IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO EAT MEAT?

“I cannot imagine living in a world where I could not eat meat. I would die.” “Eating meat is disgusting. After seeing how animals are slaughtered, I never will eat meat again as long as I live.” You may have observed: a lot of people have strong convictions about eating meat or being vegetarians.

The question of eating meat often is discussed without giving any thought to spiritual matters. On the other hand, many folks make their choice to eat or not eat meat based on their religious concepts.

People can be quite emotional when talking about eating meat, but we need to recognize that our emotions are not the basis for making a decision that pleases the Lord. This question deserves a Bible answer. God’s word is the final authority on this matter, so let us turn to His Book.

“Well, look at the first chapter of Genesis. When the Lord created humans, He wanted them to be vegetarians.” Here is the diet of which God spoke to mankind at that time: “And God said, ‘See I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food’” (Genesis 1:29).

Following the flood of Noah’s day, however, the message to men was different. “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them . . . Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:1,3). God’s instruction at that time made it clear that eating animals/meat was acceptable. And, that was a universal message for all mankind.

“But were there not restrictions in the law of Moses about eating meat?” There were. In Leviticus 11, we read about several types of animals, birds, and fish which Jehovah labeled as “unclean,” meaning the Israelites were not allowed to eat them.

One particular type of meat which receives a lot of attention, even today, is pork. God clearly declared that swine were unclean to the Israelites (Leviticus 11:1,2,7,8), so eating pork was forbidden to them.

A number of years ago a man tried to convince me that what he called “all the major world religions” share the common teaching that it is wrong to eat meat. He included Judaism, meaning the teaching of the law of Moses. He even claimed that Jesus was a vegetarian.

In fact, the law of Moses not only allowed the eating of some meat, it required God’s people to eat meat. Seriously? When Jehovah gave instructions about the Passover, He told the children of Israel to eat the flesh of a lamb or goat (Exodus 14:3-11). Yes, the Passover meal/celebration included eating mutton.

All people today are living under the law of the Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), not the old law. Jesus took away the first covenant in order to establish His covenant (Hebrews 10:9). Thus, the question which concerns Christians is, “What instructions does the New Testament give us about eating meat?”

The Holy Spirit guided Paul to foretell a coming departure from the truth, an apostasy that would include the teaching to abstain from certain foods. Here is what the Bible says: “ . . . some will depart from the faith . . . forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1,3-5).

What do we learn from that passage of Scripture? We have the right to eat whatever the Lord created, which would include meat. Perhaps your diet includes a lot of meat. Or, maybe you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and have no intention of eating meat for the rest of your life. Individuals are granted the liberty to have their personal preferences in this matter, but no child of the living God should mock or speak in a degrading manner about brethren or even non-Christians who do not have the same eating habits which they do (that is, those who make a different choice when it comes to eating meat).

In the first-century church, the saints had varying viewpoints about eating meat. Some thought it was okay to eat “all things,” while others thought the right thing to do was eat only veggies (Romans 14:2). Let this appeal stick in our minds: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food” (Romans 14:20).

— Roger D. Campbell

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