Should Christians be Vegetarian?
A Study by Pastor John © 3.31.07
(My Painting of Lord Jesus as the Merciful Shepard)
Love Animals, Don't Eat Them
Prior to the flood, all humans and all animals were vegetarian according to Genesis. Perhaps vegan, but certainly vegetarian.
The first reference to food:
Gen. 1:29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.
Likewise to the animals:
Gen 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for food: and it was so.Hence for both humans and animals the acceptable foodstuff were vegetarian, not animal products. this is confirmed,
Gen. 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.This is what was eaten by both the humans and the animals. Then there came the day when Adam was called to prepare the ark. Note God's instruction:
Gen. 6:21 And take you unto you of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to you; and it shall be for food for you, and for themNote that Noah brought "food for you, and for them..." Humans still did not eat animals, nor did animals eat animals, otherwise there would have been no need to bring the food. Noah could have brought extra animals to eat.
After the world was completely flooded and the people left the ark, God allowed Noah and his family to begin eating animals (there would have been nothing to eat for a year or more until the plants reseeded).
Gen.9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall all of you not eat.Here Noah is told that even as humans were previously given vegetation to eat, now humans would be allowed to eat animals under certain conditions.
5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
Verse four gives the fundamental condition. The blood must be drained out. Other requirements are added under the Sinai Laws. Note however that the "life" is contained in the blood. Even if a piece of meat is drained of its blood according to the laws, there is no way to remove it all. Therefore when eaten one consumes a portion of the being's life.
Notice what happens to human beings who decide to take part in this new dietary allowance, "...your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man."
As a result of eating animals, violence of all kind increased within human society. Note that nowhere are humans commanded to eat their fellow creatures, they are merely allowed to. It is a fact that those societies that encourage the eating of their fellow creatures have higher crime rates, wage more wars of aggression and so on. Animal eating, according to the Bible, is directly related to increased violence and history demonstrates this is true.
The Torah moderated what could and could not be eaten. Meat is allowed, as long as the blood is drained etc. Most meat eaten today does not observe the biblical kosher requirements, although they do generally meet the Noahide requirements for Gentiles. It is obvious from the scriptures that meat eating is allowed, but that it requires a high price be paid. Among many aboriginal people before killing an animal for food the hunter apologizes and offers to be the food next time. Likewise in the Vedas, to prevent starvation Hindus are allowed to eat animals, but the acquired karma will usually lead them to an animal life where they will die. For People of the Book, meat is likewise allowed but the price tag is likewise very high.
We don't have much information about what Jesus did or didn't eat. We know the Essenes were vegetarian as were many of the mystics, including John the Baptist. The only reference to Jesus eating is this,
Luke 22:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
Here he may have eaten fish (or he may have only eaten the honeycomb), although it can be argued that he eating to prove his humanity, not as food perse. Even today many people who eat fish still consider themselves vegetarian, though frankly I've never understood this as fish are conscious beings too. Jesus may have been a vegan, there is no way to know based on the texts we have. It would certainly be harmonious with his overall teachings of love and compassion however.
One of the main proof texts people use to defend eating animals is Paul's famous comment on this subject. Let's consider the context:
I Corinthians 8
1 Now as concerning things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love (o. agape) edifies.
2 And if any man think that he knows any thing, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
7 Nevertheless there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But food commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumbling block to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see you which have knowledge sit to eat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when all of you sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, all of you sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if food make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.
Paul is clearly speaking of not judging people due to their eating of this particular "meat." In context, this reference is to the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to Pagan gods. The issue was not about eating meat in general, but about eating Pagan sacrifices (which were cheaper because the Pagans had to do so many offering each day). Some argued this was forbidden food but it was determined that IF the Christians were not eating BECAUSE the foods were sacrificed to the gods it was not idolatry and hence OK under the Noahide requirements.
We do read that food does not commend anyone to God. Meat eating is not the deciding factor of one's spirituality from the biblical perspective.
In the New Earth (that follows Armageddon) the balance will be restored as 'the lion lays down with the lamb' etc. and all beings will returned to a peaceful vegetarian diet.
Isa. 11: 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.And again,
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the nursing infant shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an explicit sign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
Isa 65:25: The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD
So yes, it is true that under the Law animal eating was/is allowed. But why?
Gal. 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The Jewish Temple sacrifices were aimed at demonstrating the severity of their sins, to make them feel guilty for the slaughter of the innocents human sin perpetrated so the people would repent of their sins. What God really wanted the whole time:
Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
I agree that biblically speaking people can kill, eat and wear the flesh of defenseless animals if they want to, but can you honestly see Jesus killing defenseless animals when there is no need to do so? Can you picture the Prince of Peace slitting the throat of defenseless animals? I can't.
Since before the flood people were vegetarian, and in the New Earth they will be vegetarian again, why not avoid this pain and suffering of the animals now? Love animals, don't eat them!
Health wise humans don't need to eat meat either. Seventh Day Adventists are demonstratively some of the healthiest people on earth because they are vegan.
Is it really Christian to cause such needless pain and suffering to those in our care? This is our job as humans, to be caretakers of the planet. Eating animals makes no sense and seems indefensible to me.
How about you?
Here's that Burger you ordered!