By Michael E. Brooks
“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:11-13 NKJV).
I received an email recently from someone planning to visit Nepal, asking for recommendations for “a cheap, clean hotel” where they might stay. Lodging is a major expense in any travel, and safety and sanitation are legitimate concerns, especially in a strange and distant location. Any traveler is wise to investigate dwellings to assure the best possible accommodations.
Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 10, to his disciples who were about to embark on what we commonly refer to as the limited commission, include an interesting recommendation about lodging. They were to stay only in houses which were worthy of their presence. Just what the criteria of worthiness were we may only surmise. Whether they included cleanliness, safety, or an adequate standard of comfort is not specified.
Perhaps it is more likely, since he is evidently referring to the private homes of individuals, that his primary concerns were a welcoming attitude and receptiveness to the message being preached. We might paraphrase his conditions as, “Only stay where you are made to feel welcome.”
Certainly we would agree that a welcoming atmosphere is essential to comfort. No one enjoys feeling resented, or even ignored or taken for granted. We much prefer to believe that our presence is desired.
There is another side of this coin however. If the place of lodging is to be worthy of our presence, does that not also imply that there is a minimum standard which the traveler himself must meet? The disciples were deemed by Jesus to have inherent worth, therefore those to whom they were sent should honor and welcome them.
That worth did not accumulate because of their own virtues, or education, or qualifications. As we observe later in the New Testament many of them were “untrained and uneducated” (Acts 4:13). At least one was a tax collector (Matthew 8:9ff), who were customarily hated and despised by the Jewish people.
The value intrinsic to the disciples of Jesus was due to their humanity (i.e., their being of the nature of God), their message, and their relationship to Christ. The people of Judea were awaiting the Messiah, therefore those who came to announce his arrival expected a warm reception. In order to deserve such they were obligated to speak only what was true and to act appropriately to their message (honestly, courteously, etc.).
The same principle applies today. We contribute to the reception we receive. If we wish to be welcomed and honored, we should live and act worthily. Though there are certainly exceptions, it remains true that we are most usually treated much the way we treat others. If we greet them with a smile, it is often returned. If we are courteous, we are treated the same.
Worthy travelers find worthy places in which to stay.
By Michael E. Brooks