THE ANIMAL TREATMENT TEST
I am not much of a pet person. I have had pets – everything from goldfish to gerbils to dogs and cats to rabbits and even a pig. But I haven’t had any pets for at least 15 years, in part because my husband is decidedly not a pet person and in part because I travel so much for work that it makes having a pet impractical and potentially unfair to the animal.
The Bible tells us that you can tell something about a person by the way he/she treats animals. We see that in Proverbs 12:10 [ESV] for example, where it says: Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
Our merciful Father is also concerned with the life and well-being of animals. After all, He created them with carefully planned design and purpose too. Matthew 10:29, 31 [NIV] Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care… So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
And, even though animals do not have a divine purpose, He gave Israel instructions for being kind to the animals in their care. Here are just a couple of examples:
Deuteronomy 25:4 [ESV]: "You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.
Deuteronomy 22:4 [ESV] You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.
Further, God’s instructions to the nation of Israel also included warnings to not let a contentious human relationship cause them to neglect or be cruel to animals.
Exodus 23:5 [ESV] If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
Animals in the wild can and do take care of themselves. In the wild, each one performs a role. It might be to keep vegetation down, or to pollinate plants or to be food for those beasts that are higher up on the food chain. In the wild, they are also subject to natural disasters, like famines, wildfires and floods, where they have to fend for themselves. This is the natural order of things and all part of the natural balance of living things on the earth.
However, when we press them into human service, whether to tread grain, or to become a meal for us, or to provide eggs for a meal, or to act as guardians of our herds or property, or simply to provide companionship, God asks us to consider their well-being as creatures in our charge.
As is so often the case, Jesus bridges the gap between lessons on how to act in secular matters, like instructions on the humane way to treat animals, and a greater spiritual lesson for us. We see this in Matthew 12:10-12 [ESV] And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
And in Luke 6:6-9 [ESV] On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?"
Jesus showed us that the leaders of His day had distorted their priorities in a way that devalued human life and would have preferred to leave a man in misery for one more day than to have Jesus break the rules they had instituted. Further, it seems like they believed God the Father felt the same way.
Jesus tells us that how we prioritize the well-being of our fellow man is even more important to the Father than our care of animals, although He watches both. And He bids us to prioritize the well-being of our fellow man in all our decisions - both large and small.
Sisters, we should think about this valuation in how we treat our co-workers on the job. It should inform the decisions we make about how to treat our children and what to prioritize in their lives. It should guide how we treat our mates. We should think about it in regards to how we treat the server at that restaurant or the customers, if you are the server at the restaurant. We should think about it before telling a joke or posting a meme or spreading gossip (even if it is a fact) that would hurt someone else.
God cares about animals. He takes care of them and He bids us to do the same. In fact, He indicates that one can tell a lot about a person by how they treat the animals in their care.
God cares much more about our fellow man. He created the whole earth and the animals in it to serve and support us. He asks us to reciprocate by treating our fellow human beings with even greater care and respect than the animals.
God requires that we treat each other with loving care in every interaction and to consider the well-being of our fellow man in every thought, word, deed and decision. He instructs us to prioritize the well-being of our fellow man, just as Jesus did.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.