Was Jesus a Vegetarian?
In the liner notes of his best-selling album “Play”, electronic music artist Moby encouraged everyone to become vegetarians and avoid all killing of animals. To support his cause, Moby quoted from a variety of sources, including a portion of Isaiah 66:3; "He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man..." A casual glance at this verse gives the impression that it is totally wrong to kill animals. But if you read the rest of this and the following verse, you'll see what the Lord is coming against is false worship: "…He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck; He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood; He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol. Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; Because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; But they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight."
Some folks claim Jesus was a vegetarian. Apparently these folks don’t know Scripture. Twice Jesus helped Peter catch abundant amounts of fish (Luke 5:4-7 and John 21:5-11). Luke 24:41-43 clearly shows that Jesus ate fish with his disciples in their presence. In the Parable of the Lost Son, Jesus talked about the father killing the fatted calf to celebrate his sonʼs return (Luke 15:23). When Jesus instructed his followers to take communion, he used the phrase “eat my flesh” (John 6:53) when referring to the bread representing his body. If Jesus totally opposed meat eating, why didnʼt he use different wording?
Now it should be pointed out the Bible commands man not to abuse animals. Proverbs 12:10 (NIV) says, "A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal." Man is accountable to God for being a good steward of all his earthly possessions.
The Bible also points out a meat-based diet can be unhealthy. Numbers 11:31-33 mentions how God provided quail in the wilderness for the Israelites who became diseased because they ate too much of it. Daniel 1:11-17 shows how God's people were healthier because they ate vegetables and water instead of the king's meat. But God doesn't love us any differently if we choose to eat certain foods or not. 1 Corinthians 8:8 in the Darby translation says, "But meat does not commend us to God; neither if we should not eat do we come short; nor if we should eat have we an advantage."
God commanded man in Genesis 1:28 to subdue the earth and have dominion over all animals. After the fall of man, God used an animal's skin to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Fur protesters need to realize that it was God's idea to use animal skins for clothing in the first place. While I agree with the Humane Society for going after people who deliberately mistreat animals, I cannot agree animals have equal status with humans. Jesus said in Matthew 10:31, “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The Lord also said in Matthew 12:12, “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?”
Activist groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) try to discourage meat eating by designing buttons and posters with phrases like "Meat is Murder" or "Thou Shalt Not Kill: Go Vegetarian." Many of these same folks who fight to save the lives of animals think it is okay to kill their unborn children. Even in Jesus´ day, there were people who valued the lives of animals more than the welfare of humans. In Mark chapter 5, Jesus delivered a demon-possessed man by allowing the evil spirits to go into a herd of swine that later drowned. The pig farmers didn’t rejoice in the demoniac being set free. They were more concerned about losing their “deviled ham.”
Today’s animal-rights advocates misuse Scripture to condemn meat eating but neglect more important matters like people’s eternal destinies. This is a prophetic fulfillment of 1 Timothy 4. Verses 4 and 5 from this chapter go on to say, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
We should examine our motives in whatever we decide to eat and not impose our convictions upon others.
“Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
- Romans 14:3-4