Romans 14:2 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Romans 14:2, NIV: One person's faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

Romans 14:2, ESV: One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.

Romans 14:2, KJV: For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

Romans 14:2, NASB: One person has faith that he may eat all things, but the one who is weak eats only vegetables.

Romans 14:2, NLT: For instance, one person believes it's all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.

Romans 14:2, CSB: One person believes he may eat anything, while one who is weak eats only vegetables.

What does Romans 14:2 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

It may not have been clear to Paul's readers what he was talking about in the previous verse. Now he begins to explain it. Strong differences of opinion existed in the early church, as they have in every era of history. Paul makes a distinction between matters of opinion and outright works of darkness like sexual immorality (Romans 13:13). In this passage, Paul will clearly command that Christians ought not dismiss or judge those who differ in these matters of opinion—though they still ought to hold fast on issues which Scripture makes clear.

Still, Paul labels those who hold certain opinions as being "weak in faith" (Romans 14:1). Now he gives an example. Christians who eat only vegetables for religious reasons are said to be weak in faith. Those who feel free to eat anything at all are, by comparison, strong in faith. This corresponds to Paul's other comments where he indicated that God has a good purpose for everything He created (1 Timothy 4:4), so there is no spiritual requirement to avoid any particular food. The strength/weakness here is not a comment on these believers' general maturity, but only their stance on this specific issue.

Why eat only vegetables? It's possible these Christians had not been able to let go of Jewish dietary restrictions about eating only kosher foods. Perhaps daily life in Rome made it impossible to ensure meat sold in the market was kosher. Concerned believers might have decided it was better not to eat any meat at all.

It's also possible the issue has to do with eating meat offered in sacrifice to idols. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and 1 Corinthians 10:23–30. Some Christians did not want to support idol worship by eating meat that may have been offered to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. Others, perhaps, may have been concerned about associating with any demonic activity attached to that meat.

Whatever the issue, Paul's statement about weakness seems to indicate his view is that these believers do not yet have the strength of faith to be convinced that God's grace has freed them from any of the requirements of the law. They cannot, in good conscience, bring themselves to eat meat.

Paul will not correct them in this passage, however. In essence, he will instead tell both sides of these issues to mind their own business.