Lydia was a successful businesswoman in Philippi—a dealer in the renowned purple-dyed cloth of the region. She was likely prominent, well-known, and respected in her city. 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 riverbank outside their city, God opened her heart to the gospel, and she believed. She and her entire household committed their lives to Christ and were baptized.
What's striking is that 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.
Her example of gut-reaction hospitality poses some convicting questions for us. How ready and willing are we to share our possessions, our space, or our home? Are we open-hearted and generous or—let's be honest—do we tend to be miserly and tight-fisted? Do we see our home as ours or, like Lydia, as the Lord's, meant to be used for his purposes?
It's possible that Lydia already was a generous and welcoming person; Scripture doesn't specify if this was a change in attitude for this financially-successful woman. But it's hard not to view her immediate hospitality as a direct result of her encounter with the gospel. Lydia had just come face-to-face with the abundant and generous grace of Christ! She'd just personally experienced God's joy-filled, open-hearted welcome. How could she not respond in kind?
Lydia's hospitality wasn't just a flash in the pan; it had staying power. Her generous sharing of her home and possessions extended beyond Paul and Silas to eventually encompass the entire new and growing Christian community in Philippi. Scholars believe that her house served as home base for the Philippian church for quite some time. Paul and Silas returned to Lydia's house after they were imprisoned (Acts 16:40) and possibly many more times (Acts 20:1, 6; 1 Timothy 1:3) to visit and encourage the Christians there.
Perhaps what's so compelling about Lydia's hospitality is its instantaneous quality, resulting directly from her new faith in Jesus. Hospitality was an immediate fruit in Lydia's life—and it should be similarly 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.
And if, deep down, we know we're not like Lydia? If we've traded generosity for personal comfort, or a warm welcome for more "me-time," maybe we need our own riverbank encounter. Maybe, like Lydia did that day, we need to focus afresh on the gospel message that changes everything for us. Maybe we need to gaze anew at the extravagant love and grace of Christ who endured the Cross for us. In the light of such welcome, such kindness, such generosity, how could we not respond in kind?
Kelli B. Trujillo is a TCW regular contributor and editorial advisor and the author of several books and Bible studies. Join her to dialogue about spiritual growth and family life at KelliTrujillo.com or on Twitter @kbtrujillo.