The difference between humans and animals.

Is it the Spirit? Ability to Worship? Or what?

We’ve heard it said that the difference between humans and animals is the “spirit” (or in some bible translation, “the breath of life”) that allowed human beings to worship God. Well, to some extent, this statement holds water. But is it really the case?

Sure, we see in Genesis that God gave humankind a “Spirit” unlike any other — His breath. But then again, the workings of the Spirit isn’t just to “worship God”, right? Surely even animals worship God. Heck, even stones can sing praises to God (ref: Luke 19:40). So what makes human beings so special?

The ability to make choices.

You see, the first decision humans made to go against God in the garden of Eden wasn’t made by chance. It was an opportunity given to Adam and Eve to make that divine decision. The problem doesn’t lie with the decision nor the fruit. It lies with the spirit that empowered Adam and Eve to make that decision. It was that spirit that gave them the willpower to make that decision in the first place.

Do animals, or even stones, have the ability to make decisions for themselves? Sure they do. But they don’t automatically worship God or avoid Him. Stones will remain silent until God commanded them to sing praises. Animals will always cry unto the Lord whenever they need to. But they wouldn’t cry to any other god(s). They know what’s true and what’s not. They know the Maker. And… That’s all that’s important… To them, at least.

Humans? We were given the ability to choose who we pledge our allegiance to. And when we do make the choice, we either choose to worship Him for who He really is, or we do things that displease Him… Human nature isn’t as “natural” as we thought it is. At the back of it all is the spirit that was given to us — the Spirit of free will; the Spirit of God Himself. This spirit is the spirit that “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and will have compassion on whom He will have compassion” (ref: Exodus 33:19, Romans 9:15). It’s the spirit of sovereignty; a spirit of power.

So is the problem with this spirit? Truth be told, though, without this spirit, human beings will not entirely be “God’s image” (Genesis 1:26-27). After all, this spirit is the very character of God. And without this spirit, human beings will not be able to love God with all our hearts, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). Heck, without this spirit, we wouldn’t even need to choose to love God. Loving God would be embedded in our DNA. Such “love” will be robotic. It’s not real. And God knows that… He doesn’t want that. — Maybe that’s why He didn’t make the stones cry out in Luke 19:40.

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that the thing that sets human beings apart from animals is the image in which we were modelled after — the image of God that reflects the totality of God’s character. It’s God’s name we are reflecting. Read the entire message that God said to Moses:

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” He said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” — Exodus 33:19-20, NIV.

God’s name isn’t just “the Lord”. It is the character of free will. “I am who I am, I will do what I want to do, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” — This is the Lord.

Satan wasn’t completely wrong when he said “you’ll be like God” to Adam and Eve as he led them to eat that fruit (ref: Genesis 3:5). But what Satan purposefully missed out was the fact that Adam and Eve were already like God (ref: Genesis 1:26-27) with the ability to choose whether or not to worship God with all their heart, soul, and strength.

Today, we are also faced with many “fruits of the tree of good and evil”. We’re also equipped with the ability to choose God or to forsake Him. Will we go about rejecting God in order to rise above Him? Or will we submit to His sovereignty, using our ability (the spirit) to choose Him to worship Him with our heart, soul, and strength?

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay
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