Insects play an important role in God’s creation, yet they can also be a nuisance and bring disease and destruction. Many Christians wonder if it is right to kill insects or if we should treat them with care as any other living creature. What guidance does the Bible provide on this issue?
This article will examine key passages in Scripture related to human dominion over animals, principles of stewardship, and examples of God using insects for His purposes. We will explore potential exceptions allowing for insect extermination. The conclusion sums up biblical principles to guide our treatment of insects.
- God gave humans dominion over animals, which likely includes insects
- We must exercise responsible stewardship and not needlessly abuse creation
- Insects play an important role in God’s creation and ecology
- There are examples of God approving and even using insects for His plans
- Pest control and prevention of disease may necessitate insect extermination
- Christians should seek to handle insects gently and humanely as much as possible
Human Dominion Over Animals
A foundational biblical principle is that God granted humans dominion over the earth and animals. This is first stated in Genesis 1:26 (NKJV):
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
The word “dominion” indicates responsible stewardship and care, not abusive tyranny. God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden “to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). While the original text does not specifically mention insects here, they would likely be included under “every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
This dominion extended after the Flood as well. In Genesis 9:2 God tells Noah, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.” Again insects would fall under “all that move on the earth.”
Therefore, while we should treat all life humanely, God seems to indicate that humans have authority over insects to manage them responsibly. We do not need to avoid killing them at all costs.
Principles of Stewardship Over Creation
However, dominion over the earth and its creatures is not permission to abuse them. We must exercise wise stewardship, as Adam was to tend the Garden. Exodus 23:12 commands: “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.” Even work animals deserve rest.
Proverbs 12:10 condemns animal cruelty: “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” While this refers to domestic animals, it shows concern that we not mistreat any creature under our care.
In Matthew 6:26 Jesus pointed to birds as reminder of God’s provision: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” In Matthew 10:29 He similarly said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” Jesus shows God’s care even for common birds.
These principles forbid wanton destruction of insects without purpose. We should aim to handle all life humanely and with care as God does.
God’s Use of Insects
Beyond generally valuing life, the Bible contains examples of God directly using insects for His plans.
One of the plagues God brought upon Egypt involved swarms of insects:
For if you will not let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. (Exodus 10:4-5)
This shows God’s power to command even insects for His judgments.
Similarly, insects were among the means God used to defend Israel against enemies:
Moreover the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed. You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is among you, a mighty and terrible God. (Deuteronomy 7:20-21)
This demonstrates God intentionally using insects in military conquests.
Proverbs 30:24-28 contains an extended praise of ants, rock badgers, locusts and spiders as “exceedingly wise” and “prepared for their purpose.” This commends the innate skills and provisions God gave even to tiny creatures.
These examples show that insects are important in God’s creation and plans. He made them skillful and purposely includes them in His works. While this does not forbid killing insects, it highlights their value and design in God’s providence. We should be careful not to treat them thoughtlessly or as complete nuisances.
Potential Exceptions for Exterminating Insects
The general principles covered so far emphasize stewardship and humane treatment of insects based on their role in creation. However, there are situations where extermination of certain insects seems permissible or even mandated.
For example, the Israelites were permitted to destroy Canaanite nations because of their extreme sinfulness:
When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you . . . and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall [put them under the ban] . . . You shall not live anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them…as the Lord your God has commanded you. (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)
This total destruction included animals and would logically apply to insects living in Canaanite homes and buildings. Their association with evil nations apparently overrides general stewardship principles in this case.
The Mosaic law also made allowances to protect health and hygiene:
“Also, if a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness . . . both of them shall be cut off from their people. Moreover you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife . . . Thus you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, lest they die . . .” (Leviticus 18:19, 20, 24)
Commands to separate from uncleanness imply preventing disease spread by parasites such as lice or fleas if present. This could potentially involve insect extermination.
Similarly, Leviticus specifies procedures for eradicating mold or mildew, which requires “removing contaminated stones from their places” (Lev. 14:40). This may permit destroying structural nests/hives of insects spreading such contaminants.
Such exceptions for hygiene and disease control could also apply today, for instance in exterminating lice, roaches, or termites which carry bacteria and parasites. Christians are not obligated to passively allow infestations of insects spreading disease and filth.
Conclusion: Guiding Principles for Treatment of Insects
In summary, while the Bible does not condemn all killing of insects, some guiding principles emerge:
- God gave humans dominion over insects, which includes managing them appropriately.
- We must steward creation humanely and not abuse lesser creatures.
- Insects play an important role in God’s providence we should respect.
- There are times where exterminating insects seems biblically justifiable, such as spreading disease.
- Christians should aim to treat insects gently and find humane solutions where possible.
- Wanton destruction without purpose is not Christ-like stewardship.
- Health, hygiene and prevention of disease may necessitate insect management, even extermination.
- In all things, we should exercise wisdom, discernment and responsibility before God.
The biblical perspective calls for balance between upholding the value of all life while permitting appropriate management to prevent pestilence. As Christians, we should thoughtfully develop discernment through study and prayer to know when insects may need to be exterminated versus shown grace. With the Spirit’s guidance, we can be faithful stewards of the earth in a complex fallen world.