See how good and pleasant it is when brothers,
and sisters live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1, GW)
Diet is a Touchy Subject
I discovered long ago that the concept of a plant-based diet can be a very divisive matter indeed. Together with the hot topics of politics and religion, diet ranks right up there as a very personal issue to be handled with care. When the subject comes up in conversation, some people are totally disinterested, some listen out of politeness or mild concern, and others can become defensive or even downright hostile. What are some reasons for people becoming so defensive about the idea of eating more plants? Why are some so quick to dismiss God’s ‘Plan A’ Diet without the willingness to consider even a shred of evidence about it? Some people can be so mired in the status quo or the diets they’ve been exposed to their whole lives that they simply cannot imagine anything different. Those who have become addicted to sugar, cheese, meat and fats may feel the need to defend those foods in spite of the evidence. Perhaps others believe every TV commercial sponsored by the dairy or junk food industries, or the advertisements in magazines that are made to look like legitimate science. And a great many people only want to hear information that ‘tickles their ears’ (in other words, headlines or diet fads that give them permission to continue eating unhealthy foods).
I realize that most of you have preconceived beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet, and I’ve heard some doozies in my day. My suggestion is that you honestly examine the bases for your beliefs; you may even want to write them down and read them aloud. Are your beliefs based on family tradition, or hearsay, or advertisements, or advice from the clerk at the health food store? Or perhaps they’re based on a popular diet book or some information that you’ve found online. We can easily develop nutrition confusion when we’re bombarded almost daily with conflicting information about food. To help sort fact from fiction, the How to Manage a Temple chapter includes seven guidelines to follow when evaluating what you hear or read. I encourage you to compare your current belief system about food against these seven guidelines to see how it measures up.
Back to our touchy subjects. Combining two tenets such as diet and religion can be very risky business indeed, so may I clarify an important matter before we go any further. Because this book includes scripture and refers to biblical principles which support a healthy diet, I know that many of you will write to me about passages that seem to promote or endorse meat eating. These are some of the passages I hear most often:
* Peter’s dream (Acts 10:9-16): In Peter’s dream, a large sheet containing all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds is lowered from heaven to earth, along with vocal instruction saying “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter, who is following the kosher diet of his Jewish culture, protests because he has never eaten any animal foods considered impure or unclean. The voice speaks again, saying “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Many interpret Peter’s vision as God’s permission to kill and eat animals; however, the vision is not a dietary mandate at all. It wasn’t lawful at that time for a Jewish man such as Peter to enter the home of a non-Jew (gentile), but God was now removing that barrier. Because God had pre-arranged a meeting between Peter and a gentile named Cornelius, the vision was God’s way of letting Peter know he was free to enter the home of Cornelius and other gentiles to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ. And Peter did just that after being summoned by Cornelius’ men. Peter recognizes the dream’s meaning and acknowledges in Acts 10:28 that the vision meant he should call no man unclean. Directly following the vision, we see Peter preaching to the gentiles in their home, and there’s no mention of Peter killing or eating animals.
* Only the weak eat vegetables (Romans 14:1-12): This passage written by Paul to the Jews in Rome is also not about diet. The issue centered on eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols by pagan butchers. Paul’s position was that those who were offended by the association with pagan worship (and therefore did not eat the meat) were “weak in faith” because, after all, the pagan gods were not real. He encouraged acceptance of those “weak in faith” and instructed both sides—meat eaters and non-meat eaters— to follow their own minds, refrain from condemning each other over their differing points of view, and to be thankful to the Lord in either situation. This passage has to do with perceived spiritual weakness over idol-sacrificed meat, and has nothing to do with a plant based diet making someone physically weak.
* Jesus declares all food clean (Mark 7:1-23). The Jewish leaders had criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands prior to eating. When they questioned him about it, Jesus rebuked the leaders as hypocrites because they were setting aside God’s commandments in order to observe their man-made traditions and legalistic hand-washing rituals. Jesus explained to the crowd (and later to his disciples) that it isn’t what goes into a man’s mouth from the outside that makes him unclean; rather it’s what comes out from a man that makes him sinful.
“He said to them, “Do you not understand yet? Do you not understand that whatever goes into a man cannot make him sinful? It does not go into his heart, but into his stomach and then on out of his body.” In this way, He was saying that all food is clean.”
Mark 7:18-19 (NLV)
Jesus goes on to teach in the following verses that the evil from inside a man’s heart is the true source of what makes him unclean (sinful). Immoral thoughts and actions are what defile a person, not the violation of man-made rituals. It did not make a man sinful to eat food with dirty hands, therefore, Jesus declared that all foods were clean. This passage is not a directive or justification to consume a specific diet; we still see Peter strictly adhering to the Kosher laws after Christ’s resurrection (see Peter’s dream above). Rather, this passage is an illustration that sin results from the posture of one’s heart, not from eating food with dirty hands. The parallel account of this event in Matthew 15:16-20 does not contain the reference that Jesus had declared all foods clean (which is simply an interesting side note and in no way refutes Mark 7:18-19).
* Jesus ate fish and lamb. This line of defense is often used by those who primarily wish to defend their meat choices, and yet who are probably eating ham, bacon, pork chops, shrimp and crab legs (foods Jesus would not have consumed). Jesus—fully God and fully human—was a Jewish man born into a culture following the Mosaic Law; it’s natural that he would have eaten the typical kosher diet of that time. There’s one verse that tells specifically of Jesus eating fish after His resurrection (Luke 24:42), and many other verses where Jesus provided fish for others to eat. And although the bible does not specifically state that Jesus ate lamb, he participated in the Passover meal which traditionally included the consumption of lamb. According to James Campbell, M.A., DMin, the chief crops during Jesus’ day were wheat, barley, olives, grapes, lentils, fava beans, chickpeas, vegetables (onions, leeks and garlic), and fruits such as grapes, date palms, apples, watermelon, pomegranates, figs and sycamores.
The typical daily diet in Jesus’ time would have included a light breakfast of bread or a piece of fruit, a light lunch of bread, grain, olives and figs, and dinner consisting of a one-pot stew served in a common bowl. Bread was used to spoon the stew, which might have been a thick porridge of vegetables, lentils or chickpeas spiced with herbs. Meat was only served occasionally, fish more often, mostly when the family had an important guest. Among the wealthy, lamb or calves were kept in stalls so they could be fattened for feasting.
We don’t really know how much animal food Jesus consumed on a regular basis, nor is it relevant. The fact that our sinless Jesus most likely consumed some animal flesh while on this earth 2000 years ago is not a mandate, directive or justification that we do the same today. The dietary patterns of the two cultures are worlds apart. The processing and contaminating of today’s meat, fish and fowl has vastly changed, and our increased intake of fat is off the charts. Convenience foods filled with artificial ingredients, toxins and fake sweeteners line our grocery shelves, and greasy fast food is available everywhere. If we were revise our Standard American Diet to match that of the Jewish diet of Jesus’ day, probably 90% or more of what we consume would be off limits; so, an argument in favor of meat eating based on a comparison of the two diets is futile.
Noah Gets Permission (then the real floodgates open)
A common verse used against Rev. George Malkmus, long-time minister and founder of Hallelujah Acres, is Genesis 9:3, in which God gives permission to Noah and his family to eat animal flesh after the flood. This permission occurred nearly 1700 years after God’s plant-based diet was prescribed in the garden, and it’s the first instance in which meat eating is mentioned in scripture:
“Every living thing that moves will be available to you as food. Just as I once gave you the green plants to eat, I now give you everything”. (Gen 9:3, the Voice)
According to Rev. Malkmus’ view, God allowed meat eating for man’s survival purposes until the flood waters receded and garden foods were once again available (keep in mind that all vegetation had been destroyed). The Reverend believes that once man got a taste of flesh, he could not leave it alone and began to eat it with increasing frequency, even after their gardens were restored.2
Scripture contains other examples where God gives people permission to do undesirable things. Did God allow meat eating simply to satisfy man’s desire, such as he did with allowing divorce, multiple wives, and Kings over Israel? Those activities were certainly not God’s idea. God hates divorce3 yet he allowed it to occur and even laid down some laws to protect the rights of divorcees. God created one man and one wife4 yet he allowed polygamy to occur. Some speculate that in patriarchal societies, where it was extremely difficult for women to provide for themselves, God allowed polygamy to provide for the women who would have otherwise been forced to become prostitutes or slaves. God was not in favor of appointing Kings over Israel and even warned them against it, yet God allowed Kings to be appointed when the people refused to listen.5
The idea of God allowing meat eating—while not particularly endorsing it— can be further supported in this story of the discontented Israelites wandering in the desert. God had freed them from hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt and they were traveling on foot to the Promised Land. God provided the miracle of manna, also called the bread of heaven, a sustaining and versatile food delivered fresh to their community six days a week (they stored an extra portion for the day of Sabbath rest). Exodus 16:31 likens manna to white coriander seeds that tasted like wafers made with honey. Manna was cooked in pots or ground into flour to bake cakes and bread.6 Hot stew, warm bread and sweet cake all sound good to me! But they grew tired of God’s daily plant-based provision and began wailing for the meat they’d grown accustomed to in Egypt:
In the desert the whole community complained about Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only the Lord had let us die in Egypt! There we sat by our pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted! You brought us out into this desert to let us all starve to death!” (Exodus 16:2-3, GW)
Their complaints fell upon a frustrated Moses, who brought the matter to God. God was angered by their disapproval of his provision, but He appeased their complaints by sending so much quail that they would eat “until it came out of their nostrils and they loathed it.”7 We read next that while the meat was still between their teeth, the wrath of the Lord burned against them because they had rejected His provision, and he struck them with a severe plague.8 We also read a recap of this story in the verses of Psalm 106:13-15 (NET):
“They quickly forgot what God had done; they did not wait for his instructions. In the wilderness they had an insatiable craving for meat; they challenged God in the desert. He granted their request, then struck them with a disease.”
Along these lines, the idea of God allowing meat consumption only to satisfy man’s desire seems quite plausible. The Israelites were continually well-supplied with food when God provided the daily bread of heaven—which would have certainly been compliant with His ‘Plan A’ diet for mankind. But they craved and demanded meat. Despite granting their request, God was angered over their rebellious attitude and dissatisfaction with His provision. The Israelite’s cravings and insistence on having more than they needed regrettably led to a bad situation.
There are many passages in scripture that allow for both the consumption of plant foods and animal foods. We could continue to discuss other verses regarding animal food consumption which may or may not be grounds for debate, however, that is not the objective of this book. It is not biblically wrong or sinful to ever eat animal foods, and this book is in no way making that assertion. Let me reiterate that last statement: this book is in no way declaring that eating meat is sinful (unless it breaches God’s directive against gluttony, which would apply to any type of food). In fact, the Plan B Approach listed in this book actually contains guidelines for animal food consumption if you prefer a gradual transition to The ‘Plan A’ Diet.
It IS the objective of this book, however, to present you with today’s scientific evidence of the undeniable health benefits associated with a whole food, plant-based diet, and to further explain how animal and dairy consumption in today’s world harms our bodies. The further we’ve gotten away from the original design of God’s ‘Plan A’ Diet, the heavier and sicker we’ve become. Fish and animal foods of biblical times were not the same diseased, contaminated factory-farmed meats of today pumped up with steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics; but that’s only part of the problem associated with the consumption of these products. We’ll discuss the topic of animal foods in greater depth throughout the book.
For Christians today, there is no biblical directive regarding what foods can or cannot be eaten. There is no directive requiring Christians to eat meat, dairy, and processed junk foods; and there is no directive to refrain from meat, dairy, and processed junk foods. Christians may choose to eat whatever they please—however, they cannot choose to escape the resulting consequences which affect their health, their families and their ministry efforts. Health is a great equalizer in that the natural laws pertaining to the physical body apply to everyone, regardless of their spiritual conviction. That’s why everyone today, particularly Christians—whose bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, should be paying closer attention to what they put into their mouths, especially when their food choices are leading to food addictions and ill health. Scripture tells us:
Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial.
Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything
[and brought under its power, allowing it to control me]. (1 Cor. 6:12, AMP)
Did you get that? Everything is permissible, but not all things are beneficial. I will not be enslaved by anything (and brought under its power, allowing it to control me). Far too many people have become gripped in bondage by unhealthy foods. They’ve become slaves to their taste buds and are controlled by their desires, resulting in an array of food-borne diseases and chronic conditions. Most of them don’t even realize that the root cause of their health issues is their diet, nor are they willing to entertain the possibility (more on this topic in The Root Cause chapter).
We each have individual choice in the matter of what we’ll eat every day, choices which should be carefully evaluated using unbiased research, prayer, and an open mind. I request once again, my friends, that you set aside any long-held dietary beliefs which may be contributing to your health and weight struggles as you continue to ponder the evidence presented here with an open mind and heart. Too much is at stake to remain complacent.
~ Lord, you are the author and giver of all good gifts, including our remarkable bodies. As we begin to examine the evidence of how our personal food choices can affect our health, we ask for your help to keep our minds and hearts open to hearing from you on this hot topic. Show us any false perceptions we may have about the true healthiness of our own diets. Reveal to us any areas of denial, excuses or food addictions that may be preventing us from moving forward to the healthy lifestyle you desire for us. Lord, guide us as we consider the results of our lifestyles on our health and please empower us to take our responsibility. At the same time, we ask that you ban the enemy from having any discouraging influence on our desire and ability to make necessary changes. We thank you for your faithful promises, on which we gratefully rely. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen ~
- Why do you think the topic of diet in general can be so divisive at times?
- What are your current beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet?
- Have you personally engaged in any debates about your dietary beliefs? If so, what was the outcome? Did anyone change their mind as a result of the debate?
- When you stop to think about it, how much influence would you say media has over your food choices? (I bet we can all name a few slogans!)
- Since a plant-based diet was God’s ‘Plan A’ Diet, why do you think there is so much resistance to it? Have you ever had (or do you currently have) any negative thoughts about such a plan?
- Did any of the four passages listed as ‘objections’ resonate with you, and if so, why? (Peter’s dream, Only the weak eat vegetables, Jesus declared all foods clean, and Jesus ate fish and lamb)
- What are your thoughts on the idea that God allowed meat eating to satisfy man’s desire?
 James P. Campbell, D.Min, “What Would Jesus Eat”, Loyola Press, Accessed September 4, 2017 http://www.loyolapress.com/dining-with-jesus-delve-into-the-biblical-diet.htm#
Rev. George Malkmus, Hallelujah Acres, Health News, “How to Remain Healthy into Your 80s-90’s and Beyond.” Accessed Sept. 5, 2017. http://www.myhdiet.com/healthnews/health-news/how-to-remain-healthy-into-your-80s-90s-and-beyond/
3 Malachi 2:16 (NLT)
4 Gen. 2:23-24 (ESV): Matt 19:6 (ESV); Mark 10:5-8 (NIV)
5 1 Samuel 8:1-22 (NIV)
6 Numbers 11:7-8 (NIV)
7 Numbers 11:20 (NIV)
8 Num. 11:33-34 (NIV)