The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. Proverbs 12:10 NIV
When I am righteous I am simply reflecting the nature of God, his character, and his attitudes. Even though I’m the focus of his love and attention, within an animal is also the very life of God. The Gospel of John begins with “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) Life, any life, is reflective of God. His spirit. His breath. His pneuma. For me to be kind to my animal is to have the natural, God-given empathy for another life, especially when they are in service to me. Whether a dog, horse, or farm animal, I have a respect for their contribution and relationship and all that they provide to me. I have a tendency to be anthropomorphic: projecting human traits to animals or other processes (imaginations are very fertile). It’s coded within me. Although a goldfish really isn’t thinking about missing a turkey dinner, I still give it an extra helping of fish food on Thanksgiving. As silly as this sounds, I’m good with it. Our Father has planted desire in our hearts to be kind and good to our beasts. And to especially to others.
What is it that happens to a man that would sabotage or short circuit his natural empathy? The New King James Version translates “kindest acts” as “tender mercies.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says: Tender mercies – Better, “the feelings, the emotions,” all that should have led to mercy and pity toward man. Throughout life my heart is either inclined toward God or away from him. What a distance I have traveled if the very natural affection and goodness I would offer another would be cruel. When I read this, I think of a person who has become self-focused, extraordinarily self-absorbed, even narcissistic. Every transaction in life becomes about what benefits me. When I am the center of my universe, it is a lonely place indeed. Although there may be some question about the control a person may have over another relationship, or another human, it’s clear that a man’s animal belongs to him. Yet to the wicked, if cruelty is the fruit, imagine what he thinks about himself. Isn’t it ironic? If my world revolves around me, you would think it was because of an excessive self-love. Quite the opposite.
There is a tread wear on a tire over it’s life. Its natural suppleness becomes worn, less rubbery, and has less grip on the road than when first installed on my car. That’s what life can do to my compassion to others without a connection to the life-giver. Yet, connected to him, he renews me. Daily. Speaks life and healing in transactions with others that have been hurtful. Like a young child who is super sensitive to animals and others, he helps me return to childlikeness through all of life’s transactions.