As Christians, we often hear about the importance of living a life that is pleasing to God, and part of that journey includes making choices about what we consume.
Whether you’re a new believer or a seasoned follower of Christ, you might have questions about which foods are acceptable or forbidden to eat in Christianity.
Throughout the Bible, we can find various passages that provide guidance on this topic. In this article, we will delve deeper into the Scripture, mainly referencing the NKJV version, to unveil some key insights and shed light on what God has to say about our dietary choices.
Get ready to embark on a delicious journey of understanding God’s intentions for our meals and how it ties into living a life that glorifies Him!
I. The Origin of Dietary Restrictions in Christianity
The concept of dietary restrictions has its roots in the Old Testament, with the laws God gave to the ancient Israelites in order to distinguish them as His chosen people. Under the Mosaic Law, certain foods were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. Some examples of these unclean foods include:
- Pork (Leviticus 11:7)
- Shellfish (Leviticus 11:10)
- Certain fowl, such as owls and eagles (Leviticus 11:13-19)
- Some insects, like flies and moths (Leviticus 11:20-23)
However, with the advent of the New Testament and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the laws concerning food and what is considered clean or unclean have evolved. According to the Gospels, Jesus declared all foods clean, thereby lifting many of the dietary restrictions imposed by the Old Testament.
This is strongly evident in Mark 7:19, where it is written, “… because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”
Furthermore, the Apostle Peter also had a vision where God showed him a sheet containing various animals considered unclean under the Mosaic Law, saying, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15).
II. Exploring the Biblical “Do Not Eat” List
In examining the biblical restrictions on food consumption, it’s essential to look at the guidelines set forth in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. These chapters clearly define the animals deemed ‘unclean,’ and therefore should not be eaten.
God explained to Moses and Aaron that the Israelites should only consume animals that have divided hoofs and chew the cud. For land animals, this includes:
However, Scripture also lists species to avoid, such as those with paws like the camel, hyrax, hare, and swine. Furthermore, any animal that has died or was killed by another creature must not be consumed. For aquatic animals, they must have fins and scales to be considered ‘clean.’
Hence, crustaceans and shellfish are strictly off the list, as well as those that crawl at the bottom of the ocean floor. Birds of prey, carrion eaters, and several other species are also prohibited.
In addition to avoiding these particular animals, it is essential to note that God specifically commanded not to consume animal blood or fat (Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 17:10-14). This is due to its sacred nature, as the “life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).
In practice, this means draining the blood from the animal when slaughtering it and ensuring that the fat is properly removed during the preparation process.
These dietary laws were put in place to honor God and to ensure the wellbeing of His people. Ultimately, it boils down to obedience to the Creator’s will and respecting the sanctity of life.
III. Modern Interpretations of Forbidden Foods in Christianity
In recent times, there has been considerable debate among Christians regarding the consumption of certain foods which were once considered forbidden.
According to Leviticus 11:1-8 and Deuteronomy 14:3-20, God instructed the Israelites to abstain from consuming certain animals and their by-products due to their impure nature. However, the New Testament has brought new perspectives on this matter.
In Acts 10:9-16, the Apostle Peter received a vision from God wherein a sheet filled with all kinds of animals was lowered before him, and God instructed him to “kill and eat.”
Peter was initially puzzled as many of these animals were considered unclean, but he later realized it was God’s way of demonstrating that the Gospel message is meant for all people regardless of their dietary practices.
As a result, modern interpretations of forbidden foods in Christianity have shifted towards a more inclusive view. There are three primary viewpoints that have emerged among believers based on the teachings in the New Testament:
- The Acceptance View: This perspective argues that all foods are permissible as long as they are received with gratitude and consumed with a clear conscience, as mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:4-5.
- The Moderation View: Believers who follow this viewpoint contend that Christians are free to eat all foods, but they should exercise temperance, avoiding gluttony and overconsumption. This is in accordance with the teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 where Apostle Paul states that Christians should not be enslaved by anything, including their appetite for food.
- The Conscientious View: Some Christians choose to maintain a stricter diet out of a personal conviction or to avoid causing offense to others with stricter beliefs. Romans 14:1-3 advises that Christians should accept others who have different dietary restrictions without judgment and live in harmony.
Ultimately, the decision to consume or abstain from certain foods should be made prayerfully and with an understanding of the biblical teachings, always keeping the focus on glorifying God and preserving the unity of fellow believers.
IV. Navigating Dietary Choices for the Faithful Christian
As Christians, our primary goal is to honor God in every aspect of our lives, including our dietary choices. In the New Testament, we see how the apostles address this issue for the diverse body of believers.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31, it is clearly stated: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” With this in mind, let’s explore some principles that can guide us in making wise decisions in this area:
- Consider the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit: In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we are reminded that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and that we should honor God with our bodies. This principle should encourage us to eat healthily and make wise choices for physical well-being.
- Be mindful of potential stumbling blocks: While we have freedom in Christ regarding our dietary choices, we must be cautious not to cause others to stumble. In Romans 14:13-23, Paul addresses this issue, encouraging believers to make decisions based on love for others and the desire to build up the body of Christ.
- Give thanks and enjoy God’s provision: Another guiding principle comes from 1 Timothy 4:4-5, where we are taught that everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, as it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
However, it’s important to remember that dietary choices are a matter of personal conscience and conviction, and our focus should not be solely on what we eat, but on our relationship with God and others.
The most important aspect to consider in navigating our choices is to act in love and unity with our fellow believers. In Romans 14:17-18, Paul writes:
As we prayerfully make decisions about our diets, let us utilize these biblical principles, keeping our eyes on God and being attentive to the needs and convictions of those around us.
In conclusion, as Christians, our primary focus should always be on our relationship with God and our spiritual growth.
While the Bible provides specific guidelines in the Old Testament about what was forbidden for the Israelites to eat, with the coming of Jesus and the establishment of the New Covenant, such stringent dietary restrictions are no longer applicable to Christians today.
However, this does not give us free rein to be careless about our food choices. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NKJV), “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Engaging in responsible and mindful eating is an integral part of our Christian stewardship and can help us in our journey towards a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
As always, it’s essential to consider the circumstances and cultures we are part of, always keeping in mind to respect and not cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.
In the words of Paul in Romans 14:21 (NKJV), “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.”
So, take some time to reflect on your food choices and practices, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in making decisions that are both beneficial to your physical health and spiritual well-being. In all that we do, let us strive to honor God and grow in our relationship with Him. God bless!