Should Christians Be Vegetarians?
The Garden of Eden
In Genesis 3:18b, after the fall of man, God gave Adam the commandment: “…and thou shalt eat the herb of the fields”. At that time man was condemned to exhausting manual labor in order to make a living. This was because of God’s curse upon the ground (Genesis 3:17-18).
Adam was to work before the fall (Genesis 2:15), but after the fall it would be in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground. Years later, Lamech cried out for relief from the curse upon the ground and the difficulty of farming (Genesis 5:29). (Liberty Bible Commentary, Vol. I, p. 23.)
Originally, when God instructed Adam in the Garden before the fall, green herbs were intended as food for Adam “…I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so” (Genesis 1:30).
God’s statement about plant life (herbs) seems to indicate that originally God did not intend the taking of life in order to provide food for an or beast. Permission to eat animals does appear later in Genesis 9:3–“Every moving thing that: liveth shall be meat for you (Noah and his descendants) even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Criswell Study Bible, p. 5.)
Abstaining From Animal Foods
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy about the issue of abstaining by eating animal eats:
“Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanks-giving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, -if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:3-5
The vision Peter had concerning all manner of animals also gives support for the allowance of man to eat animal eat:
“And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” Acts 10:13-15
The dietary laws (Leviticus 11:41-44; 20:25; Deuteronomy 14:3-20) for the Jews were very strictly adhered to by even the Apostles, as seen by Peter’s hesitation to eat any unclean animal. But Peter was about to learn his first major lesson in the new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-10:20). On the cross of Calvary, God had already broken down the middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14-18) between the Jews and Gentiles. (Liberty Bible Commentary on the New Testament, p. 243.)
Therefore, we can be assured of God’s allowance for mankind to partake of the eating of animal meat without any prohibitions. However, we should be admonished by the Apostle Paul’s conviction in regards of offending a brother:
“Therefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” 1 Corinthians 8:13
Paul provides a general guideline for a Christian’s ethical decision-making and supplements this with three additional tests:
- Will a given action cause a brother to stumble? (1 Corinthians 8:13)
- Will the action be edifying to the disciple himself? (1 Corinthians 10:23)
- Will such action glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)