Sadly not many famous people would have read Bible and get to know God.

I agree to some extent, but I don't like the title of the article, or picking on Martha. Famous people can be easy targets, but they are also people like us. It doesn't build me up to "dish" on others. My point of view - take it or leave it.

Connie Dear,I can tell you are a transparent person.How do
you know you are not hospitable?May be you have very high
ecpectations of yourself.Just ask a close friend to come
over for tea,or coffee in the name of Jesus.He will guide
you what to say and how to behave.And please let us know.
And please do not be surprized if you find yourself to be
a very hospitable person.

The direct references to Martha Stewart concern me. I have to constantly remind myself that correction is to be done gently and directly to the person. Discussing it with others quickly slips to slander and gossip which the Lord despises. You have made valid points which are important to remember. Thank you.

Thank you for this article. There is an important line to draw between domestic skill and hospitality. And, while I understand the concerns about the direct reference to Martha Stewart, I think that this line is still valid. Martha Stewart presents herself as a public persona, and it is this all-too-easily idealized persona that is critised in this artcile, rather than the individual. The correction being offered in this article isn't of the individual; it is of our societies aspiration to be the persona. The difficulty comes because Martha Stewart has used her own name as her brand.

Martha is not a fave on my list, but she is still one of Gods children.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Years ago, Martha had a then elderly Julia Child on her show, making Christmas trees of filled puff balls. Martha's was perfect; Julia's was not. It was very, very embarassing for Julia and I thought, what a ninny Martha is. She is an entertainer in all senses of the word, not a hospitable woman.

there's a difference between hospitality and entertaining. Martha is good at "entertaining and not so good at hospitality. May we all make it our ministry to be hospitable and make others comfortable in our homes. It is too bad it is a dying ministry, but I believe it's one of the most important Christian ministries there is.

I was looking for other Christian Hospitality blogs & I think you've nailed it. My blog discusses some of these same thoughts. It's definitely not entertaining. And yes our culture does think it needs to look like Fine Living, but that's not at all true. Someone said that Martha Stewart is a child of God too, which is definitely true. It's being able to look at her & her image so embedded with false humility and demystifying it. Here is a link as to what I think it really is about. http://evangitality.com/hospitality/

And this is the Good News? That some Christian women can beat their breast like the Pharisees of long ago and thank God that they are not like HER? And IF "they will know we are Christians by our love"-- a song take-off from Scripture who will know you are Christian by this article? The unchurched see nothing edifying in this article. This article did NOT build me up. It made me very sad and angry that yet another unChristlike article has been published in the name of Christ.I do not intend this as a not "nice" post. I am begging that all of us live our lives for His glory and may our tongue be tempered by His love as well.

This is an encouragement to all of us who are "Merediths". Loved it. Thank you.

Hospitality is not asking questions, like how long, why, what for. But answering with - yes come in, stay as long as you need, can I get you anything, would you like to talk. Entertaining is the fussiness of bringing people together to have a good time and hosting them. I like to be behind the scenes and to be a host. We can be both when we approach everything with the love of God in our hearts and not self interest. The article is a true lesson on our humanness. Blessings

This is a very good post. It's definitely true that what Martha Stewart does is not hospitality. My wife and I have actually started a Christian Hospitality blog recently and one of our goals is to work out what true Christian Hospitality is.

So far I can agree with what you have said about hospitality being about looking after those in need. I recently learnt that the Greek translation of the word "hospitality" as used in the Bible means to "love strangers". Very interesting. Not at all "make everything look perfect".

Anyway, thanks for the post JoHannah!


I write from rural northern Mozambique. As I read these comments, I wonder whether there is perhaps more to learn about hospitality from the story of Abraham receiving his three guests in his tent, the ones who were to prophesy the birth os Isaac with Sarah. Spontaneity and looking for the opportunity to be hospitable; time spent being less impotant than the event of generous welcome; the giving of space to another - Abraham practises all of this in front of us. When Sr Katawala, a Christian guesthouse owner here who I know is struggling with both health and wealth, opened his room to welcome some church leaders recently, he waited on table, quietly offered his thanks for the visit as well as generous helpings of simply prepared local dishes - grace shared and received.

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