What the Bible Says about Eating Meat

by | Jun 30, 2016

I’ve been asked this question many times: The Bible doesn’t say eating meat is bad, so what makes you think it is? If it was bad, God would have told us not to eat it!

In response, I sometimes point out that the Bible also doesn’t say that smoking marijuana or injecting cocaine is bad for you. Nor does it say that sunburns and soda are bad.

But that’s how I respond when I’m being crass. (Though usually people don’t have a good response anyway. I mean really, think about it: What if we assumed that anything the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid must be good for us?)

If you believe that God originally created Adam and Eve and put them in the garden of Eden, then you must also believe that God originally made humans vegan: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’ ” (Genesis 2:16–17 ESV).

“And God saw that his humans are vegan, and it was very good.”

The story has God telling Adam and Eve precisely what they’re allowed to eat. And animals, or animal products, are not one of these things they were given as food.

Maybe the animals ate each other? Surely, lions are carnivores, aren’t they? How can a 500-pound tiger survive off veggies alone?

Nope. Here’s what we read: “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:29-30).

There was no killing in the Garden of Eden, no pain, no diseases. Every single living thing that breathed ate plants.

Then, as the story goes, people screwed up. Now some of us eat meat. And now we have pain and suffering and diseases.

If you believe in this traditional literal interpretation of the creation narrative, then this is a fantastic argument for being vegan. God made everything good at first because he is wise and loving. It’s possible, on this interpretation of the story, that Adam and Eve were supposed to live eternally. Besides that, they were real, ordinary humans just like you and me. So they could’ve lived forever off the trees of the garden—without any kind of mineral or vitamin deficiency.

If you’re like most people and do not take the creation narrative literally, then at least what the Bible says about the final state of the world should interest you. In heaven, blood will not be spilled because “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6–9).

In other words, neither humans nor animals will be eating animals. This is God’s ideal for the world, with no suffering of any kind.

Revelation 22:2 also talks about the “tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month”—a tree for the people to feed off in heaven. Whether this is supposed to literally be a tree or not, it’s clear that to God it is trees and other such vegetation that signify nourishment for life.

What about Jesus? He’s kind of a big deal. Luke 14:15 says, “When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, [Jesus] said to him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ ” Not blessed is everyone who comes to the barbecue party in the kingdom. Bread is what we’ll eat.

If we pray “Your Kingdom come,” we should be ready for it to come down to us with all the changes it will bring. Prepare the world, prepare yourself—let’s adapt to God’s ideal for us. Let’s start living as if we’re ready for heaven to be here today.

Most Christians also recognize that the Bible strictly forbids animal cruelty. Consider these passages from the Bible, for example: Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10; Matthew 10:29; 12:11; 18:12–14.

You may think it’s not cruel to cut off a chicken’s head or to slash a sheep’s neck. But if you know anything about how the meat-packing industry works (where McDonald’s and Taco Bell and most other restaurants get their meat), then you know it isn’t pretty. Go ahead, watch the video.

God also instructs us to be stewards of the earth (Genesis 2:15). Mountains of scientific evidence demonstrates that the meat and dairy industries are devastating the planet. (Even more info here.)

Because animal-based foods cost so much more to produce, we’re wasting resources that we can invest into fighting world hunger. Non-vegans are wasting precious agricultural land while preventing the development of malnourished countries.

And remember what the Bible teaches about helping the poor and hungry? I shouldn’t need to remind you of this: Isaiah 58:10; Matthew 10:42; 25:35–37; Luke 3:11.

If you’re Christian and want to use your time on earth for God’s glory, to do his will, then remember also what the Bible teaches about your body being God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). It’s your duty to nourish it and keep it healthy, because you are not your own. Your body belongs to God. He’s letting it stay alive for now because you’re here on earth for a purpose.

My reasons for being vegan were at first based only on the nutritional science. Now I can have peace of mind not only because I know that my food nourishes my body but because I am confident I’m making the world a better place with my new lifestyle.

There’s lots more that I could’ve said on this topic, but I want to keep these articles short enough that people will read them. What can you add on this topic? Am I misunderstanding the Bible somewhere or missing something? Please comment below.

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