There is a rule in my family about pets or any animal we keep. To have a pet is to make a commitment to that animal for life; theirs and ours. The Scripture says, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal…”[i] The rainbow covenant that God made to Noah after the flood He also made to the animals that came off the Ark.[ii] So this is the rule, “If we keep a pet we have to be able to provide love, shelter, food and veterinary care or there will be no pets.” This is not a rule that we can ignore because our circumstances change or because we, for whatever reason, are no longer able to adequately care for them. Because God gave us dominion over all creatures of the earth, we are responsible to be good stewards of all animals whether they are pets; food for us; workers for us; or wild and free creatures. We recently had a difficult dominion decision to make about our beloved Lab named Lady. She was thirteen-plus years old and had about the best doggie life possible. But she was deathly ill, and it was time to put her down.
As a pastor, I am sometimes asked, “What about pets? Do you think my dog is in heaven?” My answer is that Scripture does not speak directly to that question, “But my dog Buster is there.” No one knows for sure, but we know that whenever we get glimpses from the Bible into heaven and the Throne of God, there are strange creatures there. In Isaiah there are weird six-winged, flying, shouting things[iii] and in Revelation we see a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle, all of them having six wings![iv] The point is, God loves the creatures of the earth and so should we. He gave us dominion over them and has dominion over us. Just as the life of our dog Lady was in our hands, so are the lives of humans in God’s.
It is hard for us to keep everything in perspective. I am amazed at the compassion shown to animals by those who have little regard for human life. When we complete the proverb previously quoted about a righteous man and his regard for the life of his animal, the next line says, “…but even the compassion of the wicked is cruelty.” Our society celebrates torturous cruelty to pre-born people, but cries crocodile tears for a minnow. God placed value on animals and greater value on humans. This is how Jesus put it,
“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”[v]
No human has the ability to create life or return a life that they take, whether from animals or other humans. The right to make the decision that we made to responsibly take the life of our pet has been given to us by God. We do not have the right to take an innocent human life, no matter the circumstances of their conception or the character of the parents. The Bible instructs us that those guilty of murder shall be punished with a punishment that fits the crime.[vi] It also teaches us that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood.”[vii] Our Founders were right when they asserted in the Declaration of Independence our God-given rights to, “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Constitution guarantees that those rights cannot be denied to people by citizens or by the government without the due process of law. I guess they read their Bible and believed what they read. If having regard for the life of our animals is important in the mind of God, how much more important is it to Him that we respect the lives of other human beings?
Author of In the Grip of God: Journey into Corinth
[i] Proverbs 12:10a (NASB)
[ii] Genesis 9:8-17
[iii] Isaiah 6:2
[iv] Revelation 4:8
[v] Matthew 10:29-31 (NASB)
[vi] Genesis 9:6
[vii] Proverbs 6:16-19