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The Selfish Supper

At a recent church potluck, Betty lingered for several minutes chatting with friends and cooing over babies. By the time she reached the tables laden with casserole dishes and trays, only some tuna casserole, green beans, and potato chip crumbs were left.

Paul’s description of the Corinthian church’s method of observing the Lord’s Supper would have given Betty an even more disappointing potluck experience. They celebrated the Lord’s Supper with a shared meal. In his book Ancient Christian Worship, Andrew McGowan explains, “The meal of the Corinthian Christians was a banquet on Greco-Roman lines, a solid meal, or deipnon, followed by a drinking party or symposium, featuring various forms of discourse or diversion.”

Unfortunately, the Corinthians adopted not only cultural customs but also a selfish spirit in their practice of the Lord’s Supper. This self-centeredness was not limited to communion; it extended to their meetings and was reflected in the way they exercised their spiritual gifts. Everyone wanted to be the center of attention and have the best place. “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (1 Cor. 14:26).

When the Corinthians exercised their gifts and observed the Lord’s Supper, they did so with a “me first” attitude that caused their meetings to do more harm than good (cf. 1 Cor. 14:26–33). They turned the Lord’s Table into a selfish supper by treating it as if it were a private meal. Wealthy people feasted without sharing with the poor, who were forced to sit in hunger while watching others overindulge (v. 21).

Apply the Word

We should expect to receive something of value from our worship services, if the aim of ministry is to “build up” the church. The problem arises when we are willing only to get something for ourselves while we ignore the needs of others. As you worship this week, ask God to open your eyes to the needs of those around you.

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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