Monday, August 25, 2008

Vegetarianism: To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat

Vegetarianism is the practice of subsisting on vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and etcetera and avoiding eating meat such as fish, fowl, or beef. In some cases a vegetarian will avoid any food that is derived from animals such as eggs, cheese, milk, or butter. There are a number of reasons people may choose a vegetarian diet, but it should not be for religious reasons. In fact there is a stronger argument for eating meat than not eating meat.


To get the right perspective on this issue it may be helpful to go back to the beginning. Genesis records the account of God’s creation. We can deduce from this account that initially all creatures were vegetarians.

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. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Genesis 1:29-31 (NKJV)

Genesis chapter 3 records the fall of man, and well you probably know the rest of the story. Adam’s sin affected all life as we know it. Pain, suffering, disease, and death were all part of the self inflicted curse that fallen man brought upon himself.

To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19 (NKJV)

The consequences of sin weaved it into the fabric of society to such a degree that very heart of God was grieved. God determined to bring deserved judgment on the earth and bestowing grace on Noah and his family.

"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:5-8, NKJV)


Noah and his family were charged with repopulating the earth. In addition they were given dietary instructions. All animals now were specifically given for food. The only prohibition was not to eat raw blood.

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.” Genesis 9:1-7 (NKJV)


The next major event that affected man’s diet was the giving of the law. Those under the Law of Moses were given certain dietary restrictions. They could eat certain types of meat, but some foods were off limits.

" Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:1-7, NKJV)

Some have suggested the purpose of this was for their health benefit; however, these restrictions were not imposed until Moses. If this was the “chosen” diet then surely it would have been implemented with Noah. Remember Noah had no such restrictions.

A closer look at the Law reveals that there were many restrictions and some of which seem to be more arbitrary, such as mixing certain threads of animals. One of the purposes for these restrictions was to help keep the people special.

"“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6, NKJV)

The imposed restrictions would make it difficult for Israel to assimilate into the culture. They were to be uniquely God’s people.

The ultimate reason for all of the requirements of the Law was to lead the people to recognize that they could not keep the law and need to cry out for mercy, for salvation.

"Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24, NKJV)


The New Covenant initiated by Christ brought with it freedom from the Law.

"Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24, NKJV)

Peter had to have his conscience directly informed by God on this matter. He had lived his entire life under the dietary restrictions of the Old Covenant and felt that a violation of those restrictions would dishonor God. Through a supernatural vision Peter was told not once but three times that it is okay now to eat previously restricted meat.

" The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again." (Acts 10:9-16, NKJV)

Those who are in Christ are no longer subject to the ceremonial aspects of the law including the dietary prohibitions.

"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17, NKJV)

Unless you have a medical condition such as an allergy that prohibits eating of meat, it may be more glorifying to God to eat meat in honor of the New Covenant in Christ than to refuse what God told Peter to do three times. Once should be sufficient, but sometimes we can be hard of hearing.

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31, NKJV)

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