Is There a Biblical Basis for Being Vegetarian?
In recent years a movement has been growing among Christians to adopt a vegetarian diet.
Some have gone so far as to claim that Scripture mandates this type of diet.
What does the Bible really say about this issue? What does the bible say about diets?
This is a question that several people brought up on my page lately.
According to Genesis 1:29–30, at the end of the sixth day of Creation Week, God gave Adam and Eve and the animals permission to eat plants.
It was not until after the Flood that man was given permission to eat meat. Although we do not know what sinful man chose to eat before the Flood, God did not give His permission to eat animal flesh until after the Flood, as recorded in Genesis 9:3.
“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”
Some people attribute the extremely long lifespans in the pre-Flood world to the vegetarian diet God had prescribed, and they further attribute the sharp decline in lifespan after the Flood to the introduction of meat into the diet.
They often claim that God’s permission to eat meat in Genesis 9:3 was necessary due to the lack of available plants after the Flood.
However, other factors may explain the drop in lifespan. Furthermore, if a return to vegetarianism were really God’s desire for man, then why did God not reinstitute a meat-free diet when plants were more available in later years?
God has not rescinded His Genesis 9:3 permission to eat meat. Moreover, the ceremonial laws given to Moses in Leviticus confirmed the Creator’s continuing permission for man to eat meat.
These laws contain a list of clean animals Israelites were allowed to eat and unclean animals that were not to be eaten. These restrictions included the admonition not to ingest certain types of fats.
In Genesis 18 God, personally, sits down and has a meal with Abraham. What did he eat? He ate red meat, butter, raw milk, and bread. I can bet you that they did not eat processed bread and milk. I can assure you that the meat they ate was not loaded with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.
Another argument is the use of Exodus 20:13
“thou shalt not kill”
In this verse, the word “kill” is a translation of the Hebrew word “ratsach” (strong”s #7523).
It means to murder, to assassinate, to premeditate, to slay.
Consistent with this, there are 47 verses where the word Hebrew “ratsach” was used and was translated as murdered, slayer, kill.
Numbers 35:6: “for refuge,
which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that
he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add”
Numbers 35:11: “to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person”
Numbers 35:31: “no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but”
Deuteronomy 4:42: “might flee thither, which should kill his neighbor unawares,”
2 Kings 6:32: “See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away”
Job 24:14: ” The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is”
Psalms 94:6: “They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.”
Isaiah 1:21: “righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.”
Jeremiah 7:9: “Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk”
Hosea 4:2: “By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth”
Hosea 6:9: “for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit”
Clearly, God was speaking of human beings, not animals. Consistently, He repeatedly ordered them to offer sacrifices to Him with bulls, rams, sheep, goats, and birds.
God is always consistent. He would not have ordered the Israelites to use animals to sacrifice to Him and then order them to not kill animals.
The life of Jesus shows that ongoing vegetarianism was not mandatory. Jesus assisted the disciples in catching fish in their nets, presumably to be eaten.
Jesus Himself ate fish and cooked it for His disciples (John 21:9).
Why would our Savior act in a manner contrary to that which He set forth for us?
Does God require us to follow the Old Testament laws about not eating pork and other kinds of meat today?
The dietary laws for Israel recorded in Leviticus, chapter 11, which include, for example, a prohibition against eating pork, were given for specific religious reasons.
The New Testament, however, makes it clear that observation of these Old Testament food laws for religious reasons is no longer required in the New Testament era.
In Acts 10:9-16, Peter was informed by God through a vision that he was not to reject the use of certain animals for food on a religious basis. The apostle Paul also writes, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4).
Beyond the biblical prohibitions against gluttony, which apply equally to any diet, the meat versus veggies choice is simply not a sin issue.
Dietary choice should not become a test of orthodoxy for the Christian. God’s instructions in Romans 14:2–3, 15–17 do give us liberty in this matter but command us to be GRACIOUS to those who choose a different path.
Those verses not only tell us that dietary choice is not a matter of personal holiness but also remind us not to be distracted from the gospel of Christ.
What about Romans 14:21?
put this same statement in negative terms in the previous verse. There he wrote
that it is wrong to make anyone stumble by what he eats. Now he says it is good
not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that causes a brother or
sister in Christ to stumble into sin (Romans 14:13).
How might this cause a Christian of weaker faith to sin? Paul has said clearly that for anyone who believes a specific food or drink to be unclean, that thing really is unclean for that person. In other words, if they choose to follow the example of another believer who eats or drinks freely, they might sin by violating their own conscience.
Paul’s bottom-line to those stronger-faith Christians is clear: Don’t do what is wrong. Instead, do what is good. Even if it means “giving up” your freedom voluntarily for a specific time or purpose. Even if that means eating only vegetables, today, for the sake of those of weaker faith. If it shows love to a “weak in faith” fellow believer, it’s worth that.
Does this amount to a full restriction on the Roman Christians ever eating meat? It doesn’t seem so from what Paul writes in the following verse. In fact, Paul has made it clear in this and other writings that legalism-minded believers can’t wield their own convictions like a weapon (Romans 14:3; 1 Corinthians 10:29–30). Paul is not calling on believers to submit to the judgment of others (Colossians 2:16–23). He is calling on Christians to consider the weakness of others before pursuing their own enjoyment.
So are we then to conclude that vegetarianism is unscriptural? Not at all. Just because we have permission to eat meat does not mean we have to.
Decisions regarding diet are a personal choice involving many factors. Individual health issues, family history, and the advice of a personal physician may dictate the desirability of vegetarianism for some people, and personal preferences are perfectly legitimate. The best choice for one person may not be the best choice for another.
Jesus Himself declared that all foods were “clean” (Mark 7:17-23).
Mark 7:17-23 New International Version (NIV)
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
The Bible makes it clear that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
There is no saving grace in either eating or not eating certain foods. We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; see Ephesians 2:8-10. This, of course, does not mean that all animals we use for food are of equal value when it comes to our health.
Many people feel they can win God’s favor and have eternal life by following the dietary laws of the Old Testament. But this is a misunderstanding.
You cannot save yourself, but Christ can, and He will as you commit your life to Him by faith.
The only way to Him is through Holiness, obedience.
It is to be baptized in the name of Jesus, repent and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Act 2:38)
You see food has nothing to do with being saved and going to meet Him.
But we need to be respectful to others no matter what they decide to do. This is what God would expect us to behave.
There is no point to attack each other over this question. This is contrary to the Word of God.
I have friends who are vegan, others follow a keto diet, others are more carnivores, and others are somewhere in the middle. What matters is that we are right with our conscience.
And, as Christians, we have the responsibility to find out what is needed from God. We are on earth to save souls. That is the only thing that is needed from us. Save souls before Satan takes them.
God bless y’all 😊