Colorful baby chicks all huddled together

How does the Bible say humans should treat animals?

This article is copyrighted (c) to Christina Roberts. All rights reserved.

As a Christian, it seems natural to me to do no harm to animals (and the environment) when possible; and as little as possible when necessary. If an animal must be killed for food, kill it in the quickest, painless way possible. Do not lash out and hurt an animal because you don’t understand it and think it’s a bother to deal with. Treat animals well. For, though they aren’t self-aware like humans and though they don’t have souls, they’re still God’s wonderful creatures that He made. And everything God makes, He loves. And being good to animals is yet another way Christians obey and glorify God.

In this line of thinking, there’s 3 basic types of people I come across:

  1. People who think humans can treat animals however they please, even cruelly. Why not? Animals aren’t self-aware creatures like humans.
  2. People who are indifferent about the whole matter, but wouldn’t purposefully be harmful to animals.
  3. People who are overly tender to animals. They think animals are self-aware creatures with souls like humans. They prefer animals over humans to the point of social preference; or, some would say, near worship.

Now, I like animals a lot. I have an almost 5 year-old, rather large, semi-long hair tuxedo cat named Panda. I bought him when he was 10 weeks old. I was his foster mom before I was his permanent mom. Naturally, I’ve grown very close to my little fur friend. I love him very much. I know him very well. I can predict his moods and what he’ll do most of the time.

But I don’t worship him by any means. I’m the human and I’m in charge. And that, however, is yet another reason I think anyone (Christian or not) who finds themselves the master of an animal should treat that animal well. That creature has been forced to rely on you. You are responsible for it.

But this is all my opinion, right? So I got curious about what the Bible says about this subject and browsed through quite a bit of verses. My study showed me that God loves, considers, and uses animals to teach humans life truths. Below are verses that discuss animals in various ways. I’ve left out verses that speak directly to the Jews concerning Old Testament law. As Christians living in the Age of Grace, Mosaic law does not apply to us today.

God loves every animal and saved them, with humanity, from the flood

God loves every animal He made. God saved them from the flood. In fact, God loves animals so much, that he not only made his promise never to flood the Earth completely again with humans, but with animals, too. Some could say that God saved the animals merely so that they could re-populate in order to provide enough meat to feed all of humanity. This is a good argument, but if it were the case, then God would have made and intended for humans to be carnivores from Creation. In the beginning, all animals and humans were vegetarians.

Genesis 16: 19 – 20 (KJV): And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

Genesis 9:13-17 (KJV): I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh (bold for emphasis); and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh (bold for emphasis) that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh (bold for emphasis) that is upon the earth.

God also promises that none in His animal kingdom can be hurt without His knowing and allowing it:

Matthew 10:29 (KJV): Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

God said for us to eat the plants and animals, but not to abuse them

Yes, it’s true, that one of the many reasons God most likely saved the animals on the earth was for humanity to eat. But this reason only applied after humanity fell. And even then, though God says humans may eat of all the plants and animals, we are not to abuse this domination.

Genesis 9:3 (KJV): Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

God says a righteous person treats their animals well

How I know God is displeased when humans treat animals cruelly, with or without the intention to kill, is from these verses:

Proverbs 12:10 (KJV): A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Isaiah 32:20 (KJV): Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.

God is saying that a righteous person treats their animals well, and that a wicked person is cruel. In Isaiah, God uses his prophet to tell the people that a blessed person will send their animals down to the water where the beasts can drink and live well.

But God says not to worship animals

But though God’s pleased when humans treat animals well, He’s jealously displeased when we worship the animals. To worship the animals (and creation) is to live a life of idolatry. God gives people over to their own sinful, evil desires when a person acts cruelly against their neighbors and animals.

Romans 1: 25 (KJV): Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

God also says not to lay (have sex) with animals

Worshiping animals often, though not always, would cause the people to desire to be with the animals in a very sinful manner. God created marriage for humans and the purity of romantic intercourse in it’s purest, most biological sense. So it makes perfect sense that God would include laying with an animal as an abomination.

Christians know that God is greatly displeased with bestiality today, for God states that marriage is for one man to one woman.

1 Corinthians 7:2 (KJV): Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

Anything else is unnatural. Paul expounds on the unnatural things people do. He explains that God gives people over to their perverse minds (Romans 1: 18 – 32).

God uses animals to teach humanity valuable lessons

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of my Bible study on the topic of animal treatment is how God continues to use animals to teach humans the folly and foolishness of their ways.

For anyone who feels that God has forgotten about you, or doesn’t love you, you’re wrong! Remember, God loves His animals so much that he saved them from the flood. How much more does God love you? God feeds even the most “worthless” of His animal kingdom, so how much more will He take care of you? God will always take care of you.

Matthew 6:26 (KJV): Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

The following verse in Ecclesiastes reminds humanity not to become arrogant and self-involved because of their intelligence and accomplishments. God reminds us that we can easily become dumb and uncivilized, not unlike a beast. Hardships and unfortunate things happen to us all, just like with animals. We die just like animals die. Our bodies decay just like an animal’s body. Because of how similar we actually are to animals, God tells us we shouldn’t take pleasure and delight that He’s placed us over them.

Ecclesiastes 3: 18 – 21 (KJV): I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

In fact, the very instinct God has instilled in all animals are valuable life skills we can learn from animals. God has given humanity a conscious intelligence that His animals don’t have, but He reminds us that we lack many things. Even the simplest aspects of nature can teach us about God.

Job 12:7 – 10 (KJV): But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

Proverbs 6:6-8(KJV): Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Conclusion

The conclusion I came to is that it’s a highly irresponsible, irrational, and sinful mindset for Christians to think they can treat animals how they wish to because God has given humanity dominion over the Earth. This type of irresponsible attitude can apply to anything: caring for the Earth, loving each other, living soberly, and so forth. As a Christian, I must be responsible and follow the Bible the best I can no matter what.

People may be intelligent and self-aware, but animals have many life and survival skills and lessons they can teach us. For instance, God has instilled in animals ethics that humans can dearly learn from. God saved animals from extinction during the flood. He takes care of even the smallest, most insignificant animal because He loves them. And He established his rainbow covenant not only with humans, but animals, too. Considering all of this, I conclude that a Christian must love animals. To love animals is to glorify God. To love animals is to have a soft heart; and a Christian having a soft, loving heart to all things glorifies and pleases God. But we’re not to worship God’s creation.

Did you learn something different from the verses listed in my study? Please let me know!

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