Are there any foods Christians should not eat? The New Testament is overwhelmingly clear that there are no food restrictions for Christians.
Consider the following verses:
Jesus said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth.”Matthew 15:11
The Greek word for “defile” is koinoō. It means, “to make common, or unclean, or profane.” No food can make you unholy.
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.”Mark 7:18-19
Jesus said all foods are pure.
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.1 Corinthians 8:8
People are not “better” if they don’t eat certain foods.
[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.”Acts 10:12-15
The sheet contained all kinds of clean and unclean animals. God told Peter all animals are clean now.
Let no one judge you in food or in drink.Colossians 2:16
There’s no verse saying, “Let no one judge you in lying, bitterness, or serving,” because these are moral in nature. 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. While Christians might avoid food for health reasons, they don’t need to avoid any for spiritual reasons.
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:
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.John MacArthur
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 this approach. 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.”
Watch this sermon I delivered as a guest preacher to better understand holiness and God’s ceremonial commands…
Telling people to abstain from certain foods is “giving heed to doctrines of demons”
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.1 Timothy 4:1 and 3
After Paul said people would “give heed to…doctrines of demons” he provided two examples of those doctrines:
- Forbidding to marry
- 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:
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.Colossians 2:20-23
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,” which is to say there’s no spiritual benefit.
If you do choose to avoid certain foods, please accept these four encouragements…
First, don’t let your restrictions lead to condemnation of others.
Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”Matthew 15:11
God doesn’t care what you put in your mouth, but He cares what comes out of it. If it’s criticism of others for something the New Testament doesn’t condemn, there’s something wrong.
How you talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends, neighbors is 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.
Second, 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.”
Twice Paul said the Law is fulfilled in the word “love” (Romans 13:8-10, Galatians 5:14). People’s view of food makes them unlike Christ when they become contentious and hostile.
Third, don’t let your restrictions be a distraction.
The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.Romans 14:17
In other words, being a disciple of Christ is not primarily about what we eat and drink. These are secondary issues, versus hills to die on. People obsessed with food are missing the focus of the Kingdom of God.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!Matthew 23:23-24
When people are overly focused on food, they’re focusing on a “lighter matter.” They’re acting like the religious leaders and straining out a gnat (food and drink) while swallowing a camel (pride, self-righteousness, condemnation).
Fourth, don’t neglect the the Law of Christ trying to keep the Mosaic Law.
The church is under the Law of Christ, versus the Law of Moses. Think of the number of times Jesus said, “You have heard it said…but I say to you” (Matthew 5:27-48), as He contrast the Old and New Covenants.
There are two restrictions on food…
First, 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.
Second, 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
- What approach do you take to food? Do you apply restrictions based on the Mosaic Law?
- Have you had to restrict yourself for the sake of unity?
- Do any other verses come to mind?
- Have you ever been under the impression you shouldn’t eat certain foods? Has this post changed (or not changed) your opinion?