Over the centuries, people have come to believe that
because Jesus was born in a stable, and not in a hotel
room, Mary and Joseph must have been mistreated by a
greedy innkeeper. This innkeeper only cared about
profits and decided the young couple was not “worth”
his best accommodations. We have heard this narrative
of the Christmas story repeated many times in plays,
skits and sermons.
This narrative persists even though the Bible
records no complaints at the time and there was
apparently no charge for the use of the stable. It may
be that the stable was the only place available.
Bethlehem, like other small towns, was overflowing
with people who were forced to return to their ancestral
homes for the census – ordered by the Romans for the
purpose of levying a tax.
If there was a problem, it was caused by the
unintended consequences of this government policy.
But this source of the problem has been ignored in
favor of a more palatable complaint, that capitalism and
capitalists are greedy, uncaring, and maybe even evil.
But a different narrative makes even more sense.
The innkeeper was generous to a fault – a hero even.
He was over-booked, but he charitably offered his
stable, a facility he built with unknowing foresight. A
facility he was able to offer, while the government
officials who ordered the census slept in their own beds
with little care for the well-being of those who had to
travel regardless of their difficult life circumstances.