“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded . . . and every winged bird . . .” — Genesis 1:21
Why did God create animals? Merely a modest observation of the most common of life’s creatures brings about a thought-provoking question: do animals have a purpose, or do they simply eat and sleep and simply exist for the sake of existing? Consider the jellyfish: a literal blob—99% water and no brains. What kind of statement could the Creator possibly attempt to make through such a meaningless mass of nothing?
You can’t help but observe the common squirrel or farm pig and declare, “What a life!” Their daily routine consists of nothing significant or fulfilling. What was the purpose of God creating any animals at all? By simply taking a detailed look at some of the creatures humans work closely with, this seemingly-pointless aspect of creation readily becomes one of God’s greatest accomplishments.
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There are no species of animals in history that have aided humanity more than the dog. Commonly referred to as “man’s best friend,” dogs have been available in times of tragedy and times of comfort. They were first used by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Assyrians in the B.C. era. These various groups recognized dogs’ advantageous abilities in warfare and placed them as forward attacking fighters. During the American Revolution, many troops (including General Washington) used dogs as companions and bodyguards.
But more recently, dogs have been called upon for a special kind of work unique to their species. K9 units have been utilized extensively in narcotics and bomb detection, or even just as patrol dogs in prisons or high-security areas. They’ve also aided wildlife and conservation officers in the detection of illegal hunting and fishing. Their sense of smell—which is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s—and their ability to react only as they’ve been trained makes dogs an invaluable asset for police work. Even their presence alone can prevent physical confrontations. Seeing-eye dogs are yet another example of their usefulness. Though a dog’s vision is less superior to a human’s, their sense of direction and their defensive abilities greatly aid a blind person in their day-to-day routine. Simple actions like crossing the road and maneuvering around the grocery store become possible only through the loyalty and keen attention of a well-trained canine.
And the wages for all their irreplaceable help? $0. Give them sufficient food and care and man’s best friend quickly becomes man’s best ally. Besides being used for reconnaissance, police work, security, and guiding the blind, dogs are ultimately the perfect companion, especially for the lonely and depressed. Many classics such as “Lassie,” “Old Yeller,” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” depict the need boys young and old have for dogs. Dogs stand by you, protect you, love you, lick your wounds—and they do all this without ever doubting, a testament to their impeccable companionship. Many of us could never be that way.
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The true reason why animals are so well-loved and valued is because they fulfill a need in us. Animals are loyal, patient, kind, and affectionate. They don’t talk back. They don’t offend you. People will hurt you throughout your life; animals will not, at least not intentionally.
Biblically, animals are used to importantly illustrate examples and convey inspiration for Godly living. In Isaiah, we are compared to sheep—“All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). God uses sheep, one of the least-intelligent animals on the planet, to convey our utter weakness and lack of judgment. The ant is used as an illustration of working hard, persevering, and not being lazy: “Go to the ant, sluggard.” Ants are very efficient workers who toil together as a team not for the benefit of the individual, but for the whole colony.
Was it not a large fish that was influential in the lesson taught to Jonah? Was it not a ram that was offered to Abraham as a substitute for Isaac? Did Jesus not pick a donkey to carry him into Jerusalem? Did God not also use a talking donkey to teach Balaam a lesson?
So why did God create animals? The ultimate answer: to show us his handiwork. I believe the very reason God placed countless species of creatures great and small on this earth was to display his vast creativity. God shows his magnificence to us through the magnificence of his creation. The fact that animals exist in such variety and vast dimension points to the brilliance of a sovereign Creator who has dominion over all living things. How truly privileged we are to live in a world filled with so much of God's splendor. And we have the remarkable animal kingdom to remind us each and every day of that immeasurable splendor.
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