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I'm no vegetarian, and I enjoy my fair share of steak. The idea of vegetarianism always intrigued me, because in my eyes animals are to be eaten by humans for nourishment.

Obviously animals serve a purpose, because God Himself told Noah to collect a male and female of each species and create an ark large enough to sustain them all for the 40 days and 40 nights during which the flood took place.

So, my question is, has the purpose of animals ever been explicitly stated in the bible? If so, what is it?

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In Genesis 2: 18-22, it states that animals were created to be companions for man, but that none of them was found worthy to be a true companion the way Eve was.

It's interesting to note that God said to eat "of every tree of the garden" but nothing about eating flesh. But after the Fall introduced mortality to the world, the Lord made for Adam and Eve coats of skins, and from the first generation they began to tend herds and offer sacrifices "of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof" (Genesis 4: 4), presumably by God's command.

Also, in Isaiah 65: 25, we're told that during the Millenium,

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.

So even animals will stop feeding on each other, and nobody (presumably including humans) will "hurt or destroy" them.

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I disagree that the animals were created to be Adam's companion; it says "the LORD God had formed...", past tense - there is no implication there that God formed the animals for Adam and that the attempt was lacking. Rather, the animals seem to have been brought before Adam at least in part to demonstrate to Adam that none were sufficient to be his partner. –  Lawrence Dol Aug 28 '11 at 6:29
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Also, note that it was after the flood that God gave mankind the animals for food: Gen 9:1 "Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." –  Lawrence Dol Aug 28 '11 at 6:31
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The animals, like all creation, were created for the "Glory of God" (Psalm 19:1-3). Col 1:16 says "all things have been created through him and for him" (emphasis mine).

Further, Isaiah 45:18 says, "For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited" (emphasis mine). So there seems to be some intentionality to the creation of animals in that it pleases God to create life abundantly - it does seem that where-ever life can subsist it does exist within this universe.

Also, after the flood, the animals were given to mankind for food (Gen 9:1):

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

As Mason has pointed out, this will change in the next creation.

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I am a Christian and a vegetarian. Firstly, I agree with every answer I've read so far. Here is some clarification on what I think is a beneficial Christian response to the idea of a meatless diet.

  1. Meat-eating isn't a sin. Jesus ate meat. It was how the culture in Galilee behaved. Other than grape juice and grain, fish was the main source of nutrition. It's a part of our world too. It is even part of what has made it possible for us to live in all the remote places of the earth, helping to fulfil the "dominion mandate" as stated earlier.

  2. No death = No meat. In the perfect worlds of Eden and the New Creation, both of which feature no sin, nor death and its sting, Mankind can't eat meat. This isn't because it is a law or mandate; it just isn't possible. You can't kill without death. It has been defeated. It's over.

  3. Just because something isn't a sin, doesn't mean it isn't a meaningful way to worship. I refrain from eating meat as a way of life as a worshipper of Jesus Christ and as a way of looking eager towards my new life as a citizen of heaven. Worship is more than a song or a prayer; it is a way of living that honors our savior and king. I put the prayer, "Thy kingdom come" not only on my lips but also on my plate. It is the same when we give our clothes away, preach the Gospel with our words, feed the hungry, and visit those in prison.

It isn't that hard to go without meat in a healthy way in our society. Our God-given minds have developed a culture that has made it possible. So, if we have the opportunity to eat like citizens of heaven, and choose not to, "Because we like the taste of meat," What is that? That is something I had on my conscience long before becoming a vegetarian. I am not saying every Christian should live a Genesis 1:29 diet. By all means, Christian eskimos and North africans should live healthily by eating what is available to them. But we don't have that excuse. I can promise that thinking about the kingdom of heaven every time I order a meatless option at the restaurant has done as much for my closeness to the Father as my prayer life has. Just pray about it. If you think it could bring you closer to doing the work that God put you here to do, and if you think it will bring you closer to Jesus and give you a better understanding of worship, sacrifice, humility and obedience, then just go for it.

"Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34)

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Hi, and welcome to Christianity SE! When you get a chance, check out the about page. Unfortunately, this doesn't actually answer the question; we're not a normal discussion forum but a Q&A site; each answer should be more-or-less independent of the others. –  Ryan Frame Oct 7 '13 at 19:05
    
Yes, I agree with Ryan. You have said some interesting things, but the question was 'What does the Bible say about the purpose of animals?' but you have answered 'What are Christian benefits to a meatless diet?' I would like you to certainly come back and post more; I can tell that you can probably provide some good posts to the site if you continue. –  fredsbend Oct 7 '13 at 19:21
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