May Christians Eat Meat?
A CHRISTIAN is one who has dedicated himself to do God’s will and to follow in the footsteps of Christ Jesus. To the best of his ability he must do that which God’s law requires him to do and must refrain from that which it forbids. Is the eating of meat among the things the Christian is forbidden to do?
Yes, say many vegetarians who profess to be Christians, such as the Seventh-day Adventists. According to certain vegetarians the command, “You must not kill,” prohibits the taking not only of human life but also that of the lower animals.—Ex. 20:13.
The Bible reveals our great Lawmaker, Jehovah God, as a God of love, justice, wisdom and power. All his ways and laws are therefore always just, loving and right, and we, as imperfect human creatures, can no more improve on his love and justice than we can excel him in wisdom and power. Obvious as this is, it is necessary to remind ourselves of this fact, for the position taken by those who base their vegetarianism on religious grounds actually implies a criticism of God’s ways and laws. Such a course is presumptuous.
Vegetarianism (the term first appeared about a century ago, although the idea is some three thousand or more years old) may have some merit for some from a health and economic standpoint, but if the killing of the lower animals were the same as the killing of man, that is, morally wrong, could we imagine a God of justice and love looking with favor upon the animal sacrifice Abel offered, at the same time rejecting Cain’s vegetarian offering? In that some vegetarians scruple against the killing of animals and yet don a uniform and kill in time of war they may be said to bear a resemblance to Cain who offered a vegetable sacrifice yet killed his brother. And was not Jehovah well pleased with the sacrifices Noah offered after he left the ark? Did not Jehovah command the Jews to offer many sacrifices of animals and annually to eat the passover lamb? Did he not time and again show his approval of animal sacrifices by sending down fire from heaven to consume them?
Nor did Christ Jesus institute vegetarianism either by precept or example. He ate the passover lamb. He also ate fish, doing so even after his resurrection. And did he not take a few loaves and fishes and feed therewith many thousands on two occasions, marvelously supplying them with fish, with meat? Had he felt it wrong to eat meat would he have miraculously filled the nets of his disciples with fish, as he did on two occasions? And in sending forth his disciples, did he not command them to eat whatever the people set before them and did he not say that it was not what entered a man that defiled him but what came forth from his heart?
True, Paul stated that he would not eat meat if it stumbled his brother, yet let it be noted that throughout his letters he shows that it is not wrong to eat meat: “One man has faith to eat everything, but the man who is weak eats vegetables. [Note it is the vegetarian who is weak in faith, immature.] Let the one eating not look down on the one not eating, and let the one not eating not judge the one eating, for God has welcomed that one.”—Rom. 14:2, 3, NW.
And rather than all quitting the eating of meat for the sake of the weak ones, the implication is that the weak in faith should become strong enough also to be able to eat meat; for note Paul’s further words on the subject: “Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience, for ‘the earth belongs to Jehovah, and so does its fullness’. If anyone of the unbelievers invites you and you wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before you, making no inquiry on account of your conscience.”—1 Cor. 10:25-33, NW.
Note further Paul’s prophetic words regarding the last days when some would depart from the faith and would be “commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth. The reason for this is that every creation of God is right and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified through God’s word and prayer over it.”—1 Tim. 4:3-5, NW.
Nor were animals used only for food. Throughout the Scriptures we read of leather being used, for wineskins, for girdles, for sandals, for the covering of the tabernacle. God himself, in the very beginning, provided a covering of skins for Adam and Eve. Yes, the lower animals were made for man’s enjoyment, health and comfort. He may use them for beasts of burden and let them provide him with eggs and dairy products as well as meat and leather. They were not made to live forever, as was man, but “born naturally to be caught and destroyed.”—2 Pet. 2:12, NW.
REFUTING VEGETARIAN ARGUMENTS
The argument is presented that God did not give man meat to eat in the beginning. True, but when he restated his procreation mandate to the Flood survivors he did grant meat as food: “Every creeping animal that is alive may serve as food for you.” Only blood was forbidden: “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.”—Gen. 9:3, 4, NW.
The fact that Daniel and his three companions refused to eat meat cannot be used as an argument in favor of vegetarianism, for they based their objection to taking of the king’s fare upon the Mosaic law, which does not apply to Christians. At best, their course is only an argument in favor of health.—Dan. 1:8-20; Rom. 6:14, 15.
Vegetarians like to quote Isaiah 66:3 (RS), “He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man.” But the context is not discussing the matter of food but of sacrifices. If those words forbid the eating of food then the Christian may not eat cereals, for the text also states: “He who presents a cereal offering, like him who offers swine’s blood.”
The vegetarian applies to the lower animals Jesus’ words: ‘If you do it unto one of the least of these, you do it unto me.’ But note the complete verse: “To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40, NW) Are the lower animals the brothers of Jesus, the Son of Jehovah God?
Nor can Jesus’ words, “Happy are the merciful,” be used to advocate vegetarianism, for then Jesus himself would have been unmerciful, for he certainly ate flesh, as we have seen. Jehovah glories in the fact that he is merciful, kind and loving, and in view of all his commands, to eat the passover lamb and to offer animal sacrifices, and his own use of the skins of animals to clothe Adam and Eve, it must be apparent that being merciful does not require man to refrain from using lower animals for his benefit.—Matt. 5:7, NW.
In their zeal to find support for their teaching some vegetarians claim that the four canonical gospel accounts were radically changed and that originally they contained many references to Jesus’ words forbidding the use of meats and many incidents telling of his kindness to animals. These claims are based on the apocryphal work The Gospel of the Holy Twelve, purported to have been written by the Essenes and translated by one Ouseley. In view of the abundant evidence of the canonicity of the four Gospels, this apocryphal work is a palpable fraud promulgated to justify the teachings of the Essenes, for it contains no reference to Jesus’ feeding the multitudes with the loaves and fishes, nor any other reference to his eating fish. Jesus is even made to refuse to allow the passover lamb, brought to him by Judas, to be killed!
Mankind ever goes to extremes, doubtless at Satan’s instigation. Thus on the one hand we have the wanton slaying of animals for sport, or the inflicting of terrible sufferings upon dumb brutes in the name of medical science; and on the other hand we have sentimentalists who would put the lower animals on the same level with man and some of whom would even hold out to the brute creation the hopes of a resurrection and everlasting life in heaven. God’s Word condemns cruelty to animals, telling us: “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” (Prov. 12:10) But it holds out no hope of everlasting life for them, for that is dependent upon taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, living a life in harmony with God’s will and confessing the truth to others. The brute creation cannot do these things.
Vegetarians may point to Ovid, Socrates, Plato, Plutarch, Pythagoras, Aristotle and many others to support their position, but they cannot enlist any Scriptural support, for according to the whole testimony of the Bible Christians may eat meat.