What Foods Should Christians NOT Eat?

Are there any foods Christians should not eat?

The New Testament is overwhelmingly clear there are no food restrictions for Christians

Consider the following verses:

Matthew 15:11 Jesus said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth.”

The Greek word for “defile” is koinoō. It means, “to make common, or unclean, or profane.” No food can make you unholy.

Mark 7:18-19 Jesus said, “Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus, thus purifying all foods.”

Jesus said all foods are pure.

Romans 14:17 The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

“Righteousness and peace and joy” are the weightier mattersPeople obsessed with food are missing the focus of the Kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 8:8 Food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.

People are not “better” if they don’t eat certain things.

Acts 10:12-15 [There] were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.  A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

The sheet contained all kinds of clean and unclean animals. God told Peter all animals are now clean.

Colossians 2:16 Let no one judge you in food or in drink.

There’s no verse saying, “Let no one judge you in lying, bitterness, or serving.” These are immoral. But Paul says, “Let no one judge [what you eat],” because food is amoral or spiritually neutral. What Christians eat has nothing to do with spirituality. There are no foods that – at least for spiritual reasons – Christians should avoid.

 

How do we explain that God forbid certain foods, but permitted them later?

The answer is in understanding the ceremonial portion of the Mosaic Law. It was meant to establish Israel as a holy nation. The Church is not under the same restrictions.

John MacArthur explains it like this:

To keep the Israelites separate from their idolatrous neighbors, God set specific dietary restrictions regarding the consumption of [certain] animals.With the coming of the New Covenant and the calling of the church, God ended the dietary restrictions.

In determining how much to give some some Christians say, “God expected ten percent under the Mosaic Law, so that’s the guideline I use.” That’s fine (except that God expected much more than 10%), and many apply a similar principle to food: “God is wise. He forbid certain foods under the Mosaic Law, so it’s best to avoid them.” Again, nothing wrong with that. Pork is the most well-known prohibited food, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone saying, “Bacon is healthy. You should eat it.”

Telling people to abstain from certain foods is “giving heed to doctrines of demons”

1 Timothy 4:1 and 3 says:

The Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

After Paul said people would “give heed to…doctrines of demons” he provided two examples of them.

  1. Forbidding to marry
  2. Commanding abstinence from certain foods

We might expect demons’ doctrines to look more demonic. This makes sense if we consider demons want people focused on amoral, non-spiritual issues like food. If you feel bound to avoid certain foods, consider this question Paul asked in Colossians 2:20-23:

If you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion , false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Avoiding certain foods has “an appearance of wisdom.” There’s a “self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body.” But there’s no “value against the flesh.”

If you do choose to  avoid certain foods, please accept these encouragements:

  1. Don’t tell people they shouldn’t eat certain foods, because the New Testament doesn’t tell them that. The New Testament tells people the opposite.
  2. Don’t let your restrictions lead to self-righteousness. When people think they shouldn’t eat certain foods, sometimes they look down on others who don’t share the same convictions. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians 8:9-11 describes people who feel like they can’t eat certain foods as being “weak.”
  3. Don’t let your restrictions be a distraction. Romans 14:17 says, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Keep your focus on the “weightier matters.” Jesus described it as “straining out a gnat, but swallowing a camel.” God doesn’t care what you put in your mouth, but He cares what comes out of your mouth. How you talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends is infinitely more important than avoiding certain foods. Why is this important to keep in mind? Because it is much easier to focus on the physical (food) than the spiritual.
  4. Don’t neglect the the Law of Christ trying to keep the Mosaic Law. Twice Paul said the Law is fulfilled in the word “love” (Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:14). People’s view of food makes them unlike Christ when they become contentious and hostile.

Two restrictions on food…

1. God doesn’t care what you eat, but He cares how much you eat

It’s surprising how much attention is given to certain foods, but how little attention is given to overeating. Gluttony seems to be an acceptable sin. The common argument is, “God said to avoid these foods because they’re unhealthy!” If we’re talking about health, what about obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc?

  • Proverbs 23:20-21 Do not mix with winebibbers,
    Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
    For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
    And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
  • Proverbs 28:7b A companion of gluttons shames his father.

Some people who wouldn’t consider a slice of bacon will gorge themselves at the table. The New Testament has a lot to say about self-control, and these verses apply to our appetites.

2. God doesn’t care what you eat, but He cares if fellowship is broken

When your liberty might stumble a brother or sister in Christ, then you don’t eat that food:

  • Romans 14:21 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.
  • 1 Corinthians 8:13 If food makes my brother stumble, I will [not] eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

If Christians feel convicted others should put themselves under the same restrictions in their presence to prevent offense. Take the spiritual high ground to maintain unity.

It’s wonderful how God’s Word provides instruction for maintaining health, joy, and peace in the body of Christ!

Discussion Questions to Answer in the Comments Section

  1. What approach do you take to food? Do you apply restrictions based on the Mosaic Law?
  2. Have you had to restrict yourself for the sake of unity?
  3. Do any other verses come to mind?
  4. Have you ever been under the impression you shouldn’t eat certain foods? Has this post changed (or not changed) your opinion?

15 thoughts on “What Foods Should Christians NOT Eat?

  1. I know that eating clean or unclean food as listed in the old testament, has nothing to do with salvation. But some friends of mine (married couple) believe that the food laws of the old testament should be observed at least for good health. Is there anywhere in the bible stating that the food laws were for good health?

    1. Hi Art,
      Good question!

      I’ve always said that nobody is going to try to convince you that bacon is healthy. I actually read that every piece takes seven seconds of your life :). So if you want to avoid foods for health reasons, that’s completely legitimate.

      I would say it like this: food is spiritually neutral, but it’s not nutritionally neutral. There’s definitely some food that’s good for us and some that’s not.

      With that said, in answer to your question, no, I can’t think of a verse that communicates the unhealthiness of the foods that were forbidden; however, it does seem like it’s generally unhealthy foods that were forbidden.

  2. Thank you for pulling it all together. It was easy to understand and now I have answers to give to others. I won’t share till I get my attitude adjusted first, promise.

    1. Hi Judith,
      If I’m understanding your comment correctly, you’re seeing the post as a resource with the relevant verses collected together. That’s good to hear, because that was my intention with the post: provide a useful list discussing those verses that make the point clear.

      Yes, always good to make sure we’re going to others as 1 Peter 3:15 commands “with gentleness and respect.”

      Judith, one thing you can do is direct people to the post. That way it won’t seem personal. I’ve tried to do that with people at times, hoping it would prevent an argument.

  3. It’s funny how Christians who say they believe the whole bible really don’t. God told us what to eat. Should you argue with the Creator? How arrogant.

    1. Hi Kellie,
      Thank you for reading my post and responding. Clearly you disagree – and that’s fine – but I wonder what you think about the New Testament verses I mentioned? You don’t think they permit eating previously prohibited foods?

      Also, one other question. You mentioned believing the whole bible. Do you put tassels on your clothes as the Law commanded?

  4. Good post! I agree that people obsess more over what they should eat than how they ought to live! We should take care of our “temples” and eat in moderation. There are way bigger fish to fry!

    1. Mike,
      What’s interesting is you actually brought up the area related to food that should be focused on when you said, “eat in moderation.” The issue isn’t what you eat, but how much you eat. Self-control and gluttony are the food topics we should focus on.

  5. 1Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” This obviously implies that there are some things we could eat or drink which would not to be His glory. Some of these things were listed in the New Testament in Acts 15:29, “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” Now why would this be required if nothing that enters into the mouth defiles a person? This request was also given to the gentile believers not just the Jews. Then there is this prophesy pointing down to the coming of the Lord from Isaiah 66:17, “They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.” Here the Lord says that there will be people at that time eating what is called abomination and also lists swine flesh and mouse amongst things thus considered. The sad thing is that it says they will be consumed. So your list of verses making an argument that we can eat all things will not avail. Your verses all relate to things such as hand washing, foods offers to idols, and calling the Gentiles unclean. It is easy to see which foods God created to be eaten as they are listed in. Geneis 1:29, “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” There were other articles that were “allowed” to be eaten at certain times but only these in Genesis were “created” for the specific purpose to be eaten. I agree that many make this matter of eating and drinking their whole religion but to say that what we eat does not affect how we think or behave or that what we eat does not matter to God is not correct and could turn out to be a deadly error.

    1. Hi Peter,
      Thanks for the comment.

      If your interpretation of 1 Cor 10:31 is correct, then it would conflict with so many other verses in the New Testament. That verse doesn’t imply at all that there are foods to be avoided. It’s saying that whatever you’re doing – whatever activity – should be done for the Lord. There’s no relationship to what we eat or drink specifically.

      The context of Acts 15:29 is a list of behaviors the Gentile believers were to avoid so as not to stumble the Jewish believers. Yes, a few of the items were immoral, but it had more to do with preventing offense than providing a list of sinful activities.

      Isaiah 66 is discussing the Millennial Kingdom and not the Church Age. For example, verse 3 says, “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man.” Do you think it’s sinful when people slaughter a bull?

  6. Thank you. I agree. But the example with peter, wasn’t God really using the different animals as an illustration to communicate something entirely different to Peter? A few verses later Peter explains his understanding of the illustration.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      You’re right that the main point of the dream didn’t relate to the cleanliness of food, but the cleanness of the Gentiles through the Gospel.

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