This is an age old question for the religious and non religious. In regards to the Christian faith, this issue is tackled directly in scripture and through scripture we can understand this issue of eating meat. Is it morally wrong? Are we free to eat any food? Why some meat was forbidden and what changed. What does God reveal about killing animals and eating meat?
In The Beginning
Genesis 1:29 is where we start: “God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the
surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed.
This food will be for you,“
Clearly in the beginning, before sin entered the world, there was no need to eat meat. That would requiring killing an animal. But ‘killing’ was not even a known occurrence before sin. In God’s original design, there was not need, thus, meat was not a necessary thing in a diet. But then, sin entered the world and corrupted everything, even the human body. Changing the dynamic of what the human body needed to be efficient and function effectively.
Genesis 1:17″…“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
No longer did the ground offer all the important essential nutrients for the human body to work
efficiently. Even the human body changed where it needed some nutrients that are not found in plants. “Animal protein contains all the essential amino acids in the right ratios. It is important for muscle mass and bone health, to name a few … Carnosine is protective against various degenerative
processes in the body and may protect against aging. It is found only in
animal foods … Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is the most active form of
Omega-3 fatty acids in the body and primarily found in animal foods. The
plant form of Omega-3s, ALA, is inefficiently converted to DHA in the
body…” There are studies that validate this just to name a few.
Genesis 1:21 “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.“
This is the first ever instance in recorded history where an animal was sacrificed for man to hide their newly discovered nakedness. Not only is this symbolic of what God did for us through sacrificing Jesus, and covering us with his righteousness; but also showed that killing animals was not morally wrong in itself, as God can not do something morally wrong.
Eating Meat Permitted By God
Leviticus 11:1-3, 9, 21, 46 “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud... Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales…. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat… These are the
regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves
about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. 47 You
must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living
creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.’”
Now we see God explicitly allow mankind to eat meat. The reason for the Israelites to only eat certain kinds is for reducing health issues and also to bet set apart from the rest of the world that eat everything without a care, without thankfulness to God, or knowledge of health issues.
Some of those meats chosen by God for Israelites not to eat were for religious reasons, and not because they were necessarily bad. Leviticus 11:4 “it is ceremonially unclean for you.”. This command establishes the difference from those who obey and trust God and those who live a part from God. This shows people that desire to obey and worship God over their own desire to eat what they please. Again, this is God’s Law to the Israelites for ceremonial and health reasons.
Eating Meat With Jesus
Jesus’ miracle of feeding the multitudes in Matthew 14:13-21 included bread and fish. Jesus miraculously multiplied fish specifically for the people to eat. Did he lead them to sin? Of course not, God does not lead people into sin (James 1:13). Matthew 14:20 states “They all ate and were satisfied”. That includes the disciples and Jesus. If that wasn’t helpful enough, in John 21:3-13, Jesus helped the disciples catch fish for the purpose of eating, and then ate the fish with them!
The Holy Spirit, through Paul
If God allowed to us to eat meat, and Jesus himself ate meat, wasn’t enough; The Holy Spirit, through Paul, should settle the matter. In Romans 14:1-3 it is explicitly stated “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” Someone who wants to have a vegetarian diet may do so, but NOT judge those who eat meat. Someone who eats meat should not have ‘contempt’ on those who are vegetarian. Faith in Jesus Christ and God’s glory is primary, and the specifics of a diet is a secondary “disputable matter”. Its not what you eat, but why you eat, and who you thank for it (Romans 14:6); Thus, again, we see eating meat as acceptable to God just as much as not eating meat.
Weak In Faith?
The interesting statement made by Paul is this: “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The Greek word for “weak” here is ἀσθενέω which means: “to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless”. Why would people who “eat only vegetables” be “weak, feeble, without strength, powerless”? They are not being rebellious or purposely doing something selfish or self-righteous. They are weak because they are still growing in faith (feeble) and still do not have the kind of faith that makes them feel able to eat what ever they want out of fear of offending God. They are not fearless enough in their faith to not be concerned about food. Those who eat meat know they are doing no wrong because they deeply understand what is stated in Matthew 15:11, 1 Corinthians 10:31, and Romans 8:1. They are more thankful to God for any food and are less concerned about what kind of food. God is their focus and not their diet. But though people who are still feeble in faith, still need to be completely and wholesomely accepted in the church; because God has accepted them despite their focus on their diet.
When Does A Strict Diet Become Wrong or Immoral?
Being a vegetarian or eating meat becomes wrong and immoral when we feel that our diet justifies us and makes us ‘more’ righteous. When someone hypocritically judge others and claim those who eat meat are “murdering innocent animals”; they look at themselves as more righteous because they do not. This kind of logic means that God is a murderer and immoral for doing the very first animal killing. This kind of logic means that Jesus is immoral or less righteous because he ate meat. We know that God can not be immoral and Jesus is perfectly righteous; so killing animals to eat, and being thankful to God for it, can not be wrong. Maintaining a strict diet so that someone feels more right, and thinks they are justified by keeping it; is a form of legalism that Jesus frees us from.
Eating meat is not immoral just as being a vegetarian is not immoral. We are weaker in faith when we focus more on the specifics of our diet and not on our thankfulness to God for any and all food. God killed the first animal, Jesus ate fish, and The Holy Spirit through Paul made it clear both are accepted by God in faith for his glory.
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