What Does the Bible Say About Eating Animals?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 5, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Last week, I wrote on what the Bible says about how to treat animals. We know that God created the animals, and He cares for them. But what about when it comes to eating animals - killing them for our food? What does the Bible say about that?

In Genesis 1:28, right after God created humans, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, and we were created to rule over the animals. We were not created to treat them as equals, but to have dominion over them. Having dominion does not mean ruling like a dictator and exploiting something, but having a proper responsibility over them.

Before sin entered the world, there was no death, so animals would not have been killed in order to be eaten. But after Adam and Eve sinned, that all changed. The first death was an animal that was killed so its skin could make their clothing, now that it mattered that they weren’t wearing any.

A bit later, right after the great flood, Genesis 9:1-4 records this: “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.’” This makes it clear that it’s now just fine for humans to eat animals.

In the Leviticus 11, God gives Israel a list of the clean and unclean animals, explaining which they are allowed to eat and which they are not allowed to eat. In that time and culture, things were very different than they are now regarding food. For one, they didn’t have refrigeration to properly preserve meats that would easily spoil in the Middle Eastern heat. They also didn’t have as thorough of cooking methods and checking for proper meat temperatures as we do today. So, one reason God gave them these rules was to help them survive and not get sick from what they ate. They were also a way for the Israelites to show their devotion to God through their actions, since they were living under the Law and before the sacrifice of Jesus.

But what about now? In Acts 10, the apostle Peter had a vision where God showed him that animals are no longer either clean or unclean; that distinction is no longer necessary, just as the distinction between Jew and Gentile was no longer necessary. Because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, all people could be saved! These specific rules given to the Israelites about unclean animals no longer apply to us today, in our time and culture.

What about Jesus? Would he have eaten animals? While the Scriptures don’t give us a detailed diet that Jesus ate, we do know that He ate fish after His resurrection, as recorded in Luke 24:42-43 and John 21. Jesus likely would not have helped the disciples catch so many fish if he didn't believe they should be eaten.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul writes to the church at Corinth about eating meat from sacrifices that were made to idols. He concludes that it’s perfectly fine, as long as it does not cause you or those around you to stumble in the faith.

So the Bible clearly tells us that it’s fine to eat meat. But what about those who choose to be vegetarian or even vegan? Romans 14:2-3 says, “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” This doesn’t mean that vegetarians have weak faith; this means that we should not judge others critically for their dietary choices. We know that we are to treat animals well, and some live that out in their lives by choosing not to eat them.

Whatever our preference on eating meat, we should always be seeking to glorify God and strengthen our faith and the faith of others in all areas of life, whether we do so while eating a cheeseburger or a salad. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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