Sunday, 20 May 2018

Should a Christian Kill a Spider?

A part of me can't believe I was driven to writing a blog post about this.  The morality of killing spiders is something that rarely if ever crossed my mind before recently.  Killing spiders is something that I just did without thinking about it.  Growing up, there was often a spider around the house.  No big deal, all we needed to do is to grab a tissue, pinch the spider with it, and hope it didn't leave too bad of a stain on the ceiling.

Of course, I have seen people go through pains of keeping spiders alive.  I thought I understood why people may take this path.  Spiders make webs, and eat annoying things like flies and mosquitoes.  For pragmatic reasons, it may be worth keeping a spider alive.

Not too long ago my friend spotted a spider while we were sitting down outside eating ice cream.  I casually said something along the lines of "just squish it," without knowing that my apparent heartless attitude would be the cause of a "discussion" that would last longer than the ice cream.  Admittedly, part of me writing this article is for me wanting to put the issue to rest for good.  But I believe that it will be an interesting topic to explore. 

Why would there be anything wrong with killing a spider?
If you're like me, that's exactly the question you're asking right now.  I will be trying to answer that question by turning to the source of absolute morality:  God.  The way I can do that is by seeing what He has to say about the topic in the Bible.

From the time that God created mankind, He set out parameters of what our relationship with animals would be. 

Genesis 1:27-28 (HCSB) –

So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

We are distinctively different than the animals.  We were created in the image of God, and animals weren't.  At first glance it appears that I am justified in my desire to kill spiders.  After all, we have dominion over them, and it is our right to do with them as we wish, right? 

Animals may not have souls like we do, but they are still God's creation. 

Luke 12:6 (HCSB) - Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. 

If we see spiders as something that God cares about, and we acknowledge this importance and wish to kill them for the sake of killing them, we can be seen as being violent, which God detests (Psalm 11:5). 

So the reasons that it may be wrong to kill a spider could be put as follows:
1. Spiders are a part of God’s creation.  To kill them needlessly could be considered as being a poor steward for what we should be responsible for taking care of.
2. God doesn’t wish us to do anything out of the violence of our hearts.

There is a third reason why it may be wrong to kill spiders, but I will discuss that later.

Why would it be okay to kill a spider?

If you are like me, you are probably thinking “because it’s just a spider!”  I am thinking we can do better than that for a defensible argument.

God created animals initially to be in harmony with humans (Genesis 1:28-31).  Mankind sinned, and the world was cursed, and animals with them.  Snakes were cursed to be on their bellies and get trampled on by men (Genesis 3:14-15), death entered into the world, and animals were chosen to die as a substitute for mankind.  Insects and various bugs were supplied as a plague during different instances in the Bible (Exodus 8:16-17; Deuteronomy 28:42).

If there is now an enmity between mankind and certain animals, it may be acceptable to see them as annoyance.  Killing them may not be ideal, but it’s a natural part of living in the fallen world that we live in.

I mentioned earlier that it would not be right for us to kill a spider as a violent act, but how many of us see ourselves as being violent when we kill a spider?  There wasn’t any commandment or law against killing a beast in the Bible, and so the simple act of killing a spider couldn’t be as inherently wrong or violent.

But we may not see animals such as dogs, cats, or monkeys in the same way as we see spiders.  I have concluded that the more like a person a creature is, the more we as humans tend to treat that creature with dignity.  I see that as a good thing, for if we have in our hearts an innate desire to treat things with human qualities with respect, that means we are more inclined to treat other people with respect since they have those qualities.

I would go so far as to say that when it comes to animals, the violence that God detests has more to do with the health of our intentions than with the act of violence itself.  Otherwise merely killing a creature for food (which God allows) could be considered violent.

Spiders share very few qualities with humans compared to other animals; the thought of violent intent may not even enter a person’s mind when killing them.

If you read my last blog post, you would know that I don’t like asking the question “is it wrong to…” but rather ask, “what is the best way that I can glorify God in this situation?”  For some people, that will mean taking care of spiders as part of God’s creation.  For me personally, that means not getting too distracted by things like spiders to keep me from doing other more important things that I believe need to be done in service to God.

Personally, I can see nothing inherently wrong with killing a spider, when we take everything I have mentioned into account.  But…

Why it still may be wrong to kill a spider… 

It may not to kill a spider for its own sake, but it’s wrong to disrespect others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Romans 14 is a good chapter to read when it comes to what to do when you are with someone who shares different perspectives with you.  It talks about not eating certain foods around people who believe it is wrong, to keep from offending them.  I would like to highlight a couple verses. 

Romans 14:1 (HCSB) - Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues.

Romans 14:13 (HCSB) - Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. 

So my personal advice is, regardless of what you believe on this topic, keep the other person in mind when you go about dealing with spiders, or talk about squishing them. 
The Bible is more clear on some subjects than on others

Perhaps you disagreed with the conclusions I have shared regarding spiders, but I hope that in the very least I was able to show that one side of the discussion may not have been as obviously in the right compared to the other.  It can sometimes be a challenge to read the Bible and to understand exactly what it is trying to say.  That being the case, I have something I wish to talk about much more than the morality of squishing spiders, and that is what kinds of things we should even be focusing on.

There are truths that we cannot afford to compromise.  Those things are regarding who God is and the core gospel message.  If the Bible is quite clear on a topic, then we have no right to interpret it a different, more agreeable way.
There is only one right answer to how to interpret the Bible, but sometimes that answer is not immediately clear.  As long as we are open to learning new things about how to read the Bible, I see nothing wrong with preferring to interact with like minded people who have a similar belief as you about the Bible.  But I believe that the more emphasis the Bible puts on something, the more emphasis that we should, and the opposite is true as well. 

Let’s get excited for the things that God has done for us!  Let His love for us fill us with a desire to share that love with other people!