The Physical and Spiritual Benefits of Sharing a Meal
Written by Erica Golden
The Bible is filled with stories of people eating together and showing hospitality to their neighbors. What do we gain from sharing meals with others?
With our busy lives and hectic schedules, it can be hard to find time to plan social events and host dinners the way we might desire to. Even among families, it’s hard to get a healthy dinner on our tables and find time to eat meals together between all the activities everyone has going on.
Many eat in a hurry—alone at home or on the run. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to plan family dinners every night of the week. And it may seem even more challenging to consider having others over for a meal!
In the United States and many other nations, mealtime has changed dramatically in the past several decades. Instead of being a time when we sit down in a calm environment, talk with friends and family, and take our time to eat slowly and enjoy good food together—for many, mealtime is now just another rushed activity that we finish as quickly as possible.
Benefits of shared meals
Many studies have looked at the benefits of shared meals for children, families and even seniors. Whatever our age or life circumstance, we all have a deep need for conversation and fellowship with one another, which is often made richer by the shared experience of a relaxing and nourishing meal.
Studies have shown that children who eat meals with their family tend to eat a wider variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, and have better eating habits. Kids in families who dined together were also more likely to be altruistic (showing concern for others) and sharing when they became adults.
For older adults, and especially older men, eating with others can protect against depression. And if dining together also improves the diet quality of adults, it’s also likely that sharing meals could help promote healthier aging and decrease the risk of cognitive decline—both of which are linked to healthy eating and social connection
Practical ways to dine together more
Whether you’re single, married or have a family, here are some ideas for making shared meals more practical and possible. Keep in mind that meals do not have to be elaborate or expensive to be enjoyed. As Proverbs 15:17 reminds us, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.”
- Plan family dinners on certain nights throughout the week. A calm, relaxed atmosphere will likely make the family dinner most enjoyable for everyone. Don’t worry about making it too elaborate if that will be more stressful for you.
- Plan in advance to celebrate special events and accomplishments together with family or brethren. If someone is rejoicing about something new in his or her life, that’s a great reason to get people together and rejoice over a meal!
- When you invite other Church members to your home, ask everyone to bring something. You can plan the entrée and ask others to bring sides and drinks, or you can just plan a potluck and let others bring what they like. Either way, this reduces pressure on you as the host and allows your guests to share some of their favorite foods as well!
- Invite people over after services on the Sabbath. Finding a day and time that works for everyone is often one of the hardest parts of hosting. If you live within a reasonable distance of your congregation, you might consider putting on the slow cooker before church and inviting people over after services.
- Go out to a restaurant. While restaurants are not always ideal places for fostering deep conversation, they can be! Look for places that play quiet music and don’t have TVs on every wall. Especially if you live far from other Church members in your area, this can be one of the most convenient ways to get together for a meal.
- Find ways to focus the conversation around spiritual things when possible. While it’s great to talk about your day, week or hobbies, shared mealtimes provide a perfect opportunity to talk about God’s blessings, promises and spiritual lessons learned.
Shared meals in the Bible
From the story of Moses, Aaron and the 70 elders who ate and drank in the presence of God in Exodus 24 to the “marriage supper” in Revelation 19:9, shared meals are full of symbolism and meaning in the Bible. By sharing meals, we grow closer, stimulate one another spiritually and learn generosity.
One of my favorite verses about the relationship between people in God’s Church is at the beginning of Acts, where we see the practice of the first members of the early Church: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).
May we all seek to show the same hospitality, togetherness and fellowship with our families—both physical and spiritual!
For more on fellowship and hospitality, read “How to Fellowship.”