February 06, 2010 Q & A

Animals' role in our lives


I would like to know the biblical view of the role of animals in our life. Specifically, if animals are an inconvenience are we allowed to just murder them?


The Bible has much to say about animals and their role in our lives.

First of all, we know that in the beginning God created them, the birds of the air, fish and other living creatures of the sea, and cattle, and creeping things and the beasts of the earth (Gen. 1:20-25). "And God saw that it was good" (Gen. 1:25).

We also know that God made man male and female and gave them dominion over the other living creatures (Gen. 1:26). Included in that dominion was the authority to name the animals (Gen. 2:19). It was in that context that we are told that among the animals there was not "a helper suitable for [the man]" (Gen. 2:18, 20). Rather, God gave the man Adam his wife Eve to fill that role. We ought to see that animals were not created in the image of God as man was; thus, they cannot provide the fellowship that satisfies man's soul.

After the fall of Adam, we are told that God made garments of skins to clothe Adam and his wife. From this it appears that the death of animals were required to provide the skins. This was a sober reminder of Adam's sin and shame.

It is evident from Scripture that man's responsibility to exercise dominion is to be understood as a stewardship. That does not mean that man is at liberty to destroy living creatures recklessly or capriciously. Genesis 9:3 tells us that the fish and the beasts were given to mankind for food in like manner as the green plants. We are reminded that when we eat our roast beef or our Thanksgiving turkey that something had to die for us to live. As such they should be received with thanksgiving and managed wisely, remembering God's providential care for us.

In many cases animals can provide food for mankind without them having to die. For example, cows and goats provide us with milk and cheese. Also, animals have in the past and still do provide many helpful services to mankind. Horses and oxen have pulled plows. Horses and camels have provided transportation. Sheep have provided wool. Dogs have provided "eyes" for the blind. And animals of all sorts have provided much beauty and joy to mankind as reminders of God's handiwork and as evidences of God's love to us.

On the other hand, Deuteronomy 7:22 suggests that wild beasts could prove to be a threat to people if they were allowed to become too numerous in the land where the people were to dwell. For instance, we might think of the recent report of one of our OPC missionaries in Africa where poisonous snakes pose a threat to the people and therefore need to be controlled.

It does not appear from Scripture that the Old Testament sacrifices of lambs, bulls, goats, and doves were understood as murder. Yes, the animals were killed, according to God's command, as a testimony of the awfulness of sin and the need for atonement. But nowhere does Scripture condone the reckless killing of animals simply for the sake of convenience.

The sacrifices of old, and even the daily provision of food afforded us through the death of animals, are an ongoing testimony to us that in order for us to live, something has to die. As Christians we ought to be constantly reminded of God's provision for life, and in particular we ought to humbly give thanks for the greatest provision of all that God has given to us. He so loved us that he gave his only Son Jesus Christ to die for us that we might be saved from sin and death and be given eternal life.



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