When I was in Israel this past spring one of the places we visited was the deserted area of Timna, Park. Timna is located almost at the very southernmost edge of Israel. Traveling there gives you quite a feel for what the wilderness was like for the Israelites. There is nothing but rocks and sandy dirt for miles on end. The only thing that breaks up the landscape are the mountains that jet up all around you. But even they are nothing but piles of rock and dirt themselves. There’s not a tree or anything green to behold.
The story is told of John Newton, the 19th century Anglican minister who is famous for having written they hymn Amazing Grace, that when he was nearly eighty his sight began to decline significantly. Even though he got to the point where he was almost blind and could scarcely see to read his sermon manuscripts, he did not let this deter him from the ministry of the pulpit each Sunday.
Aug. 12. (Near Kent.) - "This morning and last night I was exercised with sore inward trials: I had no power to pray: but seemed shut out from God. I had in a great measure lost my hopes of God's sending me among the heathen afar off, and of seeing them flock home to Christ.
"I saw so much of my vileness, that I wondered that God would let me live and that people did not stone me; much more that they would ever hear me preach!”
“Love Hurts.” You’ve probably heard that expression before. But what exactly does it mean? What does it mean when we say, “Love Hurts.”
Perhaps you think of a romantic, Romeo & Juliet type love. They are so infatuated with that other person that their heart aches or they are “aching with love.”
When you hear that phrase you probably don’t think of a love that actually causes harm. When we say “love hurts,” you don’t think of someone cutting somebody with a knife or hitting them with a baseball bat. We don’t usually think of that when we think of love.
We’ve been studying these proverbs on and off for quite some time now. And perhaps you have come to see that these proverbs are oftentimes more descriptive than demonstrative. That is to say, most proverbs we study are not commands. They usually do not tell to go out and do something. Rather, most proverbs are descriptive. They talk about reality. They describe the way things are.
That is the case with our proverb this morning. This proverb describes two different kinds of love. There is a love that promotes life and there is a love that takes it away.
On the one hand you have a love that is oozing with affection. It is warm, it is kind. But there is another love. There is a love that is not affectionate. It’s a love that hurts. As a matter of fact, it’s a love that is downright malicious and cruel
We live in a world that is big on love. Ask anyone and they will tell you that we should love one another. That’s obvious. But what exactly do they mean by that? What does that love look like? Well, our proverb shows us. And it shows us that not all love is all that loving.
Our proverb begins by telling us about the love of the righteous man. Being that it is the love of the righteous man, it is a love that is built on God’s law. And because it is built on God’s law, this love is affectionate and life promoting.
I. Righteous Love: affectionate and life promoting
Look at what it says about the righteous man. It says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.”
Now not everyone has pets and not everyone is a pet lover. I know that. But do you catch the gist of these words? If you are a righteous person and you have a pet—or if you would for some reason ever come to own a pet—you would love that furry little thing. If you are a righteous person you are going to show a righteous affection for that little creature (even if it’s a cat!).
Now I know what you are thinking…and it is not right. I know that when you hear me say “a righteous affection for an animal,” you think about someone who goes ga-ga over their pets. I’m not saying about that.
I saw a news clip a while ago about how much the average American will spend on their pet for Christmas. I don’t remember the figure, but I was shocked at the amount. It was well over $50, I do know that.
I also saw another cast about exotic gifts that people can buy for their pets. One pet store offers designer clothing for pets and they were expecting to do a good deal of business over the holiday.
Elizabeth and I once saw a show about a married couple who had pet pigs. These were not barnyard pigs. They were pet pigs. And these people were ga-ga about their pigs. The pigs lived in the house and even had their own little rooms. They actually had sleeping arrangements that made some 4 star hotels look like a grease pits. These people were crazy about their pigs.
Now, I’m not talking about that. That is not what I am talking about when I talk about “a righteous affection for one’s pets.” No. A righteous affection for one’s pets means you regard their life. It doesn’t mean you pamper them, but it does mean you provide for them.
You want them to be well taken care of. If the beast needs food, you see to it that the animal receives the right nutrition. If the animal needs exercise, you see to it that it gets a work out. If the thing needs rest, you know what to do.
Really, you are doing what God does for his pets. Think about what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Look at the birds of the air. They do not toil or reap. Yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.”
And think about the 10 commandments. Right there in the 4th commandment you see God’s affection for his creatures. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…in it you shalt not do any work, neither you nor your son nor your daughter, your manservant nor your maid servant, not thy cattle, or the stranger within your gates.”
Back in those days animals were beasts of burden. They helped with the chores: plowing, pulling, & what not. And God didn’t want his pets being overworked. You could easily see someone being earthly minded and wanting to work, work work. He could easily be cruel and run a beast to exhaustion. Because he loved his creatures the Lord regulated how much work they could do. He set aside a day for them to rest too.
The Lord created the world and everything in it. And he has a righteous affection for every one of his creatures. He treats each of them with respect.
We who are his children simply reflect God’s loving kindness. We treat the creatures that are under our dominion with the same respect God does.
You are probably sitting there thinking, “Well, I’ve never had a sermon devoted to my pets before. I didn’t know that I was going to be receiving instruction on how to love my animal today.”
Well, don’t get me wrong. This is more than just about the fuzzy little creature that sheds all over your house. This is about your love, and how radically affectionate it is.
Today is the day we commemorate as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Just over 30 years ago our nation committed the atrocity of making abortion legal. Now hundreds and thousands of unborn children lose their lives everyday.
More than animals, this passage shows how great our love is (or should be) for human life. If our love is great enough to regard our four-legged friends, then our love for one another should be even greater, shouldn’t it? If we respect the life of these creatures that are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more should we regard the life those who are created in God’s image?
And if we really love them in a loving way we will love them in a way that is in accord with God’s law.
That’s why we unite together in standing against things like abortion and euthanasia. We do that because these things are against God’s law. Therefore it is the loving thing to do.
We are pro life, because we are pro-God. Our love is affectionate because it is based on his Word. The affection that we show to our animals is simply representative of the love we show to all God’s creatures, especially humans. It is the love that is regulated by God’s law.
So you see how affectionate the Christians love is (or should be). If we are guided by God’s law, we will promote life because God’s law promotes life. Health and happiness find their roots in the Bible.
But let’s consider the love of a fool. As I said earlier, an a wicked person’s love is diametrically opposed to that of the righteous man’s. His love is downright cruel and malicious.
II. Ungodly Love: downright cruel and malicious
Now again, that might shock you. But listen to what our verse says. “The righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
Did you hear that? His mercy is cruel. The most affectionate act he can muster is about as comforting as a bed of nails and about as warm as a glass of ice.
Now, most specifically this passage would be referring to the way a wicked person would treat his pets. To the wicked person, animals can be objects of their wickedness.
I read just recently about how some people were cited for the way they treated their dog. The owners had indulged their chocolate lab’s appetite so that it weighted well over 150 pounds. The thing had become so fat that it could barely walk. And when it did, it had to rest every few steps because it couldn’t bear its own weight.
They thought they were good pet owners. They were just letting their little pooch eat all he wanted. But that is wicked. That is some sort of cruel and unusual punishment.
That’s not regarding the life of the beast. It is a violation of God’s law. It is not treating your pet in accord with what God’s word says about gluttony & proper health.
God’s law is so important. It teaches us how to love in a loving way.
I read this week about the organization PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatement of Animals. This organization is known for raiding laboratories that do testing on animals. They are people who won’t hunt or eat meat. In other words, they are people who think they love animals. But it was recently reported that the group is actually facing legal action for cruelty to animals.
Gene Edward Veith says, “It turns out, PETA runs an extensive program of euthanizing animals, saying that they are rescuing the stray dogs and cats from the cruelty and, I suppose, involuntary imprisonment of the local pounds. But in putting all of these animals "to sleep," PETA allegedly violated the applicable laws about such things.”
This group mistreated animals--in the name of love. But this love was a love that was guided by their misguided perceptions and imaginations. So they have actually been unloving.
And that not only applies to animals. Whenever we are not guided by God’s law, we end up acting like a barbarian.
In his commentary on this proverb Charles Bridges quotes another theologian by the name of Holden. Holden was commenting on a passage from Acts 24. That passage is about the Roman governors, Festus and Felix, who were holding the Apostle Paul prisoner and would not let him go free, even though he was innocent. They kept him in prison because they wanted to do a favor to the Jews. They wanted to show these Jews some love.
Holden says this,
“We have been used to hearing much of the benevolence of infidels and the philanthropy of deists. [But] It is all pretense. [When] self is the idol, and self-indulgence the object, [people are not very particular about the means they use to attain their goals.] Where self is the idol, the heart is cruel. While they talk of universal charity, they regard not the cruelty of robbing millions of the consolation of religion. While they speak of harmless gaiety and pleasure, they would treacherously corrupt piety and pollute unsuspecting innocence.”
A lot of people who think they are doing things of worth. They think they are doing things that will benefit society. But when their actions are not guided by God’s law, they are actually doing the opposite. They are contributing to the delinquency of society.
Take this example: Why does abortion exist? People promote abortion on the basis of “a woman’s right to choose.” They think they are being loving, don’t they? They say they love women so much that they say women should have this right. But what is really happening? In their vigilance they actually propagate murder.
I’m not going to talk about it, but if you even consider what happens in the abortion process you will understand how terribly cruel it is.
And this cruelty is not limited to abortion. You can choose from all sorts of so called acts of benevolence that wicked people promote. I can think of quite a few political issues that fall along these lines.
One of them is the current welfare program we have. Many people promote government assistance because they think that it is good for the needy. They have a love for those in poverty. But the Bible doesn’t say the government should provide welfare. And we don’t realize how much harm we do by it.
Marvin Olasky points out that one of the ways it harms our society. He says that the welfare system promotes divorce. Rather than staying in a marriage and trying to work out one’s problems a woman may opt for divorce. She opts for it knowing that she can be supported by the government if she does. If she was dependant upon her husband, she would be more willing to stay in the relationship and work things through.
But what about some more personal issues? What about the parent who won’t discipline their child. Isn’t that cruel? At the time is seems so loving. “Oh, I could never discipline little Bobby. I just love him too much.” But what happens? Little Bobby grows up to become Big Bobby. And Big Bobby has never been taught any discipline.
I believe that Canada recently made it illegal for parents to spank their children. I bet if you wait a decade or so you will be see a dramatic rise in the crime rate in Canada. If parents aren’t able to discipline their children, then the state will have to end up doing it for them in the future. And letting a person grow up without discipline is just cruel.
Those who choose not to live by God’s law will not be loving people. They will be barbaric. God’s law is the law of love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” Why did he say that? Because his law directs us in what is holy and good.
If we choose to live by our own whims, then we will cause a great deal of unnecessary harm to those around us. Surely we could examine many more examples, but these should suffice. All of what has been said should point out that God’s way is the way that really promotes life.
And on this Sanctity of Life Sunday, I hold out to you this one thing: God’s law. If you live by it, you will really be pro life.
 I have reworded a little to make the older English more readable. If you would like to check the original, you may do so: Charles Bridges, Proverbs. Banner of Truth Pub.
 Another pertains to the desire to raise the minimum wage. Doing this has many unfortunate ramifications for society.
 Marvin Olasky, Compassionate Conservatism: What it is, what it does, and how it can transform America. Free Press.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.