A big part of my life and what I do revolves around creation. I work in the veterinary medical field, and I’ve noticed that there are differing views on animals. It seems that “just an animal” is a fairly popular type of viewpoint. Creation as a whole often receives this treatment, from animals to the environment, and I think that is something that Christians should not tolerate.
First of all, to be clear, animals are not human. This is a plain and simple fact, they are not moral and they are not rational. We know this because in Genesis 1, during creation, we see God breathing the Breath of Life into man, but he never does so with any of the other animals He created. Genesis 2:7 tells us that when God did this, man became a living soul, an attribute not given to the wildlife God had created shortly before this.
While it is totally true that our dogs (cats, horses, ferrets, what-have-you) are not soul-filled beings, we have an incredible responsibility to them. In the opening chapters of Genesis, we see God giving Adam the first job. His job, even before the fall, was to dress and keep the garden. Keep in mind that this is before weeds grew, before leaves died and required raking, before animals pulled tendons or broke bones. None the less, Adam’s job was head of creation. This responsibility got exponentially harder after the fall, just ask any farmer (or veterinarian!). For this reason, our pets are not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” They are duties, jobs handed to us from God to tend and keep.
While speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus compares healing someone on Sunday to pulling a sheep out of a ditch (Matthew 12). Jesus clearly here shows an expectation to tend and care for an animal that is in distress or trouble, even on the Sabbath. Remember, though, in the same passage in Matthew, Jesus also expressly says that man’s life is much more important than the sheep’s.
Or, what about the parable of the lost sheep? In Luke 15, Jesus talks about a shepherd with a flock of 100 sheep. When one goes astray, the shepherd in this parable doesn’t say “Eh, it’s just a sheep,” he searches diligently because that sheep is of value to him! He spends all night desperately looking for the lost sheep. This shows the extent of weight on our shoulders as caretaker of creation. So many other passages show the tenderness and diligence we are called to show toward the animal kingdom (most of them involving sheep).
Now, we all know that most instances in the Bible where sheep are mentioned, the implication is that it pictures our relationship to Christ. I suggest that we take a moment too, to think about what Jesus is saying about creation. This is our job: to dress and keep the “garden.” It’s easy for me to say, as a die-hard animal lover, but whether you are a botanist, farmer, veterinarian, or enjoy creation as a hobby, you have a responsibility to care for creation as intimately and tenderly as Jesus describes the shepherd hoisting the lost sheep onto his shoulders.
This job is not easy. It entails a lot of responsibility, and no one is exempt from this calling! From your herd of expensive cattle that are your livelihood right down to your five year old’s pet goldfish that probably won’t make it to the end of the week, or your hobby garden in the backyard, you have a calling to dress and keep creation, and I think it’s time we start taking this calling seriously.
This may sound like the aspiring vet tech is just ranting about animal welfare to you, but I challenge you to read through scripture and find more passages about man’s relationship to animals or the earth. Some of us are uniquely privileged to live out this calling in a very real way on a daily basis, while others may have to work a little harder to find application in their lives. Again, this command also has to do with the garden that you work so hard to keep up during the summer, or the flowers growing outside your window. So, along with finding passages from scripture about this relationship, find real ways in your daily life that you already live this command, and find ways to improve on that lifestyle!
Look around you. Creation is so amazing! The beautiful flowers growing next to the road, the way your dog freaks out when you get home, the acres of crops growing for as far as you can see are all gifts. Gifts from a loving, caring God, and not only has He given you these gifts, He’s charged you with their well-being! Take that calling to heart, and find ways to live it each and every day.