Written by C. R. Carmichael |
Saturday, October 1, 2022
As representatives of God on this earth, we are not only called to care for the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, but we must care even more so for our neighbor who is of greater value (Mark 12:31; Luke 12:6-7; 15:3-7). And this, as it turns out, is the ultimate lesson of our sacred duty as the designated stewards of Creation.
When someone reads the Biblical account in Genesis for the first time, he might be surprised to learn that Adam, who was given dominion over the earth by God, never once strutted around the garden of Eden kicking dogs, yanking cow tails, or even teaching parrots bad words. Humor aside, there is a significant reason why cruel behavior against animals, though common in our time, was never recorded in those early days of Creation.
When God, in His divine wisdom, formed man from the dust, He hard-wired Adam and Eve to be connected to Creation in such a profound way that mankind’s call to stewardship was not so much a duty as it was a great honor. Made in the image of God, man was raised up from the virgin earth and established as God’s representative to “work it and keep it” with the same loving care and intelligent order that emanated from their holy Creator (Genesis 2:15).
Thus, God was very deliberate when He gave Adam the task of naming all the living creatures, which not only spoke to the unique status of man over God’s creation but also cemented a special bond with the birds, fish and beasts under his care (Genesis 2:19-20).
As John Gill explains in his Body of Divinity, God’s creation was specifically made for the use and benefit of mankind, with God conceiving the divine idea that the wholesome interaction between man and nature would provide for their mutual happiness, sustenance and profit:
“…All creatures were made for (man’s) sake, to possess, enjoy, and have the dominion over, and therefore he was made last of all: and herein appears the wisdom and goodness of God to him, that all accommodations were ready provided for him when made; the earth for his habitation, all creatures for his use; the fruits of the earth for his profit and pleasure; light, heat, and air for his delight, comfort, and refreshment, with every thing that could be wished for and desired to make his life happy.”
Even after the upheaval of the Fall, and to this day, the righteous desire to nurture and sustain God’s created world is still an inherent impulse of man that descends from the original stock of our first parents and spreads to all human beings. Though we don’t always show it because of sin, deep down in all our souls is the instinct to be a loving caretaker of the teeming life given to us on earth.
In other words, literally and figuratively speaking, we all know better than to kick the dog.
We Know Better Because Of Our Conscience
The mistreatment and abuse of animals is certainly a tragic thing to see in today’s world. Most likely, we have all witnessed this cruel behavior from our earliest childhood days; and for many of us, it shattered our innocence and made us sick to our stomachs to know that such a thing could be considered a trivial matter―or worse, an amusement.
Whether we have listened to Sarah MacLachlan as she sang over pathetic images of emaciated kittens, or read about a government-funded lab that drugged beagles and locked their heads in mesh cages while infected sand flies ate them alive for “scientific” study, we instantly know that this kind of heartlessness is morally wrong and downright evil.
Happily, as a child, I was also shown the better way. During the hot summers of my youth, I had the great honor of helping my grandfather on his farm and saw his kind husbandry in action. On many blessed occasions I would hop into his old Chevy truck and ride along as he visited the various pastures and barns to check on the well-being of his cows and horses, spy out their possible health concerns, and tend to their supply of good food and water.
On one particular tragic occasion (which I did not witness), the horse trailer my grandfather used to transport his prized Hackney ponies broke free from the truck’s hitch, careened and flipped off the road, and crashed. In the subsequent heap of twisted metal, the bloodied animals were wounded beyond any possible help, and my grandfather was forced to put them down to silence their suffering.
Afterwards, I was struck by the teary-eyed anguish on my grandfather’s face as he recounted the incident. To him, those ponies were more than just an investment of time and money. Though he could not articulate it with words, his obvious affection for those animals told you all you needed to know: these beautiful creatures of God had given my grandfather an unspeakable joy as he lovingly raised them, trained then, and cared for them.
My grandfather was not known as a man of professed faith, by the way. And yet, intrinsic to his very being, he was imbued with a God-given conscience that guided his tender care of the noble beasts in his possession. And such it is with every man and woman if they heed the “inner voice” given to them by God.
We Know Better Because Of The Scriptures
The moral caliber of our relationship with animals, however, does not have to rely solely on our imperfect gut instincts. Thankfully, God has revealed in the Holy Scriptures the profound truth about the sacred interaction between God and His creation, and the corresponding commerce between man and the living creatures of earth.
The Bible, in fact, has made this point crystal clear: God does not look kindly on those who are destroyers of the earth (Revelation 11:18), and nor should we. A person’s kind and thoughtful relationship with God’s creation is a thing of spiritual beauty because it aligns with, and reflects, the same righteous benevolence His Creator has shown to all the life of earth, including mankind.
Placing Adam and Eve in a garden was no trivial matter. In doing so, God established the ideal setting in which mankind could “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). It was, by God’s design, a lush organic world perfectly fit for their visceral use as tillers of the soil and keepers of livestock. The pursuit of money, which came later, was never the original standard of wealth, nor were the cities to which the sons of Cain fled ever an abode that could fully realize their potential as stewards of the earth.
Time and time again, the Bible connects our agrarian sensibilities with wisdom and righteousness.