Having a Dog to the Glory of God: Part 2, Owning a Dog

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We finally decided that it was time to get a dog. We searched all over the place–Craigslist, the local animal shelter, classified ads, local breeders, pet stores, bulletin boards…pretty much everywhere. “This one is too big, this one is weird looking, this one is too expensive…” After a few weeks of searching, we found a litter that looked promising. We devoted half a day to drive to see what we hoped would be our puppy. We walked in, and our eyes fell on this little guy. He was the runt of the litter. It wasn’t a tough decision. We wrote a check, wrapped him up in a blanket, and drove back to Louisville with him sleeping in Sarah’s lap. We did it, we own a dog.

I’ve been considering what it means to “own a dog.” “Owning” is a pretty common expression when it comes to dogs. Sometimes, instead of “own,” we say “have”, as in, “I have a dog.” For example: “I own a house, a car, a dog, and some books.” You would never say (I hope), “I own a house, a wife, a son, and a dog, and some books, and a car.” Owning (in most cases–not all) connotes something like a possessive rule over something or someone else–a hierarchy of owner and property. The possibilities with “have” are broader. “I have a wife, a son, a dog, a car, and a house.” In normal dialogue, we assume that the speaker does not think of his relationship with his wife to be the same kind as that relationship with his car or with his dog.

God owns everything: “For the world is [God’s] and all that is in it” (Ps 50:12). This means that whenever we say we “own” something, we must think of this in light of God’s ownership of everything. Here’s an example of what I’m getting at: A man can say, “I have a wife” and mean one of two different things: “I am in a loving, covenant relationship with a woman,” OR, “I own a female human. Hear me roar.”

The reality that we ultimately own nothing is heavily emphasized in many sermons and theology books. We receive things as gifts, not because we earn them. In sermons on tithing, we are encouraged to give our money because it is God’s anyways. In sermons on marriage, men sacrifice themselves for their wives because Christ, being selfless, did the same for the church. Your wife is first God’s, and you interpret your relationship to her in light of who God says she is.

We have pretty much neglected this whole concept when it comes to non-humans living among us. This has left a gaping whole in our theology. A puppy is God’s puppy before he has any relationship to me. So, looking at what God says about him first, I can then learn from there what my role is in his life. Psalm 145 says:

The LORD is good to all,

and his mercy is over all that he has made.

The eyes of all look to you,

and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand;

You satisfy the desire of every living thing.

God “opens his hand” to animals, rather than balling his fist. Does how I treat Scout reflect the truth of this intimate relationship between God and animal? My main point of this post is: To say “my dog,” deserves a special category, just like “my wife” has its own category and “my books” has its own category. A bit can be said also about my place as “master.” I am Scout’s “master,” if by that I mean I am called to reflect Psalm 145 love, care, and leadership–not meaning, “I bought you, so I rule over you, ya dumb dog.” The language of “have” and “own” can feed sinful desires, being used for our own pride, in agreement with the ruin and the broken relationship between man and animal that resulted of the Fall. Or, the same language can be used in a way that points to God’s redemptive work in bringing about a new creation in Christ.


Written by keywoodblog

March 1, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. As a teacher who regularly calls her students “my kids” this is good for me to reflect on. How do my actions toward my students reflect the nature of God? Wow, what I do does matter.

    accidental devotional

    March 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm

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