Question:

My husband tells my daughter and I it is wrong for us to love and take care of our animals. He claims the Bible says to take care of persons, not animals. Is this right? I know we are to take care of people for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, but I feel there is nothing wrong with loving and caring for our pets.

Answer:

The Bible does teach that men and animals are treated differently. For example, if a man is murdered the murderer is put to death, whether the killer was a man or an animal. Yet such a punishment is not commanded when an animal is killed. "Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man" (Genesis 9:5-6). Man is made in the image of God, animals are not.

However, man was also commanded by God to care for His creation. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Genesis 1:27-28). As rulers of the creatures of this world, man holds responsiblity for their care and well-being. Cruelty to animals is forbidden. "A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).

This is why you find laws in the Old Testament concerning the care of animals. "You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again" (Deuteronomy 22:4). The care is not just because the animal belongs to a brother; even if an animal belonged to an enemy, it was to be aided. "If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it" (Exodus 23:5).

Animals which work for men deserve to be fed. "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain" (Deuteronomy 25:4).

There are examples of people having pets in the Bible. For instance, Nathan used a story of a pet lamb to get King David to see the sin he had committed (II Samuel 12:1-6). Jesus also spoke of the length a shepherd would go to rescue a lamb in illustrating His care for His people. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:4-7). In contrasting the feriousness of the Leviathan, God asked if you would consider holding him as one does a pet bird (Job 41:5).

November 5, 2007