Reciprocity Isn't Hospitality
Here’s one for you: Hospitality that finds its purpose, its motivation, in the expectation of repayment, is no hospitality at all. For if this is true, then hospitality will only be shown to people who can do something for you. Likewise, hospitality that finds its purpose, its motivation, in repayment, is also no hospitality at all. For if this is true, then hospitality will only be shown to people who have done something for you. All of this truly isn’t hospitality. All of this is merely networking. Not that there is anything wrong with networking. Just don’t confuse it with hospitality.
Networking is a reciprocity system, which has been around since the beginning of time. I’ll do something for you, in expectation that you will do something for me. In expectation that I will then again be obligated to do something for you. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the robber barons of the 19th century, dot-com companies all the way down to local housing associations, all do the same thing. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” President Ronald Reagan unsuccessfully took on our country’s love of the reciprocity system with his “Trickle-Down” economic theory. The confusion between hospitality and reciprocity is an age-old, sin-stained, human condition.
As a follower of Jesus, the goal isn’t reciprocity, it’s hospitality. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be and experience a blessing.” (Luke 14:12-14)
Does this mean that you can never invite anyone over to your house to network? Does this mean that you can never invite someone over for dinner as a “Thank you” for some favor they have extended to you? Of course not. There is nothing wrong with networking, as long as you know that it’s networking and not hospitality.
Jesus, in this passage, is inviting a prominent religious leader of his day to look past merely networking, to the glorious benefits of pure hospitality. To show a kindness for the showing of the kindness’ sake. No agenda. No quid-pro-quo. No expectation of repayment or honor in any way. Just being hospitable, instead of doing networking.
How about you? How many times have you confused networking with hospitality? How many times have you given something to someone or done something for someone as repayment for something they gave to you or did for you? Or how many times have you given something to someone or done something for someone in expectation that they will be obligated to repay you in the future? Don’t beat yourself up. Simply acknowledge that this was networking, not hospitality.
Jesus isn’t calling you to abandon all networking. Jesus is calling you to learn and grow. Jesus wants to transform who you are, from the inside out. Jesus is calling you to add hospitality to your repertoire. Jesus is calling you to follow his example of hospitality – “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”