10A righteous man regards the life of his animal, But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today our passage contrasts the conduct of the righteous and the wicked. While a righteous man has care even for the life of his animal, the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
So who is the righteous man? The righteous man is the one who, aware of his own sinfulness, confesses his sin to God, trusts in the forgiving mercy of God in Christ, and then lives in the fear of God, endeavoring to conform his life to God’s holy character as revealed in His moral law. The righteous man thus acknowledges that there is a moral law to which he is accountable. Unlike Adam who strove to be a law unto himself and rebelled against his Creator, the righteous man submits to God’s law. He strives to be humble, recognizing his propensity to sin and treating others the way he would want to be treated. Hence, the righteous man cares even for the life of his animal. He knows his place in God’s hierarchy, knows that he has been created to rule the earth, but he rules in such a way as to honor even the lesser creatures whom God has likewise created. And if the righteous man cares for the life of his animal, how much more will he honor other humans who like him are made in the image and likeness of God?
The wicked man, however, believes that there is no God – or at least he acts like there is no God. He imagines that there is no heaven; no transcendent moral law to which he is accountable; no God who sees and hears his plans and deeds; no God who will judge him for his deeds. He believes, like the atheist Richard Dawkins, that “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (MSYW, 68). Hence, he has no basis for distinguishing kindness and cruelty. He bemoans the rise of suicide and self-harm among today’s youth but threatens surgeons who refuse to perform sex-change operations on perfectly healthy bodies. He declares that legitimate sexual encounters must be consentual but uses force to compel bakers and flower arrangers to praise his perversities. He objects to the racial profiling of pre-Civil Rights America but insists that every white person must repent of his whiteness. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. The wicked man has no basis for distinguishing kindness and cruelty and so he often practices cruelty in the name of kindness.
So what of you? Have you acknowledged that you are created by God and accountable to your Creator? Have you striven to submit yourself to His moral law revealed in your own conscience and in the Bible? If so, then are you respecting others who are made in the image of God and even caring for the lives of your animals? Children, are you caring for your pets? Or have you instead pretended that you are a law unto yourself? Pretended that there is no God who will judge you and hold you accountable? Practiced cruelty in the name of kindness?
Reminded that we are all called to submit to the Lord of all, the Creator of heaven and earth, whose law stands over us all and defines good and evil, let us confess to the Lord that we have often failed to care for the life of our animals and, even more so, failed to honor the image of God in our fellow man. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.