Saturday, February 20, 2016

Regarding the Lives of Beasts

Losing a dog has gotten me thinking about the place of animals in God’s purposes for the world. I’ve tried to find some books/resources for a biblical perspective on animals, but unfortunately most of it is sentimental pro-vegetarian animal-rights stuff. This is a refreshing exception:

Aside from the question of whether or not there will be animals in heaven, there’s the more general question of animal care in the here and now, which initially brings to mind Proverbs 12:10: “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.” God preserves the lives of both people and animals (Psa. 36:6; Matt. 6:26), which means that caring for animals is, on some level, an expression of godliness.

I also think about the fictional poor man in Nathan’s parable, who “had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.” The parable goes on to tell of a rich man who, despite the fact that he had plenty of his own sheep, decided to take the poor man’s lamb and serve it to his guests. David reacts severely to this parable, which he initially takes to be a true story; but it was all for the purpose of illustrating to David his own wickedness.

The care that the poor man showed to his lamb exacerbated the rich man’s crime. His compassion for the lamb meant something to God, and should have meant something to the rich man. We know that the rich man acted wickedly, because his actions are being used as an illustration of the wickedness of David. David’s wickedness is like the wickedness of the rich man.

But it really goes without saying that human life is vastly more important than animal life. Remember what Jesus said in relation to the birds: “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt. 6:26) This is why we don’t go out of our way to take care of any dogs we might come across on a mission trip in Honduras: because we’re there for the people.

Something tells me that even animals understand this hierarchy. They understand the dominion of mankind. They’re part of the creation order that is eagerly anticipating the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19–23). In some mysterious way, they’re actually aware that God has big plans for humanity which will somehow turn out to mean good things for them as well. Why else would they take part in the praise chorus extolling the Lord for the great things he has done for his people (Psa. 148)?

Do some animals understand the dominion of mankind more than others? Are some animals more fallen than others? Why would a shark tear me to pieces when Pearl, my deceased dog, loved nothing more than to cuddle on the couch?

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