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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God Requires Christian Couples to Have Children

john piper

It is normal, beautiful, fitting, natural, and normative, according to Scripture, both explicitly and — I would say — implicitly in many places, for a married couple to have children. This was God’s plan from the moment of creation; it was part of what was “very good.” “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”

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This is the whole drift of God’s word: children are a gift; children are a blessing. When they are withheld, it is a heartache — sometimes even a judgment.

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What a sadness when many modern women, shortsightedly I think, choose to forgo that blessing, while millions would literally give their right arm to have it. That’s observation number one: it’s just the way Scripture leans.

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Of course, we don’t know whether we will have a disabled child or not, who changes our lives forever. Of course, we don’t know whether a child will break our heart with unbelief. Of course, we don’t know if our child will live six hours and then die. And of course, we do know that our children will demand enormous, focused attention. We do know that to raise a child in the Lord demands spiritual desperation and prayer and focus and attention. We do know that there will be financial demands from our lifelong commitment to this child. We do know that there will be thousands of hours that you must deny yourself an immediate felt need in order to do good to this child.

But from the standpoint of God’s word, none of those possible heartaches and none of these guaranteed stresses are reasons not to have children, because the Bible does not share the modern viewpoint that the aim of life is the avoidance of hardship. On the contrary, the assumption of the Bible is that through many tribulations we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22), and that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3), and that there’s joy to be found through giving ourselves away. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

In other words, almost all the arguments for not having children are built on a worldview radically different from the Bible’s worldview.

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There’s another problem with presuming to think that we can do more good by not having children — like, for climate change. The problem is: we simply do not know whether our child will be a debit or a credit to the human race — a curse or a blessing, a taker or a giver. We don’t know. He may be a freeloader with a big carbon footprint, or he may be the genius who invents the very means of saving millions of lives. Who do we think we are? My goodness, who do we think we are to predict that our children will be a loss rather than a gain for the world, and for the glory of Christ, whom we can believe and pray to?

We don’t know, and it’s not our business to know. Our business is to give them life and raise them up and do what we can to build into them every dream and every possibility and power and blessing for the world — and for the glorifying of God.

And my final observation is that not one couple in a thousand decides to have children by sitting down and calculating the effect of their child on global warming, or the replacement rate for the population so that thirty years from now the workforce will be big enough to sustain the aged, or whether we will certainly have enough resources to establish the child in a fruitful location. It just doesn’t happen that way — not for 99 percent of couples. And I’m suggesting it shouldn’t happen that way; we’re not smart enough for it to happen that way, and the Bible doesn’t encourage us to have children with that mindset.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Are Christian Couples Required to Have Kids? August 3, 2020

7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    michaelbsmithjr

    Here is a classic misapplication of scripture. There were only two times in scripture where the Bible said be fruitful and multiply. One at the beginning of the world and the other after the flood. I am well aware of my audience here…I’m just pointing out John Piper’s flaw here.

    • Avatar
      clubschadenfreude

      Paul insists the only way women can be saved in by childbirth

      “3 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

      seems that this requires Christians to have children.

      As for “misapplication of scripture”, Christians all claim this and can’t even agree with each other on how scripture should be read or applied. No reason to think that you have the one right answer.

  2. Avatar
    dale m

    Michaelbsmithjr …… U R quite correct on that one. It also happened a 3rd time when a calamity during the Ice Ages nearly took down the last human. Those times, it would require our absolute loyalty to the survival of our species to be fruitful and multiply. But, we would not have to be cajoled into it, would we?? Those were desperate times to be sure. We had no choice. Now it’s overpopulation. In China, the government is tearing out its hair to get people to have at least 2 children. None of the young wants to live like their parents. They all want fashion clothes, nice cars, nice suites, good food. The CCP notes that if they don’t do something very radical soon, China will lose 200 million working young within 9 years. Her population has levelled out at 1.4 billion. That said, Elon Musk might just throw the biggest monkey wrench of all time into this dynamic. If SpaceX succeeds in developing new worlds out there, 8 billion people may not B enough. Damned if U do. Damned if U don’t.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Michael, thank you for pointing that out. And Dale, you make a really good point: People were encouraged to “be fruitful and multiply” when the survival of the human race was in question. That certainly isn’t the case today: Save for some indigenous cultures whose numbers have been decimated, the fate of the human race does not hinge on whether or not you or I or anyone we know chooses to have children.

    One thing I learned during the time I worked with children is that if a child is not loved or wanted, he or she knows, and is scarred by it. Why do we have more stringent standards for getting an American Express card than for becoming a parent?

  4. Avatar
    Neil

    Which is to overlook Jesus’ negative views of marriage (and so child-production). For example, Luke 20.34-35:

    Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age [i.e. that of the Kingdom] and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 

    He also advocates being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. Hardly a ringing endorsement of marriage and making babies. Still, when it doesn’t suit their purposes, Christians can always ignore the words of their Lord and Savior.

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    So many children born didn’t survive, so from a species survival standpoint it makes sense that people were encouraged to give birth to many children. Even in the early 20th century, one of my great-grandmothers gave birth to 11 children yet 7 survived to adulthood. Things are better now in most nations due to better healthcare (but the US ranks pretty low compared to its peers for maternal and infant survival rates).

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