Halal: Meat Offered to Idols
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Scripture's admonition against eating food offered to idols and warning against involving oneself with demons often strikes us in the 21st century as something from the distant past; so far removed from modern Christianity that most of us skip right over it in our studies.
Is the Bible’s stance on food offered to idols still relevant?
Go out to eat, visit your local grocery store or big box store and you’ll inevitably encounter the Halal label on everything from chicken nuggets to tater tots, baby food to veggie burgers.
Halal is the Islamic standard by which foods are to be prepared. It is often marketed as humane when relating to animal slaughter, or organic when dealing with processed foods. However, an aspect of Halal certification which is often ignored or downplayed is that it must be blessed according to Islamic law. For food to be considered Halal, the Islamic god must be invoked in a blessing called the Tasmiyah. For meat preparation, following the Tasmiyah, the animal has its throat cut where it dies from blood loss.
On its surface this practice certainly seems to qualify as meat offered to idols.
The Halal product market is expected to grow from 45.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to over 58.3 billion by 2022. These products will continue to become more commonplace and Christians need to understand them from a Biblical context.
When considering the Old Testament, we see eating meat sacrificed to idols is addressed when making a covenant with and worshipping these false gods. This is clearly addressed in passage like Exodus 34:11-16 and Numbers 25:1-2 where Scripture seemingly is more concerned with worshipping idols, than simply eating meat offered to them.
Moving into the New Testament, in Acts 15 & 21 we see the concern is that those converting to Christianity from false gods might see a believer eat meat offered to their former idols, thus causing them to stumble.
“Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 1 Corinthians 8:4
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” 1 Corinthians 10:25
In our last article we examined the Didache which instructs new converts to avoid eating meat offered to idols, as it was understanding that coming from paganism they might struggle with it.
So we see both in Scripture and the instructions from the Early Church that the matter of eating Halal foods should be of no concern, provided you are not performing the Halal ritual, are a convert from Islam who struggles with this or are eating Halal foods with such a convert.
Apart from that eat with a clean conscience and give thanks to the Holy and Living God for His provision.