Does 1 Corinthians 8:13 promote being vegetarian?

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1 Corinthians 8:13

Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Here, the apostle is not talking about vegetarianism, rather about the duty of Christians to be sensitive to those that have weak conscience and not to offend them by eating meats that are offered to idols.

At Paul’s time, some of the meats that were sold in the market were sacrificed to idols. And there were some newly converted believers who would not eat of those meats, even though they no longer believed in those idols. Their conscience was not strong enough to allow them to overcome all their previous superstitious beliefs.

The weak believers failed to realize that God sees the heart and motives that move men’s actions. And that His approval doesn’t depend on unimportant things like the eating, or not eating, of food offered to idols.

1 Corinthians 8:13 does not apply to dietary items that are already known to be harmful to the body, or to the foods that are strictly forbidden by God such as the unclean meats of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

A stumbling block

Paul warned the strong believers not to offend the weak ones: “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?“ (v. 9,10).

There was danger that those whose consciences were not bothered by eating meats offered to idols might cause others to fall by raising in them a tendency to indulge in a behavior that opposed their conscientious scruples. Jesus said, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea…“ (Matthew 18:6–9 also Romans 14:13, 20).

Personally, Paul was willing to abstain from food that he might lawfully have eaten, rather than place a stumbling block in a weak believer’s path. He did not freely act in a way that would raise the new believer’s prejudices and confuse his limited understanding of the Scriptures (Acts 16:1–3; Romans 14).

Liberty is great, but the weakness of a believer should motivate the strong one to give his freedom up. Thoughtfulness and consideration for one’s brother is to be the first concern in this situation. Without a doubt, the fulfillment of one’s desires is not more valuable than the salvation of the weak brother who could stumble over one’s walk in freedom.

Application to life in general

This principle can apply to many aspects of life, such as recreation, dress, music…etc. Self-denial for the good of others is an important aspect of the experience of a true child of God. Jesus said, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 also John 3:30; Romans 12:10; Romans 14:7, 13, 15–17; Philippians 2:3, 4).

Christ, our supreme model, expressed this principle in every act He did during His life and death. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Those who have been bought by the Savior’s sacrifice have a moral duty to be ready to follow His example even to laying down their lives for the advancement of His eternal kingdom.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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