Proverbs 12:10 “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
Winston Churchill said “Dogs look up to you. Cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you like an equal.” No matter how animals look at us, does God care how we look at them? What about how we look at any creature God has created? Solomon was not the founder of PETA giving a discourse on animal rights, but teaching on mercy. The key to understanding the proverb is looking at what he is comparing and contrasting; 1) the righteous man and the wicked man, 2) the beast and humanity, and 3) mercy and cruelty. The righteous man considers the creatures he owns and has dominion over. The wicked man is a man of cruelty and even his “tender mercies” are pitiless and wicked. Mercy is a way of life for the righteousness, all the way down to his beasts. The righteous man has a new heart. He is a man of mercy. The man who has been born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God will be merciful when no one is looking. God removes the old hard heart of the sinner and gives the believer a new heart, with new loves, and new desires. We are judicially justified, but practically, still in the flesh in the process of sanctification being made more like Christ, growing in grace and godliness.
These animals were not pets, but his food, and his servants and his tractor, truck, plow, and bush hog. The righteous man will treat a lowly animal with mercy and if he treats his ox with mercy, how much more his neighbor? Whereas a wicked man is nothing but cruel to those made in God’s image to whom he should display a natural affection and mercy. Imagine the righteous man, who cares for his animals, has mercy on them, treats them well simply because they are lesser creatures God has put under his care. He hates to see animals suffering and in pain and will help them out of the goodness of his heart. He will go home and do the same. Now imagine his neighbor, who treats his family with contempt. When he compliments his children, he throws in a jab to ridicule. He cares for his wife, but not without running her down in the process. His “kindnesses” are cruel. He treats people made in God’s image contemptuously because he can and even when he offers “mercy” he does so wickedly. Today, it’s more likely to find people showing more mercy to their dogs than to their neighbor. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, indeed.