Lydia was a successful businesswoman in Philippi—a dealer of the renowned purple-dyed cloth of the region. She was likely prominent, well-known, and respected in her city (Acts 17:4, 12). Rather than participate in the dominant pagan worship of her culture, Lydia "worshiped God" (Acts 16:14) as a Gentile convert to Judaism.
When Paul and Silas sat with Lydia and her friends near the river outside their city, God "opened her heart" (Acts 16:14) to the gospel and she believed. She and her entire household committed their lives to Christ and were baptized.
Lydia's immediate response to her new life in Christ was to urge Paul and Silas to be her guests. She suddenly viewed her home and possessions in a different light—as resources that could be used by God to help build his church. She saw a need as she looked at Paul and his travel-worn missionary team, and she instinctively sought to meet it.
Scripture doesn't tell us that Lydia prepared a fabulous meal for Paul and his team (though she might have), or that her home was perfectly decorated for guests (though it could have been). Rather, Lydia's hospitality was expressed in her sincere openness to God; she exemplified a readiness to use her home and possessions to minister to those in need.
Lydia's hospitality extended beyond Paul and Silas to encompass the entire new and growing Christian community in Philippi. Scholars believe that her house served as a home base for the Philippian church for quite some time.
Perhaps what's so compelling about Lydia's hospitality is how instantaneous it was, resulting directly from her new faith in Jesus. Hospitality was an immediate fruit in Lydia's life—and it should similarly be evident in ours. When we believe in Christ, something changes in us: our eyes see the needs of others, our hearts begin to care as God cares, and our homes become places of ministry.
Excerpted from the Everyday Matters Bible for Women, copublished by Hendrickson Publishers and Christianity Today.