I know that the Bible does not say whether or not animals go to Heaven. My question is, is it at least a sin in God’s eyes for people to mistreat animals? Does God care that animals suffer?

[Editor’s Note: Two Probe researchers have responded to this question.]

From Sue Bohlin:

God shows Himself to be a God of compassion toward animals in Jonah 4:11:

“Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

He also wants us to be, like Himself since He made us in His image, people of compassion toward animals:

“A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal.” (Proverbs 12:10a)

It’s helpful to look at some big ideas in scripture:

In Genesis 1:28, God tells Adam and Eve,

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This is the principle of stewardship.

Secondly, the Bible says that all animals belong to God:

O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.
There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great. (Psalm 104:24-25)

Since all animals belong to God, and God has put their care and management into the hands of people, we can deduce that it is wrong to mistreat something that belongs to God.

So, while the Bible doesn’t come out and say it is a sin to mistreat animals, a case can be made that it’s wrong.

Hope you find this helpful.

Sue Bohlin

About the Author

Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 30 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women’s Connections), and serves on the board and as a small group leader of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women’s Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to TheTapestryBlog.com. She is also a professional calligrapher and the webmistress for Probe Ministries; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.

From Heather Zeiger:

Thanks for writing. It just so happens that I looked up some verses on this in studying for a discussion on environmentalism and stewardship. I will also tell you that I love animals, and have always had at least one animal, and usually more at one time. I currently have a sweet little cat and a red-eared slider turtle, so the question of animal cruelty is a good question and certainly one I care about.

true that animals are not made in God’s image, and therefore, are not capable of sin nor are saved as humans are, so unfortunately I will not likely see my pets in Heaven, although there is some reason to believe that there will be animals (and plants) in Heaven.

Having said that, animals are part of God’s creation, and not only that but are apparently a good part of his creation and something that he cares very much about. Here are some important verses (emphasis mine):

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth” (Genesis 1:20-22).

“And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:24, 25).

So it seems that not only did God want animals to be part of creation, but he thought it was good to put them here, and he even blessed them. He also seems to have taken care to make them in an orderly way and specific to their environment (the sea, the land). So while God made man above the animals, and even allowed him to use them for food or clothing, he also made man to be a steward over creation. This means he wanted Adam to care for creation. We see elements of this in God’s law when he specifies how the Israelites are to care for both the domestic and wild animals when they enter the Promised Land (Leviticus 25:1-12), and how they are to care for livestock (Deuteronomy 22:1-4, 6, 9, and 25:4). Proverbs 12:10 says that “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”

In the New Testament we see that God cares for the birds: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26.

In short, the answer to your question is yes, cruelty to animals is a sin and yes, God most certainly cares about animal suffering. Man is to be a steward over God’s creation. Man is more important to God than the animals, but God obviously expects man to care for creation.

Even when we consider that animals were used for sacrifices, it is not meant to be an enjoyable thing, but…well…a sacrifice. This particular suffering of animals is ordained by God to foreshadow the suffering of Christ. The sacrifice pleases God because it pleases him that man has obeyed God and repented for his sins. For example, 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” There are also places in Deuteronomy and Isaiah that talk about how God desires man’s heart more so than the act of sacrifice. The sacrifice is to turn man’s heart to God.

I hope this was helpful for you. Always feel free to email us with questions.

Heather Zeiger

Heather Zeiger served as a research associate at Probe Ministries from 2006 to 2010. She has an MS in chemistry from the University of Texas at Dallas and an MA in bioethics from Trinity International University. She now works as a freelance science writer and as a research analyst with The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. She is a regular contributor to Salvo Magazine, MercatorNet, and bioethics.com, and her articles have appeared in Relevant, Quartz, The New Atlantis, and Christian Research Journal. When Heather is not writing, she enjoys working with teens, running, reading, going to museums, and being a homegrown Texan. Heather is married to fellow science nerd, David, and they are owned by their cat. She can be reached at heatherzeiger.com/contact.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

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