When God said, "Let [humans] have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth," Gen. 1:26, He didn't mean for us to plunder the world. While God allows humans to use his creations, He also wants us to protect the Earth and all it holds. No one species has the right to put another's existence in danger. All of God's creatures are linked to each other and serve as means to perpetuate the earth and the creatures on it. Some birds eat fish; others eat ants, insects, and other bugs. Once we are buried at the cemetery, ants and bugs eat our flesh, breaking down our bodies and returning them to the earth.
Every living thing is miraculous—ants, flowers, squirrels, bushes, birds, trees, fish, and coral. Miraculous, too, are the inanimate things of life—a seashell, a bird's nest, a streak of sun on a forsythia leaf. Each has a purpose in being. Many are useful to us, but that is not the reason they exist. At times we forget this principle of nature: every thing is an important and precious creation of God and all living beings strive toward the single goal of perpetuating life on earth. God expects us humans to minister compassionately to all things. A peaceful and joyful life means having compassion for all creation.
Human greed and carelessness have caused the extinction of many species. We have deforested the land, polluted lakes and air, and intruded into animal habitats, endangering the existence of numerous wild animals. No individual is entitled to terminate the life of another creature unless for the legitimate purpose of eating it. I use the term "legitimate" because all God's creatures are genetically programmed (and physically limited) to eat or avoid eating certain others of His creatures and creations. Humans have outmaneuvered genetics and physical limitations, and we can eat almost any of God's creatures. This is a type of "perversion of desire" that God wants us to be rid of. Put to death...your...perversion. (Col. 3:5)
Sometimes this human perversity destroys creatures just for the fun of it. You may see nothing wrong with stepping on a caterpillar or flicking away a ladybug. You may consider these insects unnecessary and bothersome. But if you pay close attention to them, you will see the intricacy and complexity in the details of their bodies. Watch them head toward their intended destinations. They are so exquisitely coordinated in their microscopic movements that you can just sit in awe and observe them for hours. You will find more to learn and more potential for spiritual restoration in the woods than you'll find in books.
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T. Byram Karasu, M.D. is the author of The Spirit of Happiness