What Animals Teach Us About God Christian Living Matthew Pryor Writer Author

What Animals Teach Us About God

What do a goldfish, guinea pig, rabbit, chinchilla, ferret, dog, chicken, and cat all have in common? 

Give up?

They are all animals I’ve personally had as pets. 

This doesn’t include the plethora of animals with whom I shared residence throughout my childhood: a canary, Westie, domestic mix breed cat, blue gourami fish, parakeet, calico, gerbils, neon tetras, another Westie, Himalayan, mourning doves, tiger barbs, Birman, finches, algae-eating catfish, Lab mix, Birman-Himalayan mixes, iridescent sharks, and probably some other animals I’m forgetting.

Nor does this include the chipmunks, raccoon, or robins we tried to nurse back to health before returning them to the wild. Or the crawfish we caught, froze, thawed back to life, then put out in the back-patio aquarium for the raccoons to scoop up and enjoy.

I am what many would call an “Animal Person.” Maybe you are too, which might be why this article caught your attention.

Then again, maybe you’re totally not an animal person, which is why the article piqued your interest. You’ve come here to better understand God, as well as this strange breed of homo sapien with whom you struggle to relate.

Either way, I’m here to help. You will see that when we examine a few animal references in Scripture, you can get a new perspective on God’s character. With that fresh perspective, perhaps you will get a better appreciation for animals, as well as those who adore them.

A few clarifications first.

No, I didn’t live on an ark. That would have been awesome. Except the smell — and the snakes. Snakes are gross.

Also, there’s a difference between “animal person” and “crazy animal person.” The primary distinction being the quantity and variety of animals you have. The greater the quantity of the same variety of animal increases your rating on the insanity scale. It’s science. A cat-hoarder is the posterchild for this theorem. She likely has issues that no number of felines could resolve.

On the other hand, the higher number of differing kinds of animals you own increases your rating on the animal lover scale. If this is you, you likely have a slight, but manageable emotional imbalance that is well-worth the tradeoff for all the animals you get to serve own.

With that out of the way, let’s see what the Bible has to say about all this. We get to start at the very beginning.

Genesis chapter one, as you know, tells the story of God creating the world in six days, then resting on the seventh. 

In chapter two, there’s a recounting of Adam’s time before Eve. Verses 8-9[1]Genesis 2:8-9 tell of the trees God had caused to spring up, trees that were rich with food. Verses, 10-14[2]Genesis 2:10-14 detail the four rivers, all flowing from the river in Eden. In verses 15-17[3]Genesis 2:15-17, God puts Adam in charge of the Garden, giving him the freedom to eat from any of the trees, except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

We pick up the story in the New Living Translation of Genesis 2:18[4]Genesis 2:18: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’”

There Adam is, in the garden, all by himself, taking care of it and eating all that delicious fruit. God says it is not good for Adam to be alone. Everything God had done up to that point had been good, but it would NOT be good for Adam to remain alone.

And you know what happens next, right? 

God makes Eve.

Actually, no. He does not make Eve next. He makes the animals next.

Genesis 2:19-20a[5]Genesis 2:19-20a, “So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals.”

That’s right. Adam is alone, which isn’t good. God’s next act was to make animals for Adam. This gives him more work and finally, some companionship. In fact, The Good News Translation uses that very word: companion.

Animals were first created for companionship. 

Genesis 2:20b[6]Genesis 2:20b does go on to say, “…but not one of them was a suitable companion to help him.”

However, the fact that animals weren’t good enough companionship — the complementary help that Adam needed — doesn’t negate the fact that animals were created for companionship.

Imagine that. We “animal people” resonate with what God first intended animals to provide: friendship. 

Confession: I better understand that crazy cat lady than those who are not animal people. After all, animal companionship came even before Eve. It is woven into the spiritual fabric of our very existence. How someone cannot, on some level, derive pleasure over some form of pet ownership simply does not compute with me. I dunno. Maybe I’m just super spiritual.

God knew we should not be alone, so He gave us some company. The gift animals provide doesn’t stop with companionship. Stick with me here, but animal-loving Christians can also see animals as tangible expressions of God’s character.

We can see God’s power in the world’s biggest animal, the blue whale. This behemoth is longer than a basketball court and can weigh over 340,000 pounds. In order to fuel that giant, the blue whale can eat 40 million krill a day (roughly twice as many burritos I can eat in the same amount of time). Imagine the power of someone who can create an animal so powerful!

We see God’s genius in the various scavenger animals, like the homely turkey vulture. They’ve been recycling way before it was cool, cleaning the dead flesh off carcasses, helping limit the spread of disease. In God’s brilliance, He created a way to feed animals while preventing disease.

In the symbiotic relationship of a mongoose and a warthog, we see God’s provision. Warthogs will lie down and let mongooses eat the ticks off their bodies. One animal’s lunch is another animal’s hygiene regimen. Win-win! In a display of both God’s providence and gentleness, He created a way for wild animals to work together for both of their good.

Christians can see God’s creativity in the mimic octopus. In order to avoid becoming prey, this quick-change artist can distort, reshape, and disguise itself to look like 15 other predators. Rather than merely allowing the octopus to kill or be killed, God gives the octopus some creativity in devising its own escape plan.

We also get to enjoy God’s sense of humor in the courting dance of the bird of paradise. The western parotia, for instance, will clean his dance floor with immaculate precision before he shows off his moves. You would be hard-pressed to see one of these dudes in action and still question whether his Creator was funny in His own right.

An artist is reflected in their art and God is the preeminent artist. Powerful and munificent. Creative and funny. Pure genius. He created nature on an empty, formless canvas and His personality can be see all over it, including in animals.

Animal loving Christians see animals as a gift from God. A gift of companionship with the animal itself, as well as the gift of understanding God’s personality a little better.

With that in mind, the gift comes with two responsibilities. First, we must be good stewards of the gift. Proverbs 12:10[7]Proverbs 12:10 reminds us, “The godly take care of their animals…” Animals are in our care but they are not ultimately ours. Everything belongs to God[8]Psalm 50:10-12. We need to treat them well.

That said, we should never elevate animals over humans. In the creation story, animals are good, but people are very good. 

In the Gospel story, Jesus died for people, not for the animals. 

The second responsibility we have is to carefully avoid valuing the gift more than the Giver. Animals are a gift that can bring us into a greater appreciation of God. The minute we love them more than we love God, the gift becomes an idol. Idols ultimately destroy our intimacy and relationship with our Creator. We have to keep gifts in their proper perspective.

Nevertheless, the joy that animals give life far outweighs the burden of the responsibility in caring for them. They give us friendship and they give us a glimpse into the greatness of our God. 

Out of His greatness, He provided two things we need: companionship and understanding. As you understand Him better, you come to know that as much as He cares for His animals, He cares immeasurably more for us.

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”

Matthew 6:26

If you are an animal person, embrace it. It honors God to see you delight in His creation, as you take care of His animals and learn to understand God better through them.

If you are not an animal person, maybe you just haven’t found the right animal yet? Who knows? Maybe a leopard gecko would be the pet you never knew you always needed.

The more science learns about nature, the more it points to a perfect God. In His perfect wisdom, God filled the earth with animals of wondrous variety and magnitude. When we take the time to better understand animals, we get the added, superior benefit of better understanding God.