Commercialized Hospitality

By Irvin Himmel

Several years ago a family moved into a certain metropolitan area and began worshiping with one of several congregations in that city. In a short while they were invited into the homes of three or four different families. They stated later that not one of these families had invited them simply because they were Christians, nor because they were newcomers, but in each case because the people were trying to sell them a particular line of products.

No valid objection can be raised to Christians making their livelihood (or supplementing their income) by selling legitimate and useful merchandise. No one objects to Christians selling products to other Christians. But something needs to be said about a growing practice that is extremely distasteful. And we have heard of some preachers and elders who are chief offenders in this matter.

If someone is invited into a home for dinner or for what he expects to be a purely social visit and then the host tries to interest his guest in buying some product, the guest goes away feeling that he was deceived. What he thought was intended as an act of hospitality turned out to be primarily a sales pitch. Many persons are completely disgusted with this commercialized form of hospitality.

In some congregations the members who sell certain products have shown a tendency to be sociable only toward others who sell or purchase their line of merchandise. A clique is formed that excludes those Christians who do not wish to buy their goods. And so many have been invited into homes only to be confronted with a sales pitch that they now ask when invited to have dinner with a fellow Christian, “What are you selling?”

Most local churches will include several individuals who sell items in their homes, and people have every right to do that. If someone wants to invite other Christians to come to sales meetings and sales parties, that is his lawful right. If one wishes to invite others to his home to demonstrate a product or show a line of wares, that is fine, and if he wishes to give them a free dinner while they are there, that is his business. But let us not resort to unethical or harmful practices to increase our income.

The Bible says, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9). This passage does not teach us to use hospitality as a front for promoting our personal business interests. When someone is invited to be another’s guest to be a potential customer, he ought to be told plainly what the purpose behind the invitation is to avoid any appearance of deceit and to prevent hard feelings.

Perhaps some Christians have not stopped to realize how their sales tactics appear in the minds of others. All of us appreciate genuine and warm hospitality. Probably many of us could show much more friendship toward other Christians than we generally show. And we are aware of how hard it is for most families to have sufficient income to keep up with inflation. But commercialized hospitality breeds resentment and disfavor.

Truth Magazine XXI: 17, pp.261-262
April 28, 1977