Category: What does the Bible say about pets?


In our last post, “What does the Bible say about pets?” we left off with: “The care we show an animal entrusted to us is a gauge of personal integrity: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10).” Todays message will continue on this topic.

Proverbs 12:10 states, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, / but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” This verse specifically links righteousness to the humane treatment of animals.

This proverb, written in antithetical parallelism, states in the second half, “The kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” In other words, even the most compassionate works of a wicked person are bad—the wicked are always cruel. In contrast, a godly person is always kind, and that kindness extends to the animals under his care. The righteous person cares about all life, including animal life.

This principle has important applications for today’s Christian. While Scripture expresses a clear priority for human life over animal life (see Luke 12:7), animals are part of God’s creation and are to be shown proper care and humane treatment. Animal cruelty or mistreatment has no place in the life of a Christian.

Jesus asked in Matthew 12:11, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?” As He made a broader point about Sabbath-keeping, Jesus appealed to His audience’s care of their livestock. If they had an animal in trouble, they would help. That is good and proper. Jesus used the analogy to highlight the necessity of helping people, too: “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!” (verse 12).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of the great care God has for animal life, including each bird that flies in the sky (Matthew 6:26). One of the psalms expresses God’s oversight of all the animals He has made: “The lions roar for their prey / and seek their food from God. . . . All creatures look to you / to give them their food at the proper time. / When you give it to them, / they gather it up; / when you open your hand, / they are satisfied with good things” (Psalm 104:21, 27–28). God cares for the needs of His animals, and God’s people should do the same.

Two important accounts in the Old Testament also reveal God’s care for animal life. In the account of Noah and the flood, God went to great lengths to make sure every kind of animal would survive on the ark. And in Jonah’s story, part of God’s explanation of holding back His destruction of Nineveh was the importance of the animals of the city. God said, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).

God cares greatly for the animals He has created. Those who seek to follow His ways will also care about His creation, including animal life. Animal cruelty, the neglect of pets, and the wanton destruction of a species are sin. Christians are called to care for animals, expressing the same attitude toward animal life as our Creator has.

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In Western society, pets have never been more popular. Many homes are graced with the presence of a cat or a dog—or a hamster, turtle, goldfish, chinchilla, newt, parakeet, or gecko. Everything from albino pythons to hissing cockroaches are caged and kept as pets. The Bible does not address the issue of keeping pets, nor does it contain an example of a pet owner. But we can still draw some conclusions based on what the Bible says on other topics.

Psalm 147:9 tells us that God is concerned for all His creation, including the animals He created: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.” In Psalm 104:21, we see that “the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God”; it is implied that God feeds them. Also, in Luke 12:6 Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

If God cares for the animals, so should we. In fact, it is God’s care for animals that most fully explains our desire to have pets. God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:27), and we have inherited the part of God’s nature that cares for the animals. At the very beginning, God blessed the people He had made and commanded them, “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

When a child maintains an aquarium, for example, he or she is reflecting the nature of God, to a certain extent. An aquarium is creation in microcosm. The child creates the environment for the fish to live in, maintains the habitat, and feeds and cares for the creatures in the tank. The fish depend fully on the child to meet their needs, much like all of creation depends on God. Keeping a pet, then, is a weighty responsibility—it is modeling the Creator and exercising dominion over a portion of creation.

Many parents introduce a pet into their home to teach their children responsibility and other positive character qualities. Such life lessons are definitely biblical. Pets also provide companionship, amusement, and unconditional love. It’s why pets are taken to hospitals and nursing homes to interact with people in need. Any animal that helps us show love more freely is a good thing.

Those who have pets should love them, provide for them, and care for their needs. Loving an animal is not wrong, as long as we love people more. The care we show an animal entrusted to us is a gauge of personal integrity: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10).