When it comes to whether God cares about animals, or more pragmatically speaking, whether we should care about animals enough not to hurt or destroy them, one of the most common questions asked is why Jesus ate fish. The logic is that if Jesus ate fish, this proves that God does not care about animals and hence as followers of Jesus we likewise have no reason to care about animals. I believe this line of reasoning is incorrect and serves to hinder the work of God’s holy spirit in the world today. As believers in God and ministers of the Gospel of Christ, I believe we ought to overcome this faulty logic by including animals in our love. In this article we will consider why Jesus ate fish and what bearing that should have on our attitude toward animals in general.
Let’s begin with the passage of Jesus eating fish:
“They [his disciples] gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence” (Luke 24:43).
The purpose of Jesus eating fish in this passage was to prove that he had really risen from the dead and was again alive in the flesh and not just a ghostly apparition. It was to prove that God really has the power to resurrect from the dead and that we would all someday likewise be raised from the dead. So regardless of where we end up regarding our stewardship of God’s creatures, it should at least be clear that the purpose of Jesus eating fish in this passage is not to provide us a license to disregard the welfare of animals but rather to prove that God had really raised him from the dead.
Setting aside the possibility that the Greek word translated “fish” may actually refer to dried seaweed as some scholars believe, even if we assume it was in fact a dead sea creature that Jesus ate, I believe there is still enough evidence that God wants us to care about animals.
Does God care about animals?
Why Jesus ate fish is admittedly one of the harder questions to answer, and there may be a better answer out there than the one I am about to give, but this one is the best I have come across and should hopefully be sufficient to motivate you to care about animals even if Jesus ate fish.
First off, if we assume that Jesus eating fish proves that God does not care about animals and that we thus have no reason to refrain from harming them, then many of the core ideas in the bible would be turned on their head. For instance:
- The coming kingdom would be a hell for animals if they are not living at peace in the kingdom.
- Fear is the direct result of sin (Genesis 3:10) and is the antithesis of love (1 John 4:18), so causing animals to be afraid by killing them (Gen 9:2, Habakkuk 2:17) would not be consistent with the love God has for all creation and instructs us to likewise have for all creation (Ephesians 1:4).
- The prophecy in Isaiah (Isaiah 11:6, 65:25) would end up false, and God’s promise to the animals that one day bow and sword will be banished from the earth and they will lie down safely (Hosea 2:18) would never happen.
- If animals are excluded from the new covenant commission “that you should love one another,” (John 13:34) then instead of the new covenant being good news for all creation (Romans 8:19, Mark 16:15), it would be terrible news for the animals since they were included in the original covenant (Genesis 9:9-10).
- The many other passages that demonstrate God’s love for animals would no longer make sense.
- God’s love would be weaker than the love many people in the world have since many people love animals enough to care about them and not harm them. I don’t believe it is possible to be more loving than God since God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Therefore if humans are able to love animals and God’s love is at least as strong as the love any human has, then God’s love must also include animals.
So if we assume God does care about animals, then why did Jesus eat fish?
When we look at the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), we see Jesus instructing his followers to hold themselves to a higher standard than is required by the laws given to Moses and to the other Old Testament prophets. He said not only to refrain from adultery but also to refrain from lust (Matthew 5:27-28); not only to refrain from murder but also from hatred (Matthew 5:21-22); not only to love your friends but also your enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). The recurring theme throughout the sermon is to do more than what scripture requires of you, and to do so as an act of devotion to God (Matthew 6:3-4). Many people hear the words of Jesus and wisely put them into practice (Matthew 7:24-25).
Christians today not only have the Old Testament scripture for guidance but also have the instructions given by Jesus, including those spoken in the Sermon on the Mount. So if we carry that same principle that underlies the Sermon on the Mount, namely to do more than what scripture requires, and apply it not only to the Old Testament laws as Jesus did but also to the instructions in the New Testament given by Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the apostles, in what way can we do more than is required by the new covenant?
The new law that Jesus gives us is to love each other (John 13:34, 15:12), and Jesus makes it clear that no one should be excluded from our love – not the poor or needy (Matthew 25:40), not the strangers (Matthew 25:35, Luke 14:13), not those who do evil (Matthew 5:45), and not even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). In fact, our love should be impartial and complete, even perfect (i.e. all-inclusive) just as God’s love is impartial and all-inclusive (Matthew 5:48).
How is it even possible to do more than is required if what is required is to exclude no one from our love?
Well, one way to do more than is required is to not only include all people but also all animals in your love. We know that animals were at peace in the beginning before our disobedience to God caused fear and death to enter into the world (Romans 5:12, Genesis 1:31). We also know that animals will again be at peace as our fellow inhabitants of God’s holy kingdom when the world repents and returns to God and the kingdom comes (Isaiah 11:9, 65:25, Hosea 2:18). And given that Jesus prayed for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), it would thus be inevitable that at some point the spirit would implore us to extend our love to animals in order for that kingdom to fully arrive. The good news is that, based on what I see going on in the world today, including within the church, that seems to be exactly what is beginning to happen! Hallelujah! Let your kingdom come!
Let’s consider one final passage that is otherwise very difficult to understand but is illuminated by this explanation of why Jesus ate fish even though eating fish is not part of God’s perfect plan for the kingdom. It comes from the Gospel of John where Jesus describes a sign of those who truly believe in him. He says, “Those who believe in me will do the works I do and will also do greater things because I go to my Father” (John 14:12). The works of Jesus that we are to replicate are the works of mercy (Luke 6:36), the works of humility (John 13:14, James 4:10), the works of devotion to God (Luke 4:8), and the works of love (John 15:13). The greater things must in some sense build on the foundation Jesus laid (Matthew 16:18, Matthew 7:24-25). And if the foundation Jesus laid is an all-inclusive love, then building on that all-inclusive love by including animals in our love would be one way to not only do the works of Jesus but also to do greater works. In other words, doing not only the things Jesus explicitly asks of us (love each other) but also doing more than what Jesus asks of us (love animals) proves that we truly believe in him, according to his own testimony, and it also proves that we are guided by God’s holy spirit (Matthew 7:16, Galatians 5:22-23).
And just so we’re clear, no one is greater than Jesus (John 13:15-16). It is not we who are doing these greater works but God who is doing them in us (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:13). We are collectively the living body of Christ on earth today (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 10:16). We are his hands and feet (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are vessels for God’s holy spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) to work in the world and lamps for God’s light of love to shine upon the world (Matthew 5:14-16).
This is what I believe Jesus means when he says he goes to the Father: just as the words of Jesus built upon what was given by God to Moses and to the other Old Testament prophets, the followers of Jesus, guided by the holy spirit (John 16:13), will build upon what was given by God to Jesus, and will thereby cause the world to come ever closer to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). This work being done in each of us will eventually culminate in the complete fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer of the kingdom coming and God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27). We must have faith (Luke 8:25), but even more importantly we must have a love that proves our faith (1 Corinthians 13:2, James 2:18).
In short, I believe Jesus ate fish in order to leave room for his true followers to do more than what he explicitly asked them to do.
This is lovely and much addresses love but lacks ANY reasonable explanation as to why God’s son would actually eat fish, dead animals that his Father created. As the Son of God we would assume and certainly hope that that would not be necessary, and he would be abstinent as a form of love, dedication and respect towards his Fathers creation.
The attempt to include the life after death theory for animals, as supposed hell, if God the Father doesn’t love or care for animals , lacks all reasoning or grounds.
Life after death, also Paradise is a different matter for all of us earthly creatures, than what we endure here on earth. He might love them enough to let them enter his Kingdom, since they have NO sin to begin with. But does he love and respect them enough to let them live out their lives in divinity, being treated by his earthly humans with respect? The answer is NO.
One can go much further, and certainly MUST go further, and ask why God the Father would allow animals in Asian counties to be skinned, boiled and torched alive in meat trade for human consumption. Cats and dogs. And why he would allow the Nepal Festival where drunken men slaughter every four years hundreds of thousands of animals in front of their wives and children to let a non extent Hindu God drink blood. Or why he would allow animals to be physically raped by humans, decapitated, shot, electrocuted and gassed in shelters, and why most dogs and cats in the United States die on the streets starving and being euthanized in shelters.
The answer is: he doesn’t care enough to have a system in place that protects these beings from the evil and deranged human soul.
As the ALMIGHTY he should care and respect ALL of his creatures enough to ensure that they live out their lives in dignity, love, care and respect. That is sadly not the case.
His son eating dead meat is certainly prove that not enough care is there to justify God’s love for his four legged creatures.
With all that being said, one would have hoped for a son that respects the life of those his father created that are clearly treated by God and his people as “third class citizens” on this planet and worse.
There is not much mentioning in the Bible of humans having to respect animals, nor are they part of the Ten Commandments. Sad reality.
Please be sure to research more before writing an article about such a topic. While religion wants us to believe God is Love, there is not much prove of that here on earth. Especially when talking about animals.
While Christian Orthodoxy prohibits eating meat during certain fasting periods prior to Christmas and Eastern, we would have hoped Christ himself goes as an example and is abstinent from meat of any kind, as a gesture of Divine respect towards his Fathers creation.
Excellent article, first of all! It is a unique perspective on a tough issue for Christian vegetarians. I usually answer it by first professing I don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy. Otherwise we have conflicting messages about animals in the Bible. God loves them, but permits his perfect son to eat them. He doesn’t want sacrifices, no wait he does. These things are much better explained by realizing that the Bible wasn’t written in a vacuum and that different people wrote different parts for different reasons.
This said, a Gospel written 3rd hand (Luke was Paul’s companion and didn’t seem to know any of the other Apostles first hand), I highly doubt he made a stringent record of what Jesus ate. For all we know (assuming the eating fish wasn’t a later insertion as has been posited) what Jesus actually ate after his resurrection was never mentioned. Luke just figured his Apostles used to be fishermen, they must have given him fish. Did he ever actually ask any of them? I doubt he specifically asked what Jesus ate after his resurrection. Especially, also, when Luke’s account of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances conflict with those of the other Gospels. There is a good outline of this on all-creatures.org.
So Gary, please do not lose heart. God does indeed care about all animals. I think part of the reason pandemics like COVID exist is retribution for our abuse of animals. I highly suspect Jesus never ate animals. There are many scholarly sources that suggest this.
Enjoyed the article and comments posted. The one question I have is if God wants us to I appreciate and think of animals like humans than why did he prefer Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb over Cains farm goods? One the main purposes of Shepherd is to protect animals in order to be used later by humans.
It would seem if that what his teachings were than God would of prefer Cains grains and use of plants over Abel’s heard animal.
I have often wondered about that. Sacrifices of animals in general upset me
Romans 14:2, NIV: “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.”
“There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. [” If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”] When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) NASB
That verse was specifically addressing why his disciples were eating with un washen hands. That verse Had nothing to do with food per sea. The religious pharisees had a tradition of washing hands before you eat..
1 Timothy 4:1-5
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” KJV
Thear is no excuse Jesus ate the fish Jesus and help fishmans gather fish ……………
Jesus provided basket after basket of loaves of bread and fish to feed the multitudes when He was preaching. Jesus did tell his disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat so they could catch more fish. I don’t eat neat. Any kind. This is confusing but u are leaving some important facts out imo.