Thirty years ago, halal slaughtering became a divisive issue in our nation's sheep and beef slaughter houses. The meat companies had lost their markets in Europe and wanted to expand their sales in the Middle East, so they decided to have all livestock slaughtered using halal practices (the word halal means lawful). I wrote and article called Dangerous Compromise in Meat Industry opposing their actions.
This was an issue of freedom and liberation. Moslems are free to pray to whoever they wish. They are free to kill their meat in any way they choose, provided it is humane. What they are not entitled to is to force Christian farmers to pay to have a Moslem slaughterman to pray a Moslem prayer over their livestock. Meat companies mostly owned by farmers were forcing their clients to submit to Moslem religious practices. I was very encouraged to read recently that many Southland farmers are still resisting the meat companies that have given in on this issue.
Eventually, halal slaughtered meat arrived in our supermarkets. Some Christians asked if they should eat this meat that is labelled has halal. My response was as follows.
For a Christian, halal slaughtered meat falls into the category of 'meat offered to idols'. The Bible teaches that, while it is wrong to offer meat to false gods, it is not wrong for Christians to eat this meat if it comes onto the market.
Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4,5)
Provided Christians give thanks for what they eat, they should have no fear of such meat. Even though it has been offered to a false god, it has been consecrated by their prayers. The only situation where eating halal killed meat would be wrong is where it may cause a brother to stumble. No food is unclean in itself. But if your brother is distressed by what you eat, it is better not to eat it (Romans 14:14-21).
This issue has come again. Many imported food stuffs now have halal labels on them. In the following pages, I will provide some more scriptures that support this view and discuss some scriptures that seem to advocate a stricter standard.
Meat that is halal killed meat has been offered to idols. The Bible teaches that, while offering meat to false gods is wrong, it is not wrong for Christians to eat this meat if it is available for sale in supermarkets. The clearest statement is in 1 Corinthians 10:25:
Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,
for the earth is the Lord's, and everything it.
This statement is very clear. Christians can eat any meat that it available in their supermarket, regardless of where it comes from. Christianity is not an external religion, where we get closer to God by doing or not doing things. We are saved by faith and get close to God by having a pure heart. (Islam is an external religion, which places an emphasis on external actions like going to Mecca). The only reason for not eating meat would be to avoid offending the conscience of another Christian and causing them to stumble. We must have the right heart-attitude to our brethren.
The same message is repeated in 1Corinthians 8. There is one God and one Lord in whom we live. We cannot be contaminated just by eating meat.
Food does not bring us near to God.
We are no worse if we do not eat,
and no better if we do (v.8).
Food cannot separate us from God, if our heart is right.
Paul warns believers to be careful about how they exercise this freedom.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge (1Cor 8:9-11).
They should not eat meat in an idol's temple, if this will be a stumbling block to someone with a weaker conscience Building up another Christian is more important than exercising our freedom.
These clear statements that eating meat offered to idols is not wrong raise the issue of the meaning of scriptures that appear to contradict them.
1. The Jerusalem Council - Acts 15
On of the requirements imposed on the Gentile Christians by the so-called Jerusalem Council was that they should:
Abstain from food sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29).
I have discussed this passage in a different context. The truth is that James and his mates made this decision without consulting the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, the churches in Asia Minor had the sense to ignore this decision.
2. The Church at Pergamum - Revelation 2:12-17
Jesus words to the Church at Pergamum were not a warning about being enticed into sin, not a warning about eating meat.
You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating meat sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality.
The problem was that Balaam was able to entice the Israelites to sin. Numbers 25:1-3 describes how this happened. The Moabite women invited the men of Israel to join them in their sacrifices. There was nothing wrong in talking and eating with the Moabites. Talking is not a sin. The problem was that while talking, the people "bowed down before these idols" and worshipped Baal Peor. This caused the anger of the Lord to burn against them.
The key word in the passage is "entice" (the NASB translates this as "stumbling block"). The passage is not saying that talking and eating meat is sinful. The problem was that the Israelites led themselves into a place of temptation, where they were not strong enough to resist going further and worshiping idols.
Pergamum was a strong church. However, even strong Christians must be careful, about entering into a place of temptation, where they could be enticed into and sin. This is the meaning of Jesus warning. Christians must avoid situations of compromise, where they can be tempted into sin.
Consider a modern example. Having a massage is probably not sinful, but having a massage in a Massage Parlour would be foolish, because it could lead into sin. Similarly, television is not evil; it is just a communication system. However, some television programs can produce sinful thoughts that eventually lead to sin.
Pergamum was said to be close to "Satan's throne". The passage does not say what the Christians in the city were doing, but they must have been doing going somewhere involving food and idols that was very tempting and placing them in danger of falling into sin. Jesus warned against stumbling blocks that could cause strong Christians to fall.
3. The Church at Thyatira - Revelation 2:18-20
Jesus gave a similar warning to the Church at Thyatira.
You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and eating of food sacrificed to idols.
The key word in this passage is "misleads." The NKJV has "seduces" and the NASB has "leads astray". This woman was also seducing Christians and leading them into sin. In some way, which is not clear, she was getting them into a situation where they would face temptation that they were not strong enough to resist. Although, the Christians in Thyatira were strong in faith and service, some were falling into sin. Jezebel was encouraging them to do things which were not sinful, but which would be dangerous for Christians who had recently come out of them.
The issue of food and idolatry is well explained in 1 Corinthians 10. Paul describes the history of Israel as a warning from which we should learn. He then warns us to be careful about falling into temptation, because we will all face it.
If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall (v.12)
No Christian is so mature or strong that they cannot fall into temptation.
The key verse in the chapter is v 23.
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me but not all things edify (NKJV).
There are some things that are not sinful, but they are dangerous, so a wise Christian will avoid them. A Christian can go into a pagan temple and pray against the spiritual forces without sinning. However, if the Christian is not fully free from those forces, it can be dangerous. The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons. A person who was previously in bondage to them, might be unwise to go back into their presence. They should follow Paul's advice flee from idolatry.
Food offered to idols fits into this category. In the ancient world eating meat that had been sacrificed in a pagan temple was an integral part of the religion of the day. The New Testament was addressed to people who had come out of these religions. Eating the meat that came from these temples was not sinful. However, for some Christians going Back to one of these temples and eating meat (perhaps for a social function) could be the start of their falling away from new life in Christ. They would be better to stay away from these places.
Similarly, eating meat that has been halal killed is not sinful for most Christians, as it would not entice them into further sin. This is especially true if it cannot be distinguished from other meat in the butcher's window. However, for Christians who have been converted from Islam, it might be the first step back into the legalism (and the spiritual forces) of their old religion. Eating meat that has been halal killed is not sinful, but it may not always be helpful or edifying.
If the Book of Revelation were being written today, it would make the same point about watching television. Watching television is not sinful, but it is one of the forces at the heart of the modern sinful world. For some Christians it can be very harmful, as it entices and seduces them into sin. In our world, halal killed meat is not harmful, whereas television leads many astray and some have fallen.
Christians cannot be harmed by eating halal food, unless their conscience is weak and it leads into other sin.
Businesses should be careful about getting their food halal certified. When going through this certification process, they have to submit to Moslem authorities. When people submit to any human authority, they give them open themselves up to the spiritual forces, behind that authority. Therefore, businesses getting their products halal certified, are opening themselves up to the spiritual forces behind Islam.
If the managers of the business are Christians, they might have sufficient protection in place to keep themselves safe from any spiritual attack, but they would need to be very careful. If they have any spiritual vulnerabilities in those areas, they could come under serious attack, and it could harm the business.
The Christian manager would also need to think carefully about why the are obtaining Halal certification. If they were doing it to provide food to people who need it, that would be okay. However, if they were getting certification just go get more sales, this might be an unwise compromise.
Return to Halal Slaughtering.