– Proverbs 12:10
We know that when God created the heavens and the earth, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). What was good was the creation itself, including the plants, the animals, and, yes, even mankind. God expressed He saw it was good, and this included the animal kingdom. God loves what He created, and this naturally includes all of His creatures. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to keep or tend it, so we know work is not a result of the fall because this happened prior to the fall (Genesis 3). We are commanded to be good stewards of the earth and work for a living. In this mankind was given dominion over the creation but not to be domineering over the creation as he has been (Genesis 1:28-30). Instead of taking care of the earth, mankind has taken advantage of it and its natural resources and done great harm to it. Rather than tending to or working the garden (Genesis 2:15), mankind has tended to do whatever is necessary to extract wealth and resources from the earth, regardless of the damage that’s been done. This was certainly not God’s will in the beginning.
We know God requires a life for a life in the Old Testament because it is God Who is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). He is the only One Who can take it. A person’s day has already determined (Hebrews 9:27), so it’s not supposed to be determined by anyone; that is not mankind’s call. However, when someone has been convicted of cold-blooded murder and the evidence is absolutely overwhelming, God requires the person who took a life to lose their own. That’s what is taught in the Old Testament, and it’s designed to be a deterrent to society in the hopes that people would not take it lightly. When it’s generally known there is such a severe penalty for murder, people will think twice (hopefully) before taking the life of another human being. There were civil laws in the Old Testament that dealt with issues where someone could be restored if they suffered property damage or loss of their livestock. These laws were intended to not only make for an equitable or fair society but also to avoid confrontations, which could grow into heated arguments where someone could be hurt or, worse, killed. The severity of these laws might seem harsh to us today, but these laws were intended to make the penalties so severe that violent crime or property damage would be held to a minimum. These laws were designed to protect and bless the nation of Israel. Really, any nation that strives to live in accordance to God’s laws and ordinances will be blessed. These are meant for our good.
The Bible clearly states that God declared His creation “good,” so we would do well to respect what God calls good. Of course, this means not only taking good care of or being good stewards of our own resources but also in protecting the environment as much as possible. Certainly, the less “carbon footprint” we leave on the planet, the better. But there’s something more about God’s creation that He wants us to know: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel” (Proverbs 12:10). That is as black and white as it gets. Anyone who treats animals in an inhumane way is wicked as far as God is concerned. He sees those who have “regard for the life of his beast,” whether it’s a cow, horse, dog, cat, gerbil, or any other creature God has declared “good,” as acting with righteousness. This verse doesn’t mean we are saved by treating animals with love and mercy. However, believers who have been shown love and mercy will treat their animals in the same way. I think that’s what this Bible verse is saying (Proverbs 12:10). There is something definitely wrong with a person who is cruel to animals. That is not the behavior of a believer (1 John 3). Besides, it’s a criminal offense to treat animals in this way, which is why these kinds of crimes are punishable with either fines or imprisonment or both.
We already have read what God thinks about people who mistreat animals as opposed to those who take good care of them (Proverbs 12:10). This was true for all the animals in society. One example was the Old Testament law: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). This law might not seem like much by itself, but there is much more to this than first appears. When an ox or any animal was muzzled and then put to work, it was seen as cruel treatment because the beast of burden that was laboring for the farmer wasn’t even allowed to partake in part of the fruit of his labor. It’s like the law of mercy where you couldn’t boil a calf in its own mother’s milk. This shows that the mercy of God expects us to treat animals with dignity and respect, showing them love and concern. It doesn’t matter if they’re animals. They are first of all His creatures, which He declared “good,” so we should treat them well. Animals are a lot like us. They can suffer injury and disease and grieve the loss of a loved one. God is angry with anyone who mistreats His creatures. The Apostle Paul quotes this verse in a couple of places in the New Testament. It’s also in the context of treating someone fairly and humanely; in this case people (1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Timothy 5:18).
There is something unique about pets in all of God’s creation. I believe our pets were created for a very special and specific purpose: to bring us pleasure and for us to bring them pleasure. A pet’s love is as close to God’s unconditional love as we can get. They don’t care if your hair’s not combed or you’re getting old and wrinkled. Our pets don’t care if we had a good or bad day at work. They are just glad to see us, and they love us despite our many flaws, just as we love them despite theirs.