Over this Fourth of July weekend, many of us in the United States will be celebrating the independence of the United States of America. Holidays mean fun and rest.
My favorite holidays are the ones when I don’t have to work, and where there is good food. I suspect that is why “tailgating” parties are great: they are just spontaneous holidays.
It has been 18 months since I took a vacation. My jobs have me working six days a week. So I am tired. I will take a needed break by driving up to Michigan and Ontario, Canada, for several days.
God knew that people needed rest. In fact, God ordered us to take rests once a week.
Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it – not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Common English Bible translation)
Did you notice that “your animals” are in the list of beings not allowed to work on the sabbath?
I have no interest in arguing about the details of the Sabbath day here, in my blog.
My point is this: God planned for us to take a break once a week, and for our animals to also share in that break once a week.
In the twenty-first century that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you, I suspect. What animals? My cat? My dog? My goldfish?
Back in the days of Moses, the Jewish people probably had some domestic animals around. Chickens for eggs. Goats for milk. Oxen for pulling cats. Donkeys for carrying people. Most of us ‘city slickers’ don’t have domestic animals around.
But the Ten Commandments were not just personal orders; they were community orders; national orders. These are the rules God wanted from all the people and their institutions.
One of the biggest industries in the United States is animal agriculture. Meat, Dairy, and Eggs.
Most of you are probably very happy to be ignorant about the reality of modern animal farming. I will not illumine you much today. No gruesome details. Nothing to upset the holiday.
The bottom line, basic foundation of all modern industrial farming is confinement. Companies can make more money by keeping animals indoors twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the life of the animal. This is done for many reasons. To keep from getting morbid, I won’t explain. Just take my word for it. Chickens and pigs, at least, never see the sky.
That is a direct violation of the commandment to give your animals rest.
Industrialists will say, “but animals never work! They rest all day, doing nothing!”
Rest is not doing nothing. Rest is celebrating life. It is freedom to enjoy the creation.
Do you think that God was exhausted by the six days of creation? Of course not! Exodus says that after the six days of creation God rested, blessing the seventh day and making it holy. God said, ‘this will be a day of happiness and holiness.’
Jesus, the Word, created everything (John 1). Then He celebrated. He just watched and enjoyed the scenery, so to speak. In Genesis it says that God went walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
“Adam” means dirtboy, you know. Son of soil. Earth being. Dirtboy.
I can just imagine Jesus asking Adam, “what did you call that strange creature I made? Oh yeah, platypus. Great name!”
Of course I am being silly, since platypus is probably Greek or Latin. Who knows what language they were speaking back when Eve was around.
God told Adam to get some work done on six days. Jesus wanted Adam and Eve and their future kids to spread the Garden of Eden all over the planet. That was a big job! But apparently, from the very beginning, one day was supposed to be for rest and celebration.
Being stuck in the same building, or cage, for an entire lifetime, is never having rest. No celebration of life. Drudgery. Enslavement. Violation of God’s command.
Now you, as a disobedient human, may not care about taking a sabbath day. Maybe you are a workaholic. Maybe you are an atheist and don’t even believe in a god. Whatever. You can sin for yourself, but are you also going to force others to miss out on God’s bounty? Will you force your children to work seven days, not just six? Will you force your domestic animals to never get a break?
Will you continue to buy your meat from companies that never let the animals have a break?
A factory farm, or CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), or Harm Farm (my term), or whatever you want to call it, is cruel by its very definition. I will not now enumerate all of their cruelties. Only one. Rest.
You can say, “animals aren’t people; they aren’t smart enough to know what they are missing.”
Did God ask for your opinion of animal intelligence when He made the Ten Commandments? It makes no difference. God wanted them to have a day off too.
Rest is only one of the principles of animal treatment from the Bible that modern animal farming fails to honor. I can talk about other principles in the future.
For this holiday weekend: rest, and celebrate! And if you have a pet or domestic animal, let it rest and celebrate!
In the future, when you buy meat, ask yourself, “should I look for the cheapest meat? Or should I look for a God-honoring, humanely-treated, piece of animal flesh?”
That would make the celebration even better.