The Cure for the Can’t-Have-People-Over Syndrome


Erin Davis shares three liberating principles that will help you overcome the Can't-Have-People-Over Syndrome.

When I was a little girl, one of the worst things that could happen in my world was for my mom to invite friends over for dinner. It always meant a few hours of insanity while we raced around throwing things in closets, scrubbing everything in sight, and doing our best to make it look like no one lived at our house. My mom kept a very clean house; she just tended to go a little overboard when company was coming (at least that’s how it felt to my little girl mind).

Fast-forward twenty years. With two kids under age five, a work-from-home job that tends to spill out into every room, and a schedule that is stretched to the limit, my home isn’t as neat and clean as I would like it to be. In fact, lately I’ve been suffering with the Can’t-Have-People-Over Syndrome. True, I totally made the condition up, but I know there are other sufferers out there. Symptoms include: paralyzing fear that someone will “drop by” and see how you really live, reluctance to host friends and family because of the effort it would require to whip your house into shape, and envy over those women who manage to keep a clean home.

It is tempting to let the clutter in our homes take center stage and trump using our homes to minister and fellowship with others, but then we come across little gems like this in Scripture:

"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." (Rom. 12:13)

The essence of this verse is not that we should be striving for Martha Stewart standards in our homes. Note that there are zero biblical instructions on how to braise a duck or make a doily out of last week’s newspaper. But the Bible does encourage us to use our homes to welcome other believers and those we don’t know well. With that in mind, here are a few principles to apply to you and your home.

Put Stuff in Its Place

A place for everything, and everything in its place. What a wise organizational strategy! For those of you with a love of label makers, this may mean an elaborate organizational system. For me, it means a tub or basket in every room where loose items can be stored. If your level of stuff has reached a point where things are spilling out everywhere, it is time to de-clutter.

This is also a good reminder for our hearts. From time to time we need to put stuff in its place in terms of our priorities. To value the stuff that is cluttering up our homes over an opportunity to use our homes to minister is a sure sign it’s time to reorganize.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matt. 16:19-20)

Let Go of Perfect

The reason the Bible urges us to be hospitable is because of our need for human connection, not because God caught wind of your brownie recipe. It’s great to go above and beyond when hosting people in your home, but it’s also okay to eat pizza off of paper plates during a heated game of Yahtzee. The goal is to connect with other believers in a way that leads to love, laughter, and encouragement.

Let go of the notion that everything has to be perfect in order for your home to be used for ministry. The point is to love others well, not to scrub the baseboards with a toothbrush.

Remember, It’s Not Your Stuff Anyway

Here’s the good news, all of that stuff that is cluttering up your home isn’t even yours! That’s because, ultimately, it all belongs to God.

In Haggai 2:8 we read, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.”

Psalm 50:10 says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousands hills.”

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

It is all His.

If the stuff God has loaned you is preventing you from ministry, that’s bad stewardship. 
So go on, de-clutter if you need to. Or embrace the clutter and use your imperfect home to comfort imperfect people. God’s Truth is that our homes are on loan and should be used to bless others. Embracing this truth is the best cure for the Can’t-Have-People-Over Syndrome. 

How can you use your home to bless others this week?

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