What do pets and righteousness have in common?
At first glance, it would seem not much, but Scripture would disagree with us. Proverbs 12:10 teaches us this:
The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.Proverbs 12:10
New International Version
Being part of family of God changes us from the inside out. This transformation will alter our relationships with everyone and everything.
As we are being remade into the image of Jesus, our behavior more closely matches His. This includes how we treat our pets.
Animals are part of God’s created order (see Genesis 1). Our process of domestication is actually part of our subduing and ruling over creation. It also speaks of the place in our hearts that only pets can fill.
In Genesis 3, we read of humanity’s fall from perfection and into sin. Most of my readers know “the fall” damaged the relationship between humanity and God and the relationship from human to human. But it also damaged our relationship with the animals. All of creation was affected by our sin.
When people are cruel to animals, it’s not only sad, it’s evidence of the sin in humanity. It’s a symptom of the brokenness we invited when we rejected the Lord’s way and chose our way.
Animal cruelty is not a mere social issue for a few people; it’s a cause Christians should be behind because it’s another way we can bring the life of Jesus into the darkness of the world.
Don’t stretch this too far: animal life is not more valuable than human life. Scripture is clear. But if we are cruel to our pets (or domesticated animals), we are proving our fallen nature.
What do we do instead for our animals? We care for them. We feed them, provide water, and shelter them. Does this mean we should not kill them for food? No, but we don’t generally eat our pets.
The world “animals” in this Proverb is a Hebrew word generally used for domesticated animals. We might just say “pets”.
When I was a young child, I remember my dad would put hay in our dog’s doghouse in winter. I asked him once why he did this. After explaining to me that the hay would keep him warm, my dad added the first part of Proverbs 12:8 as a teaching moment to me: “the righteous care for the needs of their animals.”
Patty and I have had several dogs who have gotten in bad health and we’ve had to take them to the veterinarian to be euthanized. Although hard, the action of relieving their suffering was an act of care.
I’ve never heard a sermon preached on this passage, but I wonder if it makes you think about how we treat pets. Do we as Christians (assuming you are) care for them in a way honoring the Lord? Do we provide for their needs and attention?
So much research has validated the emotional and physical benefits to us by having pets, but we have something to offer them too.
Perhaps you’ll consider the way you care for your pets as an act of righteous care.