Country radio is playing a new Kacey Musgraves song called “Biscuits.” It’s a witty tune about that cherished, but secret Southern pastime: Southern Inhospitality. Need a definition?
Southern Inhospitality – (noun): when everyone (and their mama) knows every dirty detail of your every past mistake and makes it their personal mission to set you straight.
The tendency to correct our rebel neighbors is not exclusively Southern. It’s human nature to point out the sins of others and ignore our own issues. Though we are taught to extend a hand to the brother or sister that tumbles from the wagon, we quickly learn the benefit of that compassionate action. We discover and revel in the safety of the shadows as we turn the spotlight on our fellow sinner. It blessedly spares us the discomfort of confronting our own ugly problems.
This was never God’s intention for “brotherly judgment” (Matthew 7:1-5). And so, Kacey Musgraves sings: “mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.”
Now, it’s not Christian to make everyone else’s business our own, but should we hedge-out our neighbors? Is life really “gravy” if we keep to ourselves?
Consider the earthly life of Christ. He lived in constant community with his disciples. Later, he designed the church to function as a community. Living life with fellow believers is as essential as reading our Bibles daily and praying without ceasing. Friends are meant to encourage us in our faith and keep us accountable.
Consider Ruth and Naomi.
After Naomi’s husband and two sons died, Naomi was bitter enough to rename herself “Mara”, which means bitter. Ruth, her daughter-in-law, was now free to escape this “Mara” and find another husband. She was also free to judge Naomi for her bitterness and make it her personal mission to set Naomi straight. Did Naomi think she was Moab’s only woman in mourning? Did she really think self-pity would bring her husband and sons back?
According to the story, Naomi gives her daughters-in-law permission to leave her to her self-pity, but Ruth clings to Naomi. She refuses to be separated from her. Naomi gives in and takes her home to Judah. At Naomi’s home, the women live in close community and help each other heal. Ruth harvests leftover grains to support her mother-in-law. Naomi helps her daughter-in-law find another husband. The result is God’s redemption and blessing for both women. Ruth receives a husband and Naomi receives a grandson. The expansion of their close community brings joy to the loyal friends.
It’s easy to play it safe and keep to ourselves. Our lives are messy, our hearts are wounded, and we risk vulnerability, judgment, and change when we allow other believers to live life with us. It’s easy to reside in the shadows and point a finger at the sinner in the spotlight. Instead, we ought to turn off the spotlight and walk alongside our brothers and sisters. They need our encouragement as much as we need theirs.