What does the Bible say about being a vegetarian?

Some choose to be vegetarian because of health reasons or religious beliefs. Is vegetarianism wrong? What can we learn from Scriptures about what is acceptable to eat?


Answer:

The Bible does not directly address vegetarianism as a dietary preference for health reasons. The Bible does, however, indicate that eating meat is acceptable. In fact, the Levitical priests had to eat sacrificial animals under the Sinai Covenant.

The apostle Paul refers to vegetarianism for religious reasons (probably to avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols) in Romans:14:2: "For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables." The weakness that he refers to is spiritual, not physical, as verse 1 brings out: "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things." By speaking of those who refrain from eating meat for this reason as being "weak," Paul considers abstinence from eating meat as an extreme, unbalanced response to the issue of meats sacrificed to idols.

However, there's no sin in being a vegetarian for health or religious reasons. But a person who chooses not to eat meat shouldn't look down on a person who chooses to eat meat. Nor should a meat eater condemn one who chooses not to eat it. Paul continues: "Let not him who eats [meats] despise him who does not eat [meats], and let not him who does not eat [meat] judge him who eats [meat]; for God has received him" (verse 3).

Some incorrectly assume that these verses imply that Christians may eat any meat, and that God's food laws forbidding pork, shrimp, etc., no longer apply. However, the Bible does not say that the biblical food laws have ever been repealed.

For more information about biblical dietary laws, please read our booklet What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats?

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