USA Today reported recently on Daniel and Karlee Flores of Salem, Oregon. They’re both 27, and they married shortly after college graduation, assuming they would become young parents. But they never felt financially stable enough to start a family, and now they’re not sure they’ll ever want to have children. As Karlee puts it, “We don’t see it penciling out.” It’s not difficult to find other couples like the Floreses. We all know married people who say they’re not ready for kids or that they never want kids. Some think they can’t afford kids. Others believe children would put a damper on their careers. Others worry about the loss of freedom, think they’re not mature enough, or say they simply don’t like kids.
Yet when a married couple thinks children would be more of a curse than a blessing in their circumstances, they in effect question God’s truthfulness in declaring children a gift. God promises to supply all our needs according to “his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19) if we will follow His plan for marriage and family—even when we feel like we’re not ready or can’t afford it.
It almost goes without saying that the option for married couples not to have children is a modern phenomenon. For millennia, it was a given that getting married meant having children. With the advent of birth control, much has changed.
Fortunately though, the Bible gives much guidance on the matter of childbearing.
First, it makes clear that the norm for married couples is to have children. When God created Adam and Eve, the first command He gave humankind was, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), a command He repeated to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1). To encourage obedience to the command, God promised that children would be a blessing. As Psalm 127:3 puts it, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Indeed, when Eve bore Cain, she rejoiced, hopeful that God would use the child to reverse the effects of sin (Genesis 4:1; cf. Genesis 3:15). And a much-discussed New Testament passage declares that women “will be saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15). Though scholars debate the precise meaning of this verse, it is clear that God is promising blessing through the bearing of children.
Of course, the command to be fruitful and multiply does not imply that every married couple must have as many children as biologically possible. Even in the Bible, godly saints didn’t do that, as for example when Christian husbands went to war or on protracted missionary journeys. And there are times when a couple is unable medically to produce children. In such cases, they bear no fault. Hannah, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Rebekah are examples of women who followed the Lord but faced infertility. Still, children are the norm.
In fact, when God granted children to the formerly infertile in Scripture, their reaction was celebration at the joy of bringing a new life into the world. Upon giving birth to Isaac, Sarah, who formerly laughed with scorn at the thought of having a child, smiled with joy (Genesis 21:6-7). Elizabeth and Hannah also praised the Lord when they had children (Luke 1:25; 1 Samuel 2:1-10).
Yes, sometimes having children does mean stepping into uncertainty, but the essence of biblical faith is taking God at His Word when we can’t see how it’s going to work out. So if you’re a married Christian who’s putting off children, the Bible urges you to give parenthood a try. When you look into the face of your new baby boy or girl, don’t be surprised if your reservations vanish and you find yourself saying with Hannah, “My heart exults in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1).