Is Intentional Childlessness Biblical?
Jim DalyCrosswalk blog for Jim Daly of Focus on the Family
- 2013 Aug 19
Time magazine’s provocative cover story last week, “The Childfree Life,” explores why some couples are choosing to deliberately not have children and taps into a larger, worldwide trend towards smaller families.
A good portion of the piece is rooted in cultural observation and fact.
Not surprisingly, some of the causes are found in modern life. Young couples are marrying later, if at all, and instead of having children, they’re increasingly choosing to pursue college and advanced degrees and becoming more active in the work force. Studies show they want to achieve financial stability before starting their families. But their pursuit of financial security can come with unintended consequences. A woman is most fertile in her 20s and early 30s and so many couples simply run out of time to have as many kids as they would have wanted, or to have any at all.
But could there be another reason why families are becoming smaller and an increasing number of couples are remaining childless?
The reasons cited by the women featured in the Time article were mostly individualistic in nature. Some of the women said they never felt that maternal instinct kick in. Others articulated a desire to maintain the level of freedom and financial success they were enjoying – the “indulgent life” as one of the women put it.
Yet – and I think most parents will agree – joy is measured in infinitely different ways for moms and dads.
And while this particular article focuses primarily on women deciding to remain “child free” – the preferred term, as one woman argued that “childless” makes it seem like they lack something – in many cases there are husbands who don't want children, too.
To these couples, there is a sense of futility in putting in the investment needed to have and raise kids. They tend to see childrearing only in practical terms, like a business proposition – and the bottom line conclusion they reach is the whole endeavor is too much work for too little gain.
At this point, let me just offer a disclaimer. There are those who may be reading today who, for whatever reason, can’t have children. This post isn’t for you. The pain of infertility or prolonged but undesired singleness is not rare. If you’re grappling with these issues, I want you to know that you are not “less than.” Your heart is for children, and for family. Your quest and desire for children speaks to their value and worth.
The fact remains that the decoupling of sex from children and children from marriage is not a new development. However, its acceptance is on the rise, and sadly, even among Christians. And as a result, this growing attitude has given couples something the Bible doesn’t even envision. Allow me to borrow from a piece Al Mohler wrote some time ago:
Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation. To the contrary, we are commanded to receive children with joy as God’s gifts, and to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to find many of our deepest joys and satisfactions in the raising of children within the context of the family. Those who reject children want to have the joys of sex and marital companionship without the responsibilities of parenthood. They rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come.
These are serious words Christian couples would be wise to consider.
To those of you who have children, I want to leave you with the words of a woman – a mom – who wrote about the calling of motherhood. Her words can be extended to fathers as well.
Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.
Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.
How true her words are.
Note: Adoption is a wonderful option for growing a family, and I know many couples who have prayerfully pursued it, and with wonderful outcomes. Focus on the Family's Wait No More program is a terrific resource for couples interested in finding out about the topic.
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