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What Does the Bible Say About Vegetarianism?

To be, or not to be a vegetarian is a question that often hounds a Christian. While there is nothing that either advocates or condemns an individual's eating habits, we, as Christians, are to remember not to judge another on either basis. Let's look at what the Bible says about dietary preferences, through this Buzzle article.
Bible on vegetarianism
William Cowherd from the Bible Christian Church and Ellen G. White from the Seventh-day Adventists have recommended vegetarianism.
While vegetarianism is not a common practice in current Christian thought and culture, there are many who claim that it has scriptural and historical support. Though many Christians choose to be vegetarians for ethical, environmental, nutritional, or spiritual reasons, the Bible itself does not directly promote following this dietary preference.

The Bible, on the other hand, indicates that the eating of meat is permissible. Whether you follow a vegetarian diet or indulge in consuming meat, you should remember that God judges you not by what you eat, but instead, looks into your heart. In short, what matters is not what enters our body, but rather, that what we talk or portray, by which each of us will be judged. Another important verse to remember as Christians is Matthew 4:4, in which it is stated that, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

* All Bible verses mentioned in this article have been taken from the English Standard Version.
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."
— Genesis 1:29

Let's go back to the creation of man. In the very first chapter of the Bible, we find that God creates man and puts him in charge of everything on the Earth. Adam and Eve, though, have dominion over the birds of the air, and the creatures of the land are permitted to consume the fruits of the Earth. This obviously points to the early creation following a vegetarian diet. Those who advocate vegetarianism, use this verse as a base to do so, and it seems to be justified.

"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field."
— Genesis 3:17-18

Come to the third chapter of Genesis, where we see God admonishing man's sin, and condemning him to toil for his food. If man has to toil for food, it only means that man could consume the food that he sows. Which again becomes a pointer to follow a vegetarian diet. That said, we need to know more of the Bible before we assume that was the only diet that the people were called to follow.

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
— Genesis 9:3-4

Fast-forward to the times of Noah and the flood. Once the flood subsides, and Noah sets foot on dry land again, we see a change in the dietary patterns followed. God permits Noah to consume everything that moves on the Earth as food. Let's just say that the great flood destroyed all vegetation, due to which, Noah had no other choice left than to consume meat. For obvious reasons, God forbade man from consuming blood, which is associated with life. In the same light, one cannot deny that the Bible records rules given to the Israelites about what meat could be consumed, suggesting that consumption of meat was not condemned nor that of a vegetarian diet being followed.

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.
— Exodus 12:3-4

Lest we forget, God commanded the people of Israel to observe the feast of the Passover. While the feast called the Israelites to consume lamb, it goes against the whole ideal of vegetarianism, as given in the initial book of the Bible.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, "Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."
— Numbers 11:4-6

Just when you get yourself to believe that eating meat is all there is to Christianity, take a look at what happens in the wilderness. God supplied the people of Israel with manna to help them survive. In the same chapter, we see how God provides quails to the people who craved for meat. What follows next is the plague that strikes down all those who consumed the meat.

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.
— Mark 6:41

How did Jesus feed the multitude that gathered to hear him speak? With bread and fish, of course. Let's not forget, Jesus gave thanks to the Lord our God, and then offered the food to the people. What's important here is the act of consecration of the food, rather than paying attention to what was being served to the people.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
— Matthew 6:25

For it is said, we should not be worried about what we eat, nor what we drink, but about seeking the kingdom of God. What really matters is asking the Lord for guidance, and trusting that he will provide. It doesn't matter then, if you are a vegetarian or consume meat. What really matters is your faith.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
— 1 Corinthians 10:31

As a Christian, you should always remember to give glory to God, for everything that comes to us is not the mere work of hands, but a gift from the Heavenly Father. This includes the food that you eat and the strength that you receive. Last but not the least, we should remember that Christ himself declared all foods to be clean.

Whether you choose to be a vegetarian or consume meat is entirely your choice. Remember that the Bible says it is unjust to impose your views on others, just as it is a sin to cause another to sin. Last but not the least, you ought to remember that everything you do is to place glory and honor to God, and not just satisfy the physical body.
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Published: September 21, 2013
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Comments
I prefer a plant-based diet for reasons mentioned here. Great article! - Joseph [March 12, 2014]
I've been vegetarian for 11 years now, and prefer the vegetarian diet. It's really natural, simple, and healthy, plus it's kinder to animals. It is what was given to eat at the garden of eden, fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. Thanks for including Ellen White's views on vegetarianism too. She is spot on! She writes about the benefits of vegetarianism in her books 'Ministry of Healing' and 'Counsels on Food and Diet', and others too - myreply [March 12, 2014]
Praise the Lord! I enjoyed reading this article Good read Cher - SJ [September 29, 2013]
IT IS RIGHT AND JUST TO GIVE PRAISE ,THANKS,AND GLORY TO GOD .FROM A GOOD GOD ONLY GOOD COMES.LET US LIVE A LIFE THAT IS WORTHY OF HIS TRUE LOVE. - FATIMA.M [September 21, 2013]
oh so god gives quail meat, and then kills those who eat it? how sweet of god! and if all vegetation was destroyed in the flood, how did it grow back again? EVOLUTION? - T [September 21, 2013]