Where Does It Say “Thou Shalt Not Eat Meat?”

Should a Christian struggle with ethical issues when it comes to making decisions about animal rights?

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26

This passage doesn’t give man the right to abuse animals. Rather, in this context, the concept of dominion carries with it a responsibility to be good stewards and caretakers of the provisions of God. Man is unique among God’s creations in that he was made “in our image, after our likeness,” not in a sense of physical resemblance but rather with a capacity for intelligent thought (not that we always use it) and the ability to make calculated decisions (not that we’re always particularly good at that, either!)

So, should we not consider animals as a source of food?

“And he [Jesus] said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  Mark 7:18-23

Even the Jews, who had a stricter dietary code than the later Christians, were permitted meat.

“When the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. If the place that the LORD your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire.” Deuteronomy 12:19-21

So what about Jesus?  Did he eat meat?  Jesus had lamb as a part of the passover feast (Luke 22:8-15) and fed fish to the multitudes (Luke 24:42-43.)  In John 21:9 we see a resurrected Jesus cooking fish over charcoals on the shore.

These are just a few examples of how the Bible does not promote veganism or vegetarianism as some claim, but it doesn’t condemn it, either.  In fact, the apostle Paul wrote;

“One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.”  Romans 14:2-3

Just a little food for thought…


About raybowman

church of Christ elder, farmer, grandad, agriculture writer and broadcaster

Posted on October 4, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This post brings up some good points and the scripture passages will be a great resource for “agvocates” as we encourage people to include meat as a nutritious part of their healthy diets! Thanks for sharing!

  2. You abandon posterous?

    I once wrote against an article, “Jesus Was a Vegetarian,” using those NT passages. I like your reference to Deut. I missed that.

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