Should we care about people or should we care about animals? Why is that a question people ask? What I don’t understand is why people think that you can either care about animals or people. That point of view doesn’t make sense but even more importantly it is not the view put across in the Bible. God cares about animals and people; he certainly prioritises people but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about animals.
Prioritising something doesn’t mean ignoring everything else
When we go to prioritise something, often we get things wrong and think that prioritising something as most important means we can’t pay attention to anything else. But if that were the case there would be no point in prioritising the thing because there would be nothing to prioritise it above. Prioritising is simply putting the most important thing at the top and then the other important things below it.
What God has to say about animals
God put people under him as rulers of the earth, but like him we are meant to be loving, compassionate rulers who look after God’s creation, not rulers who simply use and abuse the earth and the animals on it.
Some may point to the sacrificial system that God set and up and suggest that he mustn’t care for animals since so many animals were killed in the Jewish rituals but that is again a misunderstanding. Firstly, the sacrificial system was only set up after sin entered the world and things were no longer perfect and secondly a major point of the sacrificial system was to remind the people about how awful their sin was—seeing an animal die would’ve a been a powerful picture of how serious sin was and the devastating consequences of it—if animals had no worth then the picture wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful. Finally, the sacrificial system pointed forward to Jesus—as sinners we are guilty and deserving of death but God graciously provided Jesus who chose to die on our behalf and take the punishment we deserve. He was the perfect sacrifice that didn’t need repeated like the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament.
We also see specific mention of animals several times throughout the Bible—a well-known one is in Luke chapter 12, verses 6–7: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” This passage is talking about God’s people but it’s worth noting that it’s only an encouraging statement if sparrows are worth something—if they are worth nothing then it’s not very comforting to be told “you are worth more than nothing!”
Another lesser known verse is found at the end of Jonah where God is trying to reason with an embittered Jonah: “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah chapter 4, verse 11) The last verse I will mention is from the book of Proverbs chapter 12, verse 10: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
Not only is caring for animals, something all Christians should do because we are meant to care for God’s creatures but it can also open doors for evangelism in a special way.
How loving animals can open doors for the gospel
We enjoy meeting people with similar interests to us but there are some that transcend regular interest and forge a special bond. The most significant and powerful one is with brothers and sisters in Christ across the world, but there are others that while not as special still go above the bonds people normally have with each other over a shared hobby.
One such interest is animals, when pet owners meet each other there’s a special bond forged—you find yourself waiting in line with someone at a pet store and start telling each other about your pets, swapping photos and even sharing about loved pets that are sick or recently passed. These intimate details would normally not be brought out to discuss with strangers but when two pet lovers connect they have a unique understanding of each other.
Having pets and being able to interact with other people who have pets provides a way to easily connect with a wide variety of people. A lot of the people who are really keen on animals are often also not very keen on Jesus (not always, of course, but there is a distinct ‘loving animals is for liberal people’ feel to things). It’s great when there are ways to easily connect with different people and show them that Christians aren’t perhaps what they expected. We can build friendships through which the gospel can be shared, reaching people who would otherwise possibly ignore someone who tried to share the wonderful news of Jesus with them.
Loving animals is not just for some people, it’s for everyone; in particular, Bible-loving Christians because not only does God love and cherish animals and want us to do the same, but it’s a unique and huge opportunity to share the gospel with a wide segment of society.
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin, and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrapbooking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.
Jessica McPherson’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jessica-mcpherson.html