Vol. 1 - No. 8
To Eat…Or Not To Eat?
by R. L. (Bob) Craig
For several years, some controversy has continued regarding the right of a person to eat in the church building. That is, a controversy has raged in the minds of some. I have read many articles in gospel papers and church bulletins about the matter, but to me it seemed as though brethren had perhaps missed the point and made up a controversy where none actually existed.
Speaking for myself, I have never been opposed to eating nor drinking in the meeting place. I hasten to explain. Babies are often fed solid food and are given drink in ALL church buildings I have ever had opportunity to assemble in. Very often workmen (brethren and paid workers) have brought lunches (food and drink) and have consumed such in the meeting house. I have known preachers who spend a great deal of time in their offices, studying and/or counseling, and have brought with them a thermos of coffee and maybe a doughnut. I see nothing in all this that constitutes sin. Remember, we are discussing the question of whether or not it is a SIN to eat or drink in the church building; or perhaps how much a person would have to eat before it became a sin.
But, someone says, doesn't the Bible say that we are not to eat or drink in the church building? Well, if it does, then all the cases I have mentioned become cases of sinful conduct and the "water fountain" argument (?) would become a valid argument. Here's what the Bible does say: "What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not." (1 Corinthians 11:22).
Paul was not here discussing whether one could eat in the church building. As a matter of fact, he has not even mentioned a church house ‑a place of assembly. As any Bible student knows, the only place the word "church" is defined as a place is in Webster's Dictionary. The church of God is a group of peope, so let's look at the verse under consideration from that standpoint.
I am, almost violently, opposed to "church" socials or entertainments and I believe that the principle involved in this verse, along with others, condemns such. Remember, in the use of the word "church" Paul is not talking about a place, but a people ‑‑ specifically the assembly of the saints in Corinth. These people had desecrated, not a building, but a work of the church, a worship assembly, and Paul was rebuking them for it. Such desecration was a mark of their "despising the church."
Verse 11 is a simple contrast between "house" and "church." If one is a place, the other has to be a place. But the word "church" NEVER means a place in New Testament usage. If the word "house" was NEVER used for anything other than a place, we would indeed have a problem in English word usage and somewhat of a problem in Bible teaching. But very often the word "house" is used to indicate the family relationship, such as, "house of Cornelius," "house of Lydia," "house of the jailer," etc. So, the logical conclusion is that Paul is not here talking about eating in a church house by the use of the word church, and in context, he is not talking about eating in a domicile, a dwelling place, by the use of the word house.
Rather, he is teaching the Corinthian people, and us, that eating and drinking (social fellowship) is not a "church" related action but is a "house" or family action. If people want to eat and drink together (share a common meal), let it be arranged and consummated within the family relationship. To put it into the "church" category is to "despise" the church or to desecrate the mission of the church which is "to seek and save them that are lost." The church has no business arranging and carrying on these social, recreational, or entertainment actions. These things are a work of the home, the house, the family.
Let us keep the church just simply the church; and keep the home just simply, the home, and when we do God will be glorified. Anything other than that will be unauthorized, hence, sinful.