Should Christians keep pets?

 The Bible does not directly address the concept of pet ownership, but it offers principles that can guide Christians in their relationships with animals. Genesis 1:26 grants humans dominion over animals, a term that has been interpreted in various ways. Traditionally, "dominion" has been seen as a call to stewardship—a responsibility to care for and nurture God’s creation. Psalm 145:9 ("The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made") further emphasizes that God’s care extends to all creatures, suggesting a model for human-animal relationships that is based on kindness and compassion.

One key argument in favor of Christians keeping pets is the concept of stewardship. Caring for pets responsibly can be seen as fulfilling the biblical mandate to watch over God's creation. This involves not only meeting an animal's basic needs for food, shelter, and medical care but also considering their emotional and social needs. By adopting pets, especially from shelters, Christians can reflect God’s love and mercy, rescuing animals from neglect or euthanasia and providing them with a nurturing home. However, stewardship also implies a careful consideration of one's capacity to care for a pet. Overpopulation of pets is a significant issue, and responsible pet ownership includes spaying and neutering to prevent the birth of unwanted animals. Additionally, Christians are called to consider the environmental impact of pet ownership, such as the ecological footprints of pet food production and waste.

Ethically, Christians are called to treat all of God’s creation with respect and compassion. Proverbs 12:10 states, "The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel." This scripture shows us the importance of kind treatment toward animals, distinguishing the righteous from the wicked based on their interactions with non-human creatures. There is also a growing awareness of the issues related to breeding and the pet trade. Many animals suffer in poor conditions in puppy mills and catteries that prioritize profit over the well-being of the animals. ?

Ethical pet ownership for Christians, therefore, might involve choosing pets from shelters or rescues rather than purchasing from breeders who may contribute to animal suffering.

Owning pets can offer significant spiritual and psychological benefits. Pets often provide companionship and unconditional love, which can be a source of comfort and stress relief. They can also teach important spiritual lessons, such as the values of patience, kindness, and the joy of caring for another living being. For many Christians, the act of caring for a pet can deepen their understanding of God’s unconditional love and the joy of serving others.

While there are many positive aspects to pet ownership, there are also challenges that Christians should consider. The cost of pet care, including food, veterinary bills, and other supplies, can be significant. There is also the commitment of time and energy to ensure the pet's well-being. Christians must consider whether their lifestyle allows them to provide a stable and loving home for pets.Additionally, some Christians may prioritize human welfare and feel that resources spent on pets could be better used to help people in need. Balancing these concerns requires thoughtful consideration and prayer, reflecting on where God is leading one to allocate resources and care.

Christians are called to treat animals with compassion and respect, which can justify pet ownership if done responsibly and thoughtfully. Spiritually, pets can enrich a Christian's life, offering companionship and lessons in unconditional love and care. Ultimately, the decision to keep pets should be guided by a commitment to stewardship, compassion, and reflection on one's personal call to nurture God's creation.

What does the Bible say about pets?

In the Bible, God had Adam name the animals. He commanded Noah to protect and care for the animals in the ark. He had the Jews keep Passover lambs in the house with the family.

Nathan decried David’s adultery with Bathsheba by telling a story of a poor man who had one little ewe lamb he loved. Uriah was the poor man. Bathsheba was the beloved little lamb:

The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. (2 Samuel 12:3)

God gives us a window to observe the unspoken relationship between a man and his animal in the book of Numbers. The Jewish prophet Balaam was on his way to help Balak (a pagan king) curse Israel. God sent an angel with a flaming sword to stop him. His donkey saw the angel. The rebellious prophet did not. Balaam’s donkey spoke to her master. In Numbers 22:26-28, we hear a unique conversation:

Then God gave speech to the donkey. She said to Balaam: “What have I ever done to you that you have beat me these three times?”

Balaam said, “Because you’ve been playing games with me! If I had a sword I would have killed you by now.”

 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?”

He said, “No.”

Even Balaam’s donkey spoke of the relationship they shared!

Isaiah reveals another passage about the connection between man and his animals:

Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care— but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them. (Isaiah 1:3)

God carefully teaches us to understand our relationship with Him from Bible passages about animals.

The Lord used animals to show us our need for forgiveness of sin. When Adam and Eve fell, the first act of God was to sacrifice an animal and cover their nakedness in Genesis 3:21.

Everyone at any age can learn so much from the unconditional love, presence, surrender, and loyalty of our pets. Here are just a few of the lessons they teach:

1. Responsibility

Someone has to feed, walk, and wash the dog. These are valuable life skills for anyone to learn, as soon as they’re old enough to do them. Solomon observed in Proverbs 12:10: “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” What a great nugget of wisdom for your every family member!

2. Unconditional Love

Pets typically offer unconditional love to their owners. This type of affection can be a reflection of God’s unconditional love for humanity, and experiencing this can deepen a Christian's understanding and appreciation of divine love and grace (1 John 4:19).

3. Faithfulness

Jesus demonstrated the love between man and his animals in the Gospel of John. Christ’s words are so powerful and precious, I will share all of them:

The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep… the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 

 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.

 I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep

Jesus knows us, His little sheep, and we know and trust Him.

4. Patience

Pets do not always behave as one would like. Training and living with a pet often requires a great deal of patience, which is a virtue highlighted in Scripture (Galatians 5:22). Through the challenges of pet ownership, Christians can learn to better practice patience with others around them.

5.Service and Sacrifice

Looking after a pet often involves personal sacrifice, whether it’s time, financial resources, or personal preferences (such as travel constraints). This can mirror the Christian call to live a life of service to others (Philippians 2:4), sacrificing personal comfort for the sake of another.

In conclusion, the decision for Christians to keep pets can be viewed through the lens of biblical stewardship, ethical responsibility, and spiritual enrichment. Christianity teaches compassion, love, and care for all of God’s creation, principles that align well with the responsible ownership and loving treatment of pets. Pets offer a unique opportunity to practice daily stewardship, develop virtues such as patience and empathy, and experience joy and unconditional love that can reflect the nature of God's love for humanity.However, Christians must also consider their personal circumstances, including their ability to provide a safe, healthy, and loving environment for pets, while considering the ethical implications of pet ownership, such as supporting shelters instead of unethical breeding practices. Balancing these factors with the calling to care for the less fortunate and addressing human needs is also crucial. Therefore, Christians are encouraged to own pets. 

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