Caring for people and animals

Last night the Taylor University Center for Ethics that I work with sponsored a Conversation on Animal Welfare and Christian Ethics that focused on the Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals which was just recently released and can be found on the Every Living Thing web site. To read the statement you can click on the “sign the statement” button which gives you the opportunity to read the statement then decide if you want to sign it.

Over the past few months I have been putting a lot of time and energy into preparing for our discussion last night and as the event approached I found myself reflecting on whether that was time well spent. As a Christian I believe that God’s first priority on this earth is with people who he made in his image and that I should put caring for human beings and helping them understand God’s love for them as a top priority. As a physician my focus has been caring for the needs of human beings. Why should I spend so much time on a discussion of how we should care for animals? With all of the human needs in this world, does how we care for animals really make that much difference?

As I have reflected I have concluded that it is right for my primary concern to be the well-being and spiritual condition of other human beings. As I grow in my own relationship with God, caring for those he has made in his image should come first for me. However, God has created more than just people. He chose to create a vast and complex universe and a planet that we live on that has life on it beyond just human life. He has created human beings to fill the role of stewards for the creation that he made and that includes caring responsibly for the animal life that God created. Caring for God’s children should always come first, but we should not neglect caring for all of the beings God has created.

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Will Honeycutt
5 years ago

I have always been struck on how Jesus, when confronted with healing a human on the Sabbath day, brought up the matter of a sheep that had fallen in the ditch. While he definitely upheld the higher value of a human being, he did not deride the saving of the beast. His argument was “since you will care for the sheep on the Sabbath, how much more should you care for the needs of a human who is of ‘much more value’ than a sheep?” The implication is that both were acceptable and should be done. So it is not either/or, but both/and. In fact, one of the provisions of the original giving of the Sabbath day was to give beasts of burden a day of rest as well; so even in the Torah, the lower animals are being looked after. Proverbs 12:10 implies that the righteous look after the needs of their beast. Animals have their instrumental use, as is evident in Scripture, but they also seem to have a value that calls for us, because of our superiority, to see to their safety and take care of them. C.S. Lewis, in a little known essay “Vivisection” spoke to this matter and said, “we ought to prove ourselves better than the beasts precisely by the fact of acknowledging duties to them which they do not acknowledge to us.” Humans are definitely worth more, but this does not make the beasts worthless. Blessings in Christ, Will Honeycutt