Eating meat is a regular thing in our culture today, but in the Old Testament God commonly commanded the Israelites to not eat meat. Some Christians today still believe that God doesn’t want us to eat meat, but some say it depends on personal conviction.
Are Christians allowed to eat meat? Christians are allowed to eat meat. God did prohibit the Israelites in the Old Testament from eating meat, but now Christians have the freedom to eat meat if they eat it in faith and as long as they don’t use it in a way that makes others stumble.
If you’re a Christian and worried about eating meat, I can assure you that eating meat won’t disqualify you from the Kingdom of God. God also tells us that whatever we don’t do in faith is sin, so I’m writing this blog to help encourage you in your faith and help you develop a decision on if eating meat is right for you.
What The Bible Says About Meat
The Bible makes it clear about some topics, like how to gain salvation and how sin is bad. However, the Bible isn’t always clear about whether or not we should do something because it is dependent on a person’s individual situation.
Eating meat is like this since in the Old Testament God knew the Israelites shouldn’t eat meat for health and cultural reasons. Today, Christians are allowed to eat meat because God has made all things clean through Jesus and gives us that freedom. But, there are still reasons to not eat meat.
In Genesis, Adam And Eve Were Vegans
Some Christians like to point out that we shouldn’t eat meat because, in God’s original design, he made us be vegans.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were vegan when the world was perfect. So clearly, becoming a vegan is what God would want, right?
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to fruits and veggies, and maybe that’s all of what we’ll be eating in Heaven. God also didn’t forbid Adam and Eve to eat meat once they were out of the Garden. God even made clothes for them out of animal skins.
Sure, this happened after the Fall, but for our lives now according to the New Testament, you have the freedom to choose whether or not you will eat meat without worrying about the laws from the Old Testament.
Learn more about if Christians should be vegans here.
Rules About Meat In The Old Testament
In the Old Testament, God wanted to protect the Israelites’ physical and spiritual health. He still wants to protect us physically and spiritually today. In Leviticus 11 God specifically protected the Israelites by not allowing them to eat meat like pork and animals that had split hooves.
If we do the research today, we find out that pork and these types of meats are actually not good for us. They can cause higher levels of cholesterol, heart diseases, and diabetes.
These meats were also used widely in pagan culture as sacrificial offerings during the time of the Israelites, causing them to stumble into idolatry.
God set the rule of not eating meat to prevent the Israelite’s from slipping into idolatry.
Rules About Meat In The New Testament
After Jesus came, died for our sins, and rose again, He fulfilled the law in the Old Testament. He showed the Jews that He wanted everyone to be saved and everyone to be in His family. This included Gentiles.
The only problem was that the Gentiles didn’t know or follow all of the Jewish rules. They didn’t know that meat wasn’t allowed, and some Jews thought the Gentiles couldn’t be saved because they were “unclean”.
Jesus makes it clear through Peter’s vision that He didn’t come to change people’s cultures or diets, He came to change hearts.
The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the roof about noon. He became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance.
He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ ‘
No, Lord!’ Peter said. ‘For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.’
Again, a second time, the voice said to him, ‘What God has made clean, do not call impure.’Acts 10:9-15 CSB
God wanted people to recognize that they needed to be clean and holy before them. Meat was one ways he demonstrated that in the Old Testament. Now that we are made clean through Jesus’ crucifixion, we no longer have to worry about being made unclean by meat.
Christian Views on Eating Meat
Though the New Testament has made it so that we can be free to eat meat, there are some Christians who have a different view. You may feel personally convicted or know someone else who has a conviction. Here’s what to do if you or your friend have a conviction.
Viewpoint #1 – Christians Can Eat Meat
The New Testament makes it clear that Christians are free to eat meat.
As we saw, the Lord himself commanded Peter to kill and eat. This was not only to satisfy Peter’s hunger but also to demonstrate to him that he is free from the obligations that he was under before the New Covenant.
We are able to eat meat because Jesus has freed us from the obligation to obey the law. Hebrews 8:13 shows us that the Old Covenant has been made obsolete because Jesus’ death ushered in a better covenant.
Paul makes it abundantly clear in Romans 14 that Christians who believe that they can’t eat meat are the weaker brothers. Their consciences are bound to a law that is not applicable to them.
Because of this, it is helpful to be mindful of the consciences of others. While the stronger brother understands that he can eat meat, he must also be considerate of the conscience of the weaker brother. This is Paul’s point in Romans 14.
Viewpoint #2 – Christians Should Not Eat Meat
It is important to know that there are Christians who believe that we can’t eat meat today. There are a few reasons why some believe this.
First, some believe that we should still strive to obey dietary laws given under the Old Covenant. Jesus did not say that he was throwing away the law, he said he fulfilled it.
Some well-meaning brothers and sisters don’t eat meat because they are trying to obey the commands of God. This is an understandable position, but these are the exact weaker brothers that Paul is mentioning in Romans 14.
Second, some believe that eating meat is unhealthy and does not respect the bodies that God has given us.
There might be some truth to meat being unhealthy, but it does not constitute a law of God. There are healthy ways to eat meat, and God himself demonstrated that some meat is good for us to eat.
Christians Should Not Cause Their Brother to Stumble
Another thing to think about is that Jesus wants us to love others more than ourselves. That means that if eating meat makes my brother or sister in Christ stumble, then I won’t do it.
So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong to make someone fall by what he eats. It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.Romans 14:19-21 CSB
In our culture today, it’s hard to imagine how eating meat could be a stumbling block for someone. I didn’t think it could be until I heard a missionary’s story from Southeast Asia.
This missionary woman lived among a large Muslim population, and because of their religion, her Muslim friends didn’t eat certain types of meat and thought it was unclean.
This didn’t seem like a big deal until this missionary realized that her Muslim friends wouldn’t even come into her home if they knew she had prepared fatty meats in it.
In order to love her Muslim friends well and not cause a stumbling block to them or to the gospel message, my missionary friend lay aside her own cravings and stopped eating meat as a way to love the people around her and invite them into her home.
It’s important to live out the gospel so that others will see the light we have and come to know Jesus. If abstaining from eating meat will help that process, then it’s worth it.
My Personal Conviction
Christians are allowed to eat meat, but there are still a few conditions and things God wants us to reflect on.
One person believes he may eat anything, while one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not judge one who does, because God has accepted him.Romans 14:2-3 CSB
God accepts you whether you feel personally convicted to eat meat or not eat meat. But as Christians, we should still do everything in faith and not judge other believers who don’t do everything the exact same way as us.
As an example, one of my closest friends has a personal conviction to not eat pork. She doesn’t believe God forbids it, but she knows that God was smart by telling the Israelites to stay away from pork.
After all, science tells us today that it’s not good for our bodies, especially in large amounts. And my friend knows that God wants her to be healthy and steward her body, or her temple, well.
My friend also didn’t condemn me for eating pork, because there’s no reason to judge what God has accepted. But since her wise perspective has been rubbing off on me, I’ve decided for myself to cut out pork from my diet for my own health, and as a way to encourage her.
Read more about if Christians should eat pork or bacon here.
Whatever You Do, Do Everything To The Glory Of God
As a Christian today, you can know that God allows us to eat meat. There’s nothing sinful or unclean about it, and for the large part, you’re given a decision to choose when and if you will eat meat.
Above all though, remember that God wants us to do everything out of a love for others and for him. We get to serve and benefit others in their journey with Christ and glorify God in all that we do. So, it’s not about us, or our diets, it’s all about Jesus and bringing glory to his name.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV