Does the Bible address eating or abstaining from eating meat? Yes.
The key chapter that many Vegetarians rely on for their biblical reason for not eating meat is Romans 14.
Let’s look at a few key verses from this chapter that a vegetarian might use to justify their decision as biblically based.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.Romans 14:1-2
The argument for tolerance and acceptance on this matter is found in verse 3:
The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.Romans 14:3
Further justification can be found in verses 6-8:
Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.Romans 14:6-8
Verse 13 even suggests that we should not pass judgement on one another for the choices we make regarding the consumption of meat:
Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.Romans 14:13
As with any instruction we may receive, it is critical to look at the context of this letter that Paul wrote to the Romans. It is important to know a few things about the setting of this time period.
First of all, there was no FDA. There was no internet for people to go research what they thought was best for their bodies. In fact, the level of privilege we enjoy today to chose what we want to eat everyday was nonexistent.
People in this time, right around 56 or 57 A.D., didn’t wake up and say, “I am going to be a vegetarian.” Food was food. The teachings of the old testament, specifically Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, revealed what God designated as ‘Clean’ and ‘Unclean’ when recognizing animals that were acceptable for food.
But please understand that people of this time were not arguing for the ability to chose a special diet like it was their right to do so.
Let me lay out the context of this chapter a little better so we can let it interpret us rather than using our own personal agenda to interpret it.Continue reading