Today’s thoughts are brought to you by a question I had during the summer of my senior year in college. The question being, “Is it wrong for married couples to not want kids?” To be honest, I mulled over the fact of whether this should be a Tuesday topic (theology) or a Friday topic (family living) before finally settling on Friday. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue as I wracked my brain on it for awhile, asking as many people as I could about the topic. People are passionate about kids, one way or the other, so this is a galvanizing issue to discuss. As a recent father, I can’t imagine not having my son around. I can’t explain the amount of love I have for this bundle of joy in our home. If you do leave your thoughts, please remember to play nice, and leave your presuppositions at the door. Feel free to collect them on the way out, or leave them here where they’ll be disposed of on their own.
QUIVER WITH FEAR?
Marriage is a good thing. One of the great blessings to marriage is the fact that a man and a woman may now have kids freely. The Bible speaks of many blessings that are given to people because of the fact that they have children. Children are an incredible chance to give a lasting legacy back to the world. Children are a chance that people will never be forgotten. And who wouldn’t want to have children?
That is going to be the focus of this paper. The state of America today has arrived at an interesting crossroad. Every day more and more people are learning that it is just as fulfilling to live a life that is childfree. People are attaching words to children that years ago would have been foreign to them. People are saying that children are a burden, a chore, a nightmare, the end of your freedoms, the end of your love life, not worth the hassle, too much of a pain, and sadly, monsters.
This kind of thinking is beginning to work its way into the Christian church at large. Christians are more and more wanting to get married, and simply remain childless because they do not wish to go through the struggles of raising children. Is this right? Is it right for married people, especially Christian couples to willingly forego the blessing of children and simply not wish to have children?
Is God’s command to be fruitful and multiply still active and relevant to humanity today? This paper will focus on the aspects of a childfree life that people like, the blessings of having children, the negatives of having children, the nature and relevance of the command to be fruitful and multiply, and its practical implications.
The Childfree life
Time Magazine recently published an article called The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children. The article reports of a woman named Laura who came to the realization that she did not want to have children when she was 14 years old. Now she is at the age of 50 and her mind has not changed. The article described her as satisfied, and fulfilled in her life (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html).
The article then goes on to present the alarming fact that Laura is not alone in her desire to be childless. In fact, the current state of the US birth rate is listed as the lowest it has ever been in American History at a meager 1 out of every 5 women(Time Magazine). This idea is not foreign to people inside the church, however. People in the church are beginning to join the secular world in believing that they are indeed better off not having children (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2148636,00.html).
The prevalent reasons for these beliefs are “I just don’t feel like having kids”, “I would like to use our money for ourselves”, and “Kids are annoying”. It should be noted that these reasons are taken from personal experience, questioning, and surveying.
Is this an actual problem though? Is it a big deal whether or not Christians have kids or not? This is not an issue like abortion where people are dealing with the life of an existing human being. What people are dealing with are hypothetical people, and whether this is an issue of obedience to God. People are trying to discern whether their time and effort is going to be worth the people they pour them in to. In many respects it is hard to blame these people because of all the issues that kids come in contact with every day.
The real issue behind the issue though is whether or not this desire of childlessness is biblical for married people. To understand this, an analysis of the blessings of children, the negatives of children, and God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply(Bible)” must be conducted. Obviously, a real issue is that many women are faced with barrenness every year. Let it be understood clearly that this paper is not saying that childlessness is wrong. The purpose of this paper is to discover whether or not it is wrong for married couples to not want to have children either naturally or by adoption.
In his article titled, “Deliberate Childlessness: Moral rebellion with a New Face” Albert Mohler tells of a couple that are basking the fact that they are childless. Mohler tells this story from a report that was issued in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Joe and Debra Schum cite one of their reasons for not having children is due to a fact that they would have to change the interior design of their home if they had children. More and more, people are turning to a plan of fulfillment away from bearing children (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
Reasons cited for not wanting to have children are that some couples are too busy to have children. These couples are too busy with career endeavors, and traveling to make time for children. Other reasons given were based on the fact that children would not be a good enough return on the investment. Couples were cited as saying that they would want some sort of assurance that their children would have to care for them in their old age (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
Mohler’s article mentions a group of parents in Atlanta who have banded together as a group of childless by choice people called, No Kidding. One member of this group states that she does not waste her motherly instincts because she applies them to her pets (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
So why is this such a problem? What is the problem with so many couples across America wanting to simply live lives that accommodate the things which they wish to accomplish in this life? Isn’t that better than having children that you really don’t want to have? Isn’t it better to let people who might love their children have them, as opposed to those who see children as a rank inconvenience. Children do require a lot of work. This author’s mother-in-law can be quoted as saying when it comes to having children, “The pain begins at labor and ends when you die.” That makes it seem very unworthy of the effort and money required to raise a child.
There are several other factors that can tie into this matter. If a couple is wanting to have kids then they must ready themselves for the battery of challenges that they will inevitably face in the coming months. Parents don’t seek the opportunities to deal with their kids’ bad decisions. They don’t yearn for the opportunity to talk their sex-crazed children into or out of an abortion. They don’t want the opportunity to bail them out of debt when they inevitably make a poor financial decision that costs the them their vacation fund they’ve been accruing. They don’t want to go to the hospital to get their broken bones mended, or to get them off a ventilator because their lungs have already been damaged beyond repair. Parents don’t want to find out that their hard earned college funds for their children were wasted on academic mediocrity and a blurry good time around a few kegs of beer.
With all this in mind, can a couple who doesn’t want to have children really be blamed for it? One should start by first examining the positives to having children.
Arguments for having children
Two aspects of this will be looked at. General and scriptural. General blessings have to do with what people associate as commonly accepted benefits to having children. Scriptural benefits have to do with understanding what the Bible says about this topic.
So what are some of the blessings to having children? A legacy. People will remember you and your name for many years after you are gone because your children bear your name, your personality, and your life. One of the things that people are seeking heavily today is longevity in their lives. Longevity while they’re here, and after they’re gone. Why do people even want to be remembered after they die? Is it because of some desire for a something greater after there’s nothing more to be had? Or are people subconsciously aware of the fact that life goes on, and they want people to speak well of them even when they can’t do anything about it anymore?
Caregivers. Children are important because they help care for their parents when they are too old to do so for themselves. Who better to take care of you when you cannot than your own flesh and blood? Children are a great resource to take advantage of so that they can properly care for the people that they should know better than anyone else. Children should have the best interests of their parents in mind.
Workers. Children are a great addition to the family responsibilities and a great aid in upkeep when trained properly. One of the ways that parents go about balancing responsibilities within the household is by having children who going to be charged with doing chores and such. For instance, farmers have benefited greatly from their children for centuries due to the fact that children are a better workforce than hired hands. Children partake in the job that their fathers do, they farm a land that is tied directly to their family, and they learn how to work hard and care for their families. Children can also become the proprietors of family businesses. Customers appreciate family run and operated businesses because they often speak of quality and a tradition of excellence. Children are also a benefit in carrying on work in ministry after their parents are unable to.
All these things are fine and excellent, but perhaps they are not enough to convince the reader of the benefits of children. Now the author will appeal to the influence of Scripture to prove the point that children are a blessing. The first piece of Scripture that will be examined is Psalm 127:3-5. This passage speaks of the fact that children are a gift from God, that they are the reward of a blessed womb, they are likened to arrows for a warrior, and will not be shamed when speaking to their enemies. Clearly, the Psalmist is trying to communicate to the reader that children are a blessing. Children are useful and children are a glory to their parents.
Albert Mohler states that Scripture points to the fact that barrenness is always seen as a curse in Scripture, and children as a sign of blessing (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/). Mohler refers to those who have no desire to have children at all as the results of an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. He also says that the problem morally lies exclusively with those who have every capability to have children, but choose not to (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
The source of the problem, Mohler says, lies in the fact that people have adopted the mantra “Make love, not babies.” He goes on to say that this is the very worldview that Scripture inherently rejects when it comes to children. According to Scripture, marriage, sex, and children are all part and parcel of the package of marriage (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/). Rejecting this principle is akin to rejecting the very principle and purpose of the practice of marriage that God originally laid down (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
In the scope of biblical revelation, childlessness by choice is something that is not even addressed as a viable option, let alone an option. When it comes down to it, what childlessness by choice advocates promote is the wonderful benefits of sex, without the responsibility of parenthood (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
The crux of the issue when it comes to raising children that people must understand is that parenthood is not something that people do for simple recreation. Parenthood is the opportunity to introduce into the world the next generation of saints that will help guide this new generation (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/). In fact, one of the problems that some couples experience nowadays is lawsuits over childfree environments (e.g. apartments), and that financial benefits are far too great for those who choose to “breed” as opposed to those who do not (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
In the very use of that term lies the problem. Animals breed, humans procreate. This is all part of the dehumanization of mankind. When people are told they’re humans, that’s exactly what they get. Population control is sometimes no different that controlling the pet population.
The responsibilities of the church are to teach the young men to grow up to be strong husbands and fathers who love the Lord, and their young women to be godly wives and mothers. This is what makes the unit of the productive family so beautiful, and so terrifying. The family is a crucial platform where God’s glory is either magnified, or a cause of derision (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
Lastly, the various methods of contraceptives that have been developed of late make little of the sins of adultery and fornication because there are simple solutions to the conceived “problem” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/06/28/deliberate-childlessness-moral-rebellion-with-a-new-face-3/).
So what does Scripture say about couples who are childless by choice? Some passages of note will be looked at. Genesis 3:16 speaks of the fact that Eve will bring forth children despite the fact that it causes her great pain. Eve is a married woman and will bear children. Genesis 16, 25, 30, 1 Samuel 1, and Luke 1 all speak of women who are barren and that these women carry a feeling of God’s wrath upon them. In the whole of Scripture, barrenness is never seen as a positive thing. The only passage that might lend itself to a positive understanding of barrenness is Luke 23:49. However, this “positive” is attributed to the fact that the children of the mothers will be slaughtered in the Day of the Lord. You can’t mourn what you’ve never had.
Scripture often speaks of blessing being directly tied to prolonged generations. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were told that they would blessed. One of these blessings is children. One of the obvious passages of Scripture that advocates the bearing of children is the mandate of Genesis that commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth.
God repeats this command to the people who exited from Noah’s ark. Nowhere in Scripture is this command ever rescinded, or redacted. This command is ever present for mankind, namely those who are married. This command is only given to those who are married. That is important to note. This command does not come in direct contradiction with the writings of the apostle Paul when he declares that some people are blessed with a spiritual gift of celibacy.
Lastly, Malachi 2 presents possibly the strongest case possible in this regard. It speaks of the fact that God’s purpose for marriage was to bear godly children. Thus, the case can be made that the entire reason that God allowed humanity to be married was to procreate and bear children. Childlessness is not an option here.
To summarize, being single is not wrong, nor is being childless wrong. The point that this author is making is that childlessness by choice is a grievous error and one that completely distorts the purpose of marriage, and the understanding of the mandate of Genesis chapters 1 and 9 that was given to married people. Sex, marriage, and children go hand in hand. They are not disconnected. Scripture clearly indicates that childlessness is a bringer of sadness to the people it affects. Scripture is clear when it fails to mention any couple who is childless by choice. It was a concept that is foreign to the teaching of Scripture. Scripture is also crystal clear when it profusely states that children are an incredible blessing and a delight to their parents. In fact, the only time that children are not recommended in Scripture is in the same breath that marriage is not recommended by the apostle Paul with the context of the recommendation being for that of greater ministry, a situation that is indeed incredibly rare.
Arguments against having children
The common argument that people use in favor of childbearing is the argument that childfree by choice proponents are just inherently selfish in choosing not to have children. An article published by Time Magazine called “Childfree Adults are not ‘Selfish’”, by Carolina A. Miranda. She states that the idea that she and her husband choose not to have children because they are selfish is at best, reductive, and at it’s base incorrect (http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/01/no-regrets-why-i-dont-have-children/).
Miranda states that she has never been keen on having children, much like Laura in the example earlier in this paper. Her husband never felt the desire to ever hold a baby. She goes on to say that she and her husband’s career choices have made the prospects of having a child both highly inconvenient. She likens her distaste of bearing and raising children to choosing to not watch a baseball game or a television program (http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/01/no-regrets-why-i-dont-have-children/).
Miranda also shares that she has been greatly benefited by not having children because of the way she has been able to care for her family in her life. When her father became ill with brain cancer, she was able to care for him for eight weeks since she was not held down with children. Her husband was able to care for his mother as well for the same reasons (http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/01/no-regrets-why-i-dont-have-children/).
One of the strongest arguments against a mandate for bearing children is that it is better for people to remain childless rather than have children that they neither want nor will love. In fact, the point that childless by choice advocates want to make people understand is that they are not being selfish. They are taking every advantage of their childlessness to take care of those in their families who are especially needy, to see their nieces and nephews grow up, and to bring less of a worry into the lives of those around them. For childless by choice advocates, childlessness is not a matter of being selfish, it’s a matter of choosing to focus on love (http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/01/no-regrets-why-i-dont-have-children/).
Now a scriptural perspective will be addressed when it comes to childlessness by choice. As stated above, childlessness is something that is never looked upon positively in the context of Scripture. Childlessness by choice is something that is not even part of Scripture. It is safe to say that Scripture does not advocate a childlessness by choice position.
So what conclusions can be drawn from this? First, childlessness is an important issue both in and out of the church. It is an issue that church needs to know how to address. Second, childlessness in and of itself is not a sin issue. Married couples who are barren are not inherently evil. For reasons that only God knows, He has decided to withhold from these couples the incredible blessing of childbirth.
Third, childlessness because of medical reasons is not inherently evil. Though this situation is rare, it is important that these couples are not met with spiritual derision, but with prayer and love. Fourth, childlessness does not appear to be the normal function of human marriage as evidenced by all lack of scriptural evidence regarding a blessing for childlessness, or for those who have chosen to remain childless.
Fifth, Scripture does clearly point to the fact that children are an incredible gift from God, a blessing to those who bear them, and the product of marriage. Marriage is joined hand in hand with the command to married peoples to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. Sex and procreation are the highest gifts of marriage, and they are all part of the package of marriage. Marriage is effective in its greatest aspect when the family is productive.
Sixth, Scripture very clearly regards those who eagerly yearn to have children in their marriage by extolling on them accolades such as “faithful”. Sarah, Hannah, Isaac, Rebekah were all regarded as people of faith despite their inability to bear children. They continued to entreat the Lord, and He responded. The desire to have children is very key for those who are barren.
Lastly, and most importantly, while it does not clearly say in Scripture that childlessness by choice is morally wrong, one must seriously consider the purposes of marriage, the nature of the command to be fruitful, the understanding of barrenness in the Old Testament mindset, the understanding of fruitfulness in an Old Testament mindset, the purpose of marriage as intended by God, and the reasons why childlessness is chosen as the acceptable method by which marriage is lived out.
While it cannot be said dogmatically that childlessness by choice is wrong, the evidence of Scripture does seem to lend a strong case to support the need to desire children in marriage. If a couple is to proceed in their marriages intentionally childless, this author will say that they must do so with great fear and trembling as they search the pages of Scripture.