I have read this story several times and am so appalled by the end that I miss the beginning. In Judges 19 there is a story of an unfaithful wife who returns home to her parents. She is also called his concubine. He goes to get her and each night her dad begs them to stay just one more night. After 6 nights they go and the night they leave she is raped to death by men from Benjamin and then her husband cuts her into 12 pieces and sends her body to the tribes of Israel to rally them against the men of Benjamin because they are so evil.
It is a terrible story and I almost just skimmed it this morning, but I read it anyhow. I have no insight and still don't like to read it. But today, I really paused at this part:
“So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night. That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?” He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me in for the night. We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.” “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.”
Judges 19:14-21 NIV
I think that most of the people in the town must have been afraid at how travelers were treated so they were not hospitable. The old man apparently knew because he told them that they must not stay in the town square. Of such a night I remember reading in Genesis with the 3 visitors and Lot in Sodom and Gamorrah.
Anyhow, I think about today, there is no such hospitality to strangers. Our culture, our country, is not set up to take people in. When you go to a town of your kinsmen, you don't sit in the center of town until someone takes you in. There is so much "stranger danger" mindset with grown-ups that we wouldn't dare take in someone we do not know. We are the rest of the town. We may choose to give $10 to someone's "fund me" page, but rarely ever to a stranger's. Who knows if they're really in need or just scamming.
I know that my heart has hardened to giving to those who live off of others' hospitality. It makes me cautious to give to anyone. There will always be poor among you, but you will not always have Me is something Jesus said when anointed with expensive perfume. There will always, I'm guessing, be those who take advantage of hospitality, but the love your neighbor as yourself principle didn't go away. And interestingly when Jesus explained who my neighbor is, He didn't give an example of someone in my family tree or even my same race. He gave an example of hospitality given by a Samaritan. Someone who was detested by those He spoke to, was to be considered a neighbor.
How do I know if I will be taken advantage of or not? I don't always know, but I can use the discerning brain God gave me to detect a scam. We all know someone who we believe abuses the hospitality of others. When I see it, I get mad, but there is often a child watching and the child sees that people still give and still care. I have also seen a begging child in a third world country who had cash taken away by his handler as soon as they thought the foreigners were out of sight. It breaks my heart, but someone with me reminded me that the child was at least fed by our money.
I am just rethinking how I can be giving and hospitable. The next time I have an urge to be hospitable, it is likely the Holy Spirit guiding me to be an answer to someone's prayer. I am praying to be more sensitive as to when I should or should not.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Hebrews 13:2 NIV