What does God say about respect for life and His creation?




I just read your article, "Did Jesus Eat Meat?", and I have a question that I know I could find an answer to, but an educated perspective will be even better, in addition to my own research.   What does God and the Bible say about respect for life and His creation?

When God first made the world, He gave mankind the duty to care for the world He made. "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).

Mankind eventually became so depraved that God resolved to destroy both man and His creation with a great flood. However, He saved eight people and animals to replenish the world after the flood. In the covenant God made with man after they left the Ark we read, "So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood"" (Genesis 9:1-4). Thus we learn that God changed man's diet.

Of course the eating of meat would require the killing of animals. Such is allowed by implication. But God forbade the killing of people. "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). One expects flesh eating animals to kill other animals, but here is a direct command that if an animal kills a man, the animal is to be put to death. The reason is straight forward, while man shares life with animals, man is something more than an animal. He alone is made in the image of God; that is, man has a spirit like God's (John 4:24). But animals do not have a spirit. Therefore, God required a death penalty for the death of a man because we are to respect the spirit within man. Even under the Mosaical law, the death of an animal was not treated like the death of a man. "And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death" (Leviticus 24:21).

Now, all of this doesn't mean that a person was allowed to mistreat an animal. "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). It doesn't matter if the animal belongs to your arch-enemy. An animal in need is to be rescued. "A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10). Nor were the Israelites allowed to work their animals while they had a day of rest. "Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed" (Exodus 3:12).

Animals who did work for men were expected to be able to eat as they worked. "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain" (Deuteronomy 25:4).

Nor were the Israelites allowed to over-harvest animals. "If a bird's nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days" (Deuteronomy 22:6-7).

If an animal becomes dangerous, it was to be put down. The owner of the animal could share responsibility for the animal's behavior if he had prior knowledge of its dangerous behavior. "If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death" (Exodus 21:28-29).

Under the law of Moses, the Israelites were given rules regarding how an animal was to be processed. This was in regards to the covenant with Noah that forbade the eating of blood. "Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off'" (Leviticus 17:13-14).

We must keep in mind that the killing of animals, in itself, was not considered cruelty. Animals were sacrificed daily in the temple to fulfill the commands of God.

Today, we have numerous "animal rights" activists who devalue human life. The rights of an unborn child is ignored, but woe to the person who might cause harm to an unborn animal. It is this illogical thinking that has many people upset with the activists.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Animal Rights
Animal Rights and the Bible