EXPLORING THE WORD
Should Christians Be Vegetarians?
By Dillon Burroughs
As the trend of vegetarian dieting and lifestyle grows, some Christians have wondered whether Christians should be vegetarians or not. What does the Bible say?
Romans 14 best addresses the question of whether it is acceptable for Christians to eat meat or not to eat meat. Verses 2-3 state, "One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him." It is clear from these verses that being vegetarian can indeed be an option for the Christian who would like to be one.
Yet this is not the end of the matter. Verse 13 begins a related discussion that involves eating. There Paul writes, "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Verse 20 continues, "Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats."
In addition to freedom in whether or not to eat meat, Paul is clear that helping other people takes a higher priority than our diet. In other words, if eating a certain food in someone's presence causes someone else to stumble (meaning to sin), then we are to abstain, at least at that time. Our brother or sister is more important than using our freedom regarding food choices.
A practical example could be as follows: You are a meat-eating person who enjoys a good burger. You are with a friend who is a strict vegetarian. In seeking to decide where to eat together, you suggest your favorite hamburger restaurant. Your friend reminds you he is vegetarian. Instead of arguing for your preference, you could defer to your friend's choice that allows him to eat vegetables. You have put your friend's interests in front of your own, even though you would have preferred something else.
In addition to Romans 14, another passage that speaks concerning food choices is 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." In that context, the discussion involves whether a believer should eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. In the end, Paul emphasized that all eating was to be done to God's glory.
Another observation is that Jesus Christ and His earliest followers ate meat. Jesus would not have eaten pork as a devout Jew, but clearly ate lamb (at least at Passover) as well as some types of fish (Matthew 14:18-20; Luke 23:42-43). John the Baptist even ate locusts (Matthew 3:4)!
In addition to Jesus and His early followers, the overarching principle of eating for God's glory is important whether one chooses to eat meat or not. It also includes powerful application for the quality of food we eat, such as how much junk food we consume, as well as observing good moderation about how much food we eat.
Image Credit: Jeff Kraus; "Market Produce"; Creative Commons
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