1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (ESV)
As we come into chapter 13, we are left with a number of curiosities. The first is the quick, short nature of the commands in this chapter. After developing his points throughout the lesson, the author of Hebrews gives seemingly random, scattered instructions. The writer is also drawing a sharp contrast that the chapter break obscures. Look at how chapter 12 ended, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Then look at verse 1 of chapter 13, “Let brotherly love continue.” Quite a contrast! So what is the author of Hebrews doing? I believe the author is giving exhortations to us to do these things because God is a consuming fire and because we are in God’s kingdom. These are some of the things that we need to do to remain in God’s unshakable kingdom. Don’t think that you are part of God’s unshakable kingdom if we are not doing these things.
(1) Love each other.
We are commanded to have brotherly love for each other. We are to have a love for each other like the ideal love that should be found in a family. And why not? We are the family of God! God is simply telling us to act like it. You are family! Act like it! Don’t think you are in the unshakable kingdom of God if you are not treating other with brotherly love.
(2) Do not neglect hospitality.
Often the force of this command is lost because of the explanation given for hospitality. Before that explanation is addressed, let us not neglect the command. We are not part of God’s unshakable kingdom if we are not acting hospitably. We need to go out of our way to make sure other people comfortable and welcome. That is true when they come here to worship and when we get to know them. It is awful to go to services where the people act like they do not care if you are there. When we see people, welcome them. Welcome them here and welcome them into your lives.
But the writer gives us the positive reason for acting hospitably. God rewards hospitality. The situation with Abraham is one of many instances where we read about hospitality being rewarded. Rahab welcomed the spies, who were strangers, and by providing for them was spared in the destruction of Jericho. The emphasis is not on the angels, but on the reward Abraham received by being hospitable. Jesus taught the same point to his disciples in Matthew 25 where Jesus said that what we do toward one another is what we are doing toward Jesus. This is not saying that you need to be hospitable because you never know if you are serving an angel. Rather, a blessing from God comes to those who are hospitable. This action will show us to be like Abraham, children of his and therefore part of God’s covenantal family.
(3) Put yourself in the shoes of those who are suffering.
Third, we are not in God’s unshakable kingdom when if we are not compassionate and active toward those who are enduring hardship. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our fellow brethren. When they are suffering, we need to suffer with them. We are to be so closely connected that anything that happens to you should be as if it happened to me. It is a call for a greater amount of sympathy and compassion. I believe this is talking about Christians who were suffering and enduring mistreatment for the Lord’s sake. The end of verse 3 reminds us that we are to be connected. These people are part of the body of Christ. When one member of the body suffers, all of the members of the body feels that pain. We are together as God’s family.
(4) Marriage held in honor.
We live in a world where sexual relations are freely given away to every person we may have a mild concern. However, God declares that marriage is the only place for sexual union. This is how marriage is held in honor. Marriage is not to be defiled. We are not to commit sexual immorality and thus defile ourselves. God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterous. Hold marriage in honor. Keep your pants on until you are married. Once married, stay faithful to your spouse and have no relations with any other person. We are not part of God’s unshakable kingdom when we do not hold our marriages in honor.
(5) No love of money.
Fifth, we are not part of God’s unshakable kingdom if we have a love of money. We need to be content with the things that have. We need to be content with the amount of money that we have. We need to be content with our possessions. The writer tells that we need to enjoy what we have and stop ignoring the good things we have. I have considered that this is the essence of the problem. When we have a love of money and possessions, it is because we are not appreciating what we have. We want a new television because we do not appreciate the one we have. We want a new car because we do not appreciate what we have. We want a new house because we do not appreciate the house we have. Our lack of contentment ruins us. We are unable to enjoy and appreciate the things we have because our lack of contentment keeps putting our eyes on the things we do not have. I like the words from “Soak Up The Sun” by Sheryl Crow, where in one verse it says, “It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Those who are in God’s unshakable kingdom enjoy and appreciate what they have, seeing these possessions as God’s gift to us.
I have often been surprised at the connection between verses 5-6. Verse 6 is connected to verse 5 with the word “so” or “therefore.” But how is contentment connected to the fact that we can say with confidence, “The Lord is our helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?” But is not the point about trust? Where is your confidence? What do you trust in? Do we have our hope and trust in possessions and wealth? Or do we have our hope and trust in the Lord? It is hard to know until our possessions and wealth are stripped away from us. Those who are in God’s kingdom and are free from the love of money can boldly say, no matter what happens, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” But those who are not in God’s kingdom panic. Their trust is in the possessions and wealth of this world. So when life gives us a seismic shift, we fear and we lack confidence because we have put our trust in the paycheck, house, car, and other stuff.
We need to strive to live with less rather than desiring more. We need to stop be accumulators and be good givers and sharers. We will be satisfied when we realize that God is sufficient to meet our needs. A love of money is a statement that we do not trust God to take care of us, that we need to do it ourselves, and must provide for ourselves, rather than rely upon God to give it. But God is reliable. He will not leave us. He will not forsake us. God is with me no matter what people may do to us. Do not rely on physical helpers. Rely on God. We are not in God’s unshakable kingdom when our trust does not fully rest on God.
(6) Follow the faith of the apostles.
Finally, we are not in God’s unshakable kingdom when we do not look to the faith of the apostles and model our faith after theirs. I believe that these leaders are the apostles because of the phrase, “those who spoke to you the word of God.” This seems to point to those who are greater than the author. He does not say to look at me, but look at those who taught you and led you. I think this is the apostles. The second reason this seems to be looking to the apostles is because of the next phrase, “Consider the outcome of their way of life.” The language suggests that these people have died. Look at how they lived. These are words used about those who have gone on before us in life. I believe that the writing of Hebrews took place around 68-69 AD. Most, if not all, of the apostles except John would be dead by this point. You are not in the God’s kingdom when you are not looking at the faith of the apostles and other heroes of the scriptures and imitating that faith.
Tying into verse 8, follow the example and words that they taught you and showed you. Follow their example. Follow their teaching. Jesus does not change. Don’t worry about any new teachings that come along. Just look at the teachings and faith of the apostles, and follow them in faith. In a changing world, we can trust in the unchanging Jesus.