Recently the issue of creation’s hierarchy has come up in both private discussions and now social media. I’ve desired to write this post and almost had it ready two days ago. Unbeknownst to me, a lion’s death floated around social media creating ire and more political debates. This is not intended to be a response or political comment. My attempt, should I succeed, is to answer one key question, Are animals more important than humans to God?
Answer: no. God made humans as the pinnacle of creation and He made us in His image. No animal on earth is made in His image. I would even argue humans are not animals, we’re human beings, made in the image of God.
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
This verse verifies two important facts related to the subject at hand. First, God tells us humans are made in His image. We reflect and share in His likeness. This does not make us gods, nor does it mean we share similar attributes as Him, but we are specially designed in a way that relates us directly to Him. Animals are not made in God’s image. We are unique to creation not sharing in similar attributes to God. It belittles His creation to count humans among the animals.
Second, God designed man to rule over creation, including animals. We may say the Lion is the king of the animal world, but man is king of the world. It is our job to rule over the world in a way that honors the Lord. We should honor Him by the way we rule displaying integrity, justice, mercy, grace, and prudence. God made us to rule over creation. This point answers the main question rather clearly and succinctly.
Psalm 8 reiterates this point:
What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth! (4-8)
David reiterates the truth of Genesis 1:26. He even says God crowned mankind with glory and honor. Most of us instantly think of human depravity. This is true. But depravity fails to negate our created position. When we consider both truths, we are depraved rulers over creation.
Jesus tells the disciples they are more valuable than creation.
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. ‘But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. ‘So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).
Finally, how do we know humans are more important to God? He sent His Son to die on the cross on behalf of fallen mankind. Animals are not offered salvation, neither are angels. God saves men and women from their sins.
So, is it therefore okay to kill cattle so people can eat? Yes! Is it better to provide drinking water to humans or preserve a fish? The answer should be obvious. Is it okay to cut trees down so people can have homes to live in? Yes! Do people abuse, mutilate, and rule over the earth in damaging ways? Yes they do. Why? Because we are depraved rulers. People will abuse the earth and mismanage it. I have no problem punishing them for their crimes. But the abuse of power should not cause us to abrogate our responsibility in using creation for mankind. It may be sad a species of fish dies off. But it’s worse for humans to not have water.
So why do people get this backwards? Paul tells us, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:25). Sinners will naturally exalt creation over the Creator. This explains the desire to save the earth, exalt animals over humans, and more outrage over a hunter than abortion. Christians should not be shocked when unbelievers act according to God’s Word.