Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed,
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.
Well, the first thing you know, ol’ Jed's a millionaire,
The kinfolk said, "Jed, move away from there!"
Said, "Californy is the place you ought to be!"
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly...
Hills, that is. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.
Sadly, the closing verse is often overlooked. It states:
Well, now it’s time to say good bye to Jed and all his kin.
And they would like to thank you folks fer’ kindly droppin’ in.
You're all invited back next week to this locality
To have a heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.
Hillbilly that is. Set a spell, Take your shoes off.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?
Of course, hospitality is the key word in the entire jingle. Jed, Granny, Ellie Mae, and Jethro all seemed to know that all they had was only because, in their own hunt for food, they had accidentally stumbled upon a great blessing. And, as if to share that blessing, they let us know that we are being invited into their home and to their table to enjoy some portion of that blessing with and through them.
It strikes me that the Lords’ Supper, which we observed this past week in our worship together at our church, is God’s way of sharing a blessing with us. In a message titled “Pull Up A Chair”, I referenced the Biblical custom of reclining around the table for the evening meal, and how the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all point out that Jesus had hosted just such an inviting and relaxing supper for His disciples on the last night of His earthly life.
My point was to encourage people to come to the table of the Lord and experience Godly hospitality offered through His Son Jesus Christ.
And just as God bids us to come to His table for a “heapin’ helpin’” of Godly hospitality, even so ought we to be hospitable to others, sharing with them out of the abundance with which He has blessed us. And in so doing, we fulfill the admonition of Jesus found in the Gospel of John (13:34-35):
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Little wonder then that the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:9) later admonishes us as believers to show hospitality to all men. He had experienced it firsthand from the Lord, and knew he was obliged to display it to others as well.
And what about us? Should we as believers still be hospitable to others today? Does this quaint Mid-Eastern custom still matter in our world? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. So much so that it may be one of the few really effective ways of reaching people with the life-changing message of the Gospel.
In his book titled Outlive Your Life: You were Made to Make a Difference, Max Lucado describes the power of Christians practicing hospitality. He writes:
Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. The primary gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God's plan.
The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. At least fifteen different nationalities
heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Jews stood next to Gentiles. Men worshiped with women. Slaves and masters alike sought after Christ. Can people of such varied backgrounds and cultures get along with each other?
We wonder the same thing today. Can Hispanics live in peace with Anglos? Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans? Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship with the Muslim couple down the street? Can divergent people get along?
The early church did—without the aid of sanctuaries, church buildings, clergy, or seminaries. They did so through the clearest of messages (the Cross) and the simplest of tools (the home).
Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can't be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality.
Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk.
Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community. It's no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: "You matter to me and to God." You may think you are saying, "Come over for a visit." But what your guest hears is, "I'm worth the effort."*
Well said, Max. Like a good host, Jesus entertained His disciples at the last supper. He then promptly went out and proved to them that they were worth it! The same holds for you and me, and also for our neighbors!
*SOURCE: Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), p. 55.
NOTE: According to Wikipedia, The Ballad of Jed Clampett hit No. 1 on the country charts in January 1963, and was the only number one hit song of Flatt and Scruggs' career. Doing so made it one of only two TV theme songs to ever reach No. 1 on the country charts, the other one being Waylon Jennings' The Good Ol' Boys, the theme from “The Dukes of Hazzard”.