Is it wrong to be a Vegetarian?

Does the Bible say I shouldn’t eat meat?

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.

Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians before he wrote to the Romans. Chapters 8 and 10 in 1 Corinthians addressed the food controversy going on in Corinth. Specifically, food sacrificed to idols.

Paul was still in Corinth, where food was being sacrificed to idols, when he wrote his letter to the Romans. So, naturally, this topic was fresh on his mind.

Why is that relevant? Because of the context and setting in which Paul is sharing his love and concern to the Romans about a similar issue. His basis for the comments he made to the Romans can be supported by this connection.

So… What was Paul’s intent with his letter? Was he condoning people who chose to eat only vegetables as being weak? NO.

In reality, it can be argued that those with weaker faith, have in fact, a greater honor before God.

So, why were those people who chose to abstain from eating meat, “weaker” in their faith?

The underlying issue here that vegetarians consistently miss is that people during this time offered meat as a sacrifice to idols and portions of that offering were then sold in the markets later on.

Let me say that again…

Meat was being sacrificed as an ancient practice for religious, social and domestic purposes in the Romans culture.

Please note, this was not a Christian practice, but rather, these things occurred in Pagan temples.

After the ceremony was done, some of the meat and carcasses were burned but the rest was sent to the market to be sold.

It was a “weakness” of the faith to some Christians to question the “cleanliness” of the meat because Paul says in Romans 14:14a,

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself.

Romans 14:14a

In other words, if a Christian has a concern of the conscience that the meat they are eating might have been a part of a pagan ritual, they should NOT worry. Why? Because these sacrifices were to fake gods/idols. Again, food is food.

But, if someone still can’t accept the potential fact that the meat might have been used for a sacrifice to an idol, Paul says,

But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.

Romans 14:14b

Paul even persuades those of “stronger” faith to also abstain from eating meat while in the presence of someone who is unsure of the source and cleanliness.

If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.

Romans 14:15

I am not saying that if you are eating with someone who is choosing to be a vegetarian that you should stop eating meat as well. What Paul is getting at, in this setting, is that we should not bully or push someone to eat meat that they think is unclean due to its possible use in a Pagan ritual.

Paul even says,

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.

Romans 14:19-20

All food is clean. All food is clean… and one more time… All food is clean.

BUT…

If you are eating a meal with another Christian who believes it is wrong to eat meat that was potentially sacrificed to idols, then…

It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

Romans 14:21

Did vegetarianism even exist in this particular setting? No, I don’t believe so. This whole chapter is NOT about someone choosing to be a vegetarian. It’s not even about someone who wants to eat meat while forcing another person to eat meat as well.

Even as Paul writes this letter, I don’t believe it crosses his mind that someone in 2019 would argue that it is okay to be a vegetarian because of the issues the Romans faced in 57 A.D.

I am not saying this chapter becomes irrelevant to our discussion about whether or not it is okay to be a vegetarian, but I am saying that the way vegetarians have used it as their “biblical” basis to argue on the topic is wrong.

Paul is not giving Christians today the option to decide if they want to include meat as part of their diet today.

He is saying that we should not engage in a practice, whether it be eating or something else, that would cause our fellow Christians to question their faith.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:22-23

So, if we are NOT making every decision in our lives based on our faith, then we are sinning.

You should be eating meat that you believe is ‘clean’ by biblical standards. If you are worried that the meat you are about to consume could have been sacrificed to idols in a pagan ceremony, then you should not eat it because your faith in its cleanliness is uncertain.

Likewise, if you are with someone who would prefer to eat vegetables, or would like to simply abstain from eating meat because they are worried it was ‘unclean’ from sacrifice to an idol, then you should not pass judgement on them and even go as far as not eating the meat yourself so as to not offend that person in their faith.

Let me be very clear here…

In 2019, this practice of sacrificing meat to idols and selling the scraps in the local grocery store, does… not… exist…

Therefore, if you are choosing to be a vegetarian, good for you. BUT, don’t pretend that this beautiful letter written by Paul somehow gives you justification to “only eat vegetables.”

Also, you should not assume that this chapter gives you the right to not be questioned by someone like me who thinks being a vegetarian is not biblical in any sense.

I am not saying it is wrong. I will not “destroy God’s work for food’s sake”, but I will certainly question your reasoning when you say you are abstaining from eating meat because the Bible says it is okay.

The Bible says it is okay to abstain, and that you should not be judged for your choice if you are unsure of the ‘clean’ status of such meat that you would normally consume.

To summarize, I would like to challenge every biblically based person who is a born-again Christian in the following way:

If you are a vegetarian, are you worried that the meat available to you has been used in a sacrifice to idols?

If not…

Then why are you choosing to be a vegetarian?

Again, I am not saying there is anything sinful or wrong about being a vegetarian, but I have yet to see any biblical basis that supports the modern practice of vegetarianism.

In another post I will address the issue of veganism and what the Bible has to say about that in our culture today.

I will also go over the guidelines that Bible gives us when it defines ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ foods.

For this post, feel free to comment below on your thoughts regarding vegetarianism. I look forward to your engaging ideas on the topic.

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about being a vegetarian?Romans chapter 14 gives us one take on the…

Posted by Satan's Apple – Finding Truth Among the Lies on Thursday, August 22, 2019

3 thoughts on “Is it wrong to be a Vegetarian?

  1. Thanks for that explanation. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Your analysis seems accurate to what the apostle intended.

  2. Thank you for clearing up several issues I’ve always wondered about. You’re an excellent writer and I’m so glad I found your website today.

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