Inside the Domestic Church Part 13: Almsgiving and Hospitality
Some people might think that because the Church concerns itself with the heavenly realm, this focus means that it wants nothing to do with this planet and this life. However, our mission as Christians, as Christ Himself indicated, is to be “in this world, but not of it.” That is, our goal is not to escape the material world but to transfigure it in the image of God. Our Western culture encourages us to acquire wealth and material possessions; we are told that families “need” multiple incomes so that they can have multiple cars, televisions, and other convenient or pleasurable items. The United States has less than ten percent of the total world’s population but consumes more than seventy-five percent of all goods in the world.
The Christian worldview, especially as related to material possessions and in the domestic church, differs greatly from the consumerist culture that surrounds it. We are given material goods for two reasons: to satisfy our needs and to share with others. We therefore distinguish between “enough” and “surplus,” and in part this distinction is to prevent us from becoming compartmentalized in our domestic church--it means little to offer God hundreds or thousands of candles and expensive incense but to jealously guard our funds from our neighbors and those in need. Almsgiving is as important a part of a Christian lifestyle as any other aspect, and the domestic church is called to share in the Church’s call to be a community of service and love.
At its most basic, almsgiving takes the form of hospitality, where the domestic church opens itself up to others in the spirit of Christ. The domestic church should be a place where welcoming guests is the rule, not the exception. Eastern Christians in the United States are currently scattered, which can contribute to disunity. Families cooperating in the spirit of the domestic church can build community, making their homes places where fellow members and inquirers can expect to receive hospitality. This sense of community and belonging can be a powerful tool of evangelization, especially as our society becomes increasingly fragmented and isolated.
Make sure not to confuse hospitality with entertaining--anyone can invite over others who they know will invite us back, or who will amuse us. Christ tells us that we best imitate God when we are concerned for others from whom we expect no repayment. Hospitality is most Christian when we extend it to those whom we do not expect to return it.