Insects, bugs, and creepy crawlies. They’re everywhere! Ants invade our kitchens. Mosquitos bite us when we’re trying to enjoy a warm summer evening. Spiders spin webs in the corners of our homes. Many people view insects as nuisances and don’t think twice before squashing them. But as Christians seeking to follow God’s will, we need to carefully consider what the Bible teaches about all of God’s creatures, including insects. Should we refrain from killing them? Or does the Bible give us permission to eliminate pests as we see fit?
- The Bible affirms God’s love and care for all his creation, including insects. As Christians, we should aim to cultivate a spirit of compassion.
- However, the Bible does not prohibit killing insects. It acknowledges that in a fallen world, death is a part of life.
- We have a responsibility to protect human health and wellbeing. If insects directly threaten this, controlling them may be justified.
- Our motivation matters. Thoughtlessly killing insects out of annoyance is different than carefully eliminating a dangerous infestation.
- In all things, we should seek wisdom, moderation, and thoughtful stewardship as we interact with the insect world.
God Values All of Creation, Including Insects
From the smallest ant to the mighty elephant, all living creatures owe their existence to God. He designed each one and delights in them all. The Bible reminds us repeatedly of how intimately God is involved with everything he has made:
“Look at the birds of the air…Consider the lilies of the field…not one of them is forgotten before God.” (Luke 12:24, 27-28 NKJV)
“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalm 147:4 NKJV)
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” (Matthew 10:29 NKJV)
These verses emphasize God’s attentive care for even the most insignificant parts of creation. Jesus says the hairs on our head are all numbered (Luke 12:7)! If God pays such close attention to details like bird feathers and wildflower petals, we can be sure he notices and values the lives of insects as well.
The creation story in Genesis establishes that all creatures, no matter their size or appearance, have worth because God intentionally brought them into being:
“Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind: livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kind.’ And it was so. And God made…everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.” (Genesis 1:24-25 NKJV)
Humans have a tendency to categorize life based on cuteness, complexity, or utility to us. But the Bible makes no distinction regarding the intrinsic worth of any living thing. All were spoken into existence by God, and so all have value to their Creator.
God Allows Death as Part of the Fallen World
The Bible speaks clearly about the sanctity of human life, but does not extend an absolute prohibition against killing to insects and other animals. After the fall of man, death entered creation as a tragic consequence of sin:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life…for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17, 19 NIV)
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:20-22 NIV)
This pervasive decay and death throughout creation is part of fallen world we currently inhabit. But the Bible indicates God will one day redeem and restore his creation to how he originally intended it (Isaiah 11:6-9, Revelation 21:1-5).
For now, death and predation exist by God’s decree as consequences of mankind’s rebellion. With insects especially, their tiny lifespans and sheer abundance means billions upon billions perish each day, even without any direct human involvement. While we should not treat God’s creatures cruelly or carelessly, the Bible does not forbid us from causing an insect’s death.
Protecting Health May Warrant Eliminating Pests
Though all life has value, humans are uniquely made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). God instructed mankind to exercise dominion over the earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:28). This does not justify wanton destruction or exploitation. Yet it does imply that protecting human health and wellbeing may at times supersede the survival of insects and other lower creatures.
When commenting on Jewish dietary laws, Jesus himself noted:
“There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man…Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart, but it, his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Mark 7:15, 18-19 NKJV)
Jesus overturned ceremonial cleaning rituals, indicating that eliminating disease-carrying pests when necessary is permissible.
Likewise, the Mosaic law regulated practices that controlled spread of infection and contamination:
“Command the children of Israel that they…remove the leper from the camp…Also take away anyone who has a discharge…put out of the camp everyone who is leprous.” (Numbers 5:2-3 NKJV)
While we are no longer under the Old Testament law, the principles guiding these rules still apply. Insects carry disease and can render food unsafe. Rodents destroy stores of grain. Eliminating these hazardous infestations protects human community without contradicting biblical values. We have a responsibility to wisely steward our living spaces in a fallen world.
Killing insects simply because they irritate us is quite different than carefully controlling a harmful infestation. Though the Bible condones neither cruelty nor indifference, motive does matter. For instance, the book of Proverbs contrasts lazy with industrious insects:
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6-8 NIV)
The ant provides an example of wisdom and prudence. But Solomon does not instruct us to smash anthills just because ants sometimes march through our kitchens! Discerning when insect removal is necessary versus when tolerance is more virtuous takes thoughtfulness and restraint. As with all decisions, our motives reflect our heart attitude. Do we act out of convenience or genuine need? Patience or annoyance? Callousness or necessity? We must aim to handle pests in a manner that honors God’s creation without elevating animal life over human health and wellness.
Stewarding Insects Wisely
As Christians seek to live out biblical principles in our treatment of insects, we should remember that God created these creatures for good purposes. Insects pollinate flowers, dispose of waste, nourish birds, and much more. Even pesky houseflies and cockroaches fill roles in the web of life.
Though we have latitude to remove hazardous infestations, we should still aim to interact thoughtfully with the insect world, recognizing our interdependence with all creation. We can:
- Use natural, non-toxic methods of insect control when possible.
- Avoid overapplying harsh chemicals on our lawns and gardens. This preserves pollinators and populations of beneficial insects.
- Take only what we need, whether spiders for research or honey from bees. Consider how to disturb nature’s balance as little as possible.
- Teach children compassion and respect for insects, not thoughtless disgust.
- Learn more about the intriguing qualities of different insects God designed.
- Remember that humans have a unique capacity to protect the natural world. With our advanced reasoning, we have an obligation to steward creation for generations to come.
The Bible advocates both human flourishing and care for our world. With thoughtfulness and wisdom, we can act to protect our homes and health while also honoring God’s handiwork in the myriad creatures great and small all around us.
In summary, the Bible does not prohibit terminating insect life as a categorical rule. However, throughout Scripture we see principles of compassion, restraint, and responsible stewardship over all God has made. As Christians, we should thoughtfully balance protection of human health and welfare with respect for the intrinsic worth of insects within God’s good creation.