Bible Q&A: What Does “If Anyone Is Hungry, Let Him Eat At Home” Mean?

What does 1 Corinthians 11:34 mean?  I’m talking about “If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home.”  Does God want us to never eat in places that aren’t our home, like restaurants or friends’ houses?  If so, why?

The context of 1 Corinthians 11:34 is about the apostle Paul writing to the church that was in the city of Corinth and addressing a problem that was taking place at that congregation.  The problem was that they were treating the Lord’s Supper like a regular meal, and in doing so they were not treating each other in the right way.

While addressing this problem, he had told them, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What!  Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I commend you in this?  No, I will not” (vs. 20-22).  From this we gather that they were eating a meal, but it was not the communion meal Jesus had instituted and directed as an act of worship designed to remember His death (vs. 23-26).  Instead, they were apparently eating the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine without any hint of worshipful remembrance of Jesus’ death, and were instead just having a meal like they would anywhere else (like in their houses).  Not only that, they were apparently not waiting for everyone to get some of the food and were instead going ahead and eating and drinking as much as they wanted without saving some for the others present out of consideration for them.

Paul responded to this by explaining to them the purpose of the Lord’s Supper and warning them of the consequences of not observing it in the proper manner (vs. 23-32).  After doing so, he directs them, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another — if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home — so that when you come together it will not be for judgment…” (vs. 33-34).  In other words, if you are hungry (wanting a regular, normal meal), then wait until the worship is over and then go home and eat.  Don’t eat the Lord’s Supper because you’re hungry.  Eat it as an act of worship and remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice.

The context does not in any way hint that the inspired apostle intended this to be a command from God requiring Christians to eat food only in the places where they lived.  Nor does the context in any way hint that it would be a sin in God’s eyes to have a normal meal in the building in which the congregation assembles to worship during times outside of worship and observing communion.

Remember, if one wants to interpret Scripture correctly, always see what the context says…both the immediate context as is the case here, and the overall context which is the entirety of Scripture concerning the topic under discussion (cf. Ps. 119:160a).  Do that and it is likely that you will come to learn and understand the intended meaning of any passage of Scripture.

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