What does 1 Corinthians 11:21 mean?
ESV: For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
NIV: for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.
NASB: for when you eat, each one takes his own supper first; and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.
CSB: For at the meal, each one eats his own supper. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk!
NLT: For some of you hurry to eat your own meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk.
KJV: For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.
NKJV: For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
Verse Commentary:
This is part of a running rebuke of the Christians in Corinth for their wild misuse of the Lord's Supper. The previous verse indicated that what's happening is so contrary to God's intent that it doesn't even make sense to call it the Lord's Supper! Paul's criticism is that these believers are misunderstanding the meaning of that sacrament. They are not taking part in it in order to remember Christ's sacrifice of blood and body to pay for their sins on the cross.

Here, Paul describes what has been reported to him. The early church practiced the celebration of the Lord's Supper much differently than most churches do today. That, itself, is not a problem. Scripture gives extremely wide latitude in how communion can be practiced. In most cases, in the very early church, the Lord's Supper involved eating an actual meal together. This was fine when handled with respect and honor towards the Lord and all those in attendance.

Clearly, that's not what the Corinthians were doing.

Based on what Paul says here, it's likely each person brought their own separate stock of food. In order to accommodate many people, without involvement in a temple, they likely gathered at the home of a wealthy member of the congregation. Those who were wealthy could bring plenty of food for themselves. The rich could afford to indulge in abundant alcohol. Those living in poverty, however, had little to bring and eat.

The result of that disparity was a "communion" where some participants went hungry, merely watching the wealthier believers eat and drink. In addition, drunkenness was at least common enough for Paul to mention directly. Paul's exclamation of shock in the next verse seems fitting.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 11:17–34 contains Paul's rebuke of the church in Corinth for their application of the Lord's Supper. They had turned it into a gathering at which the wealthy ate and drank too much, leaving the poorer Christians hungry and humiliated. Paul warns that communion should be a time of sober self-reflection about our sin and Christ's sacrifice, as well as a time to unite the body of Christ, the church, while taking in representations of the blood and body of Christ. Some in Corinth were sick and others had died as part of God's judgment for participating in communion in an unworthy manner.
Chapter Summary:
Paul confronts two issues the church in Corinth was failing to practice correctly. First, some women were not wearing head coverings while praying or prophesying in their meetings. Paul insisted they must do so, and that men must not, based on mankind's relationship to God and the social implications of that covering. Second, Paul describes the reasons for observing the Lord's Supper and how it should be done. The Corinthian Christians had brought God's judgment on themselves for practicing communion in a way which dishonored Christ's sacrifice for sin and humiliated the poor among them.
Chapter Context:
After concluding his teaching on meat offered to idols, Paul turns to two issues the church in Corinth was getting wrong. The first was head coverings when praying or prophesying in their meetings. Differences between men and women in that regard are because of both spiritual and social reasons. Paul also corrects the disastrous way in which they were practicing the observance of the Lord's Supper. They were dishonoring Christ's sacrifice for sin as well as the poor in the body of Christ, the church. Despite having more to say on communion, Paul will move on to the topic of spiritual gifts in chapter 12.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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