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Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion

Animals, Religion and the Environment
The Bible’s Teachings on Protecting Animals and Nature
by Lewis Regenstein

Part 7: Reverence for Life in the New Testament

The New Testament contains many favorable references to protecting animals and nature. In Luke (12:6), Jesus stresses that even the lowliest of creatures is loved by God: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God." Matthew 10:29 also reports Jesus' belief that God cares for all His creatures, even those of little monetary value to us. In teaching God's in-finite wisdom and love for mankind, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. ***”

In Luke (13:15), Jesus uses the Biblical laws of humane treatment of animals to justify healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath, saying: "Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?" Again in Luke (14:5), Jesus similarly justifies healing a man on the Sabbath, saying "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of "the fowls of the air," saying that "your heavenly father feedeth them."

Interestingly, nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus depicted as eating meat of any kind in his lifetime, not even at The Last Supper, although on two occasions after his death and resurrection he is said to have eaten fish.

Many Christians see deep significance in the story of Jesus beginning his life among the animals (Luke 2:7). Denied shelter and lodging by the humans of Bethlehem in Judea, Mary and Joseph were forced to use a manger for Jesus' birthplace. There, Jesus was born presumably in the company of such creatures as donkeys, oxen, cows, and sheep.

Jesus' appreciation for animals is demonstrated by the repeated analogies and references to animals that he used in his teachings. He referred to his followers, and those who worship the Lord, as sheep, and he compared God's care for Jerusalem with a hen's concern for her brood. Often in his teachings, Jesus compared himself to such animals as the lamb and the dove, known for their innocence, meekness, and docility. He often represented animals as being under God's providence; and Jesus' repeated statements to practice love, mercy, and compassion are consistent with, and indeed fundamental to, the humane and preservation ethic.

Go on to Part 8: The Bible's Conservation Message
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