Childless by choice – round two.
I had not planned to do another post on this, but with 60 plus comments, it seems it is an issue that merits a bit more discussion. I intentionally worded my first post to put out a variety of thoughts, not all of which I agree with, in order to spark some discussion – seems I succeeded.
First, I am not in any way motivated by or talking about the political issue of “population control” – which is too often steeped in racism, hatred of the poor, or some other unbiblical thinking. My motivation here is to examine whether or not childless by choice might be a valid calling God has on the lives of some couples. I agree it would not be the norm, but then neither is not marrying.
As I examined my feelings that choosing not to have children might be wrong, what I found were emotions, fears, prejudice, tradition, and the urge to conform to what is accepted by the majority. What I did not find was a good solid biblical reason for what I felt. There have been some good comments left, but in those I did not see what I felt was a theologically solid argument that God would never call someone to choose not to have children. I don’t see anything in the Bible saying it is wrong, but then again I would not expect to see something as the option did not really exist when the Bible was written. So we are left to look at what the Bible does say and try to find the truth. The difficult thing is trying to do this without being skewed by traditions which may or may not be biblical.
I agree having children is important to God. I also see marriage as important to God, and yet He calls some to choose not to marry. God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” [Genesis 2:24 ESV] and Jesus repeated it (Matthew 19:5 Mark 10:7). Using the same logic used by some saying verses about being fruitful and multiplying mean it would be wrong to not have children, we could use the “leave and cleave” verses to build an argument it is wrong for a man to not marry. However, we have clear biblical proof such an argument would be wrong – God made a few differently. God making a few differently does not mean He is inconsistent or has contradicted Himself. An exception to the general is just that – an exception. In the same way God made a few to not marry, might He not have made a few to marry but not have children? Some would argue God could do this by making the couple infertile. However, celibacy is not about being unable to marry, or more to the point unable to have sex – it’s about being able but choosing not to. I think the choice, the sacrifice, the willingness to be different, is a vital part of what God designed for those called to be celibate. I would expect the same for married and childless as a calling – it would mean being able to have children, but choosing not to do so. It would mean a sacrifice; it would mean being different, and all the pressure that comes with being different. It would be far more about doing what God called you to than not having children because you don’t feel like being a parent.
I see some of examples of folks who are childless by choice who seem to be doing it for reasons of ministry:
- Some mentioned adopting, even though they could have children of their own. I can certainly see God calling someone to this. Choosing to care for those abandoned by others rather than having children “of their own” would seem to rule out the whole “selfish” accusation. I know couples who have adopted; it’s the harder, and more expensive way of having children!
- I know a couple that chose to be childless because they were ministering to subset of society with sexual issues, drug use, and other destructive behaviour. No sane person would expose children to the things they dealt with daily. They felt God had called them to minister to this culture – and the results certainly prove to me He did. They felt they could not do that ministry if they chose to have children. I know they both have felt some pain from their choice, but they still feel they did what God called them to do. They have done a work no single person could have done, and no parent with small children should have done.
So, I conclude God can and does call a few to choose to be childless. My guess is most who make this choice have not, in fact, heard God’s will for their lives. By the same token, there are probably some called to be childless who bowed to pressure (and maybe their own desire to have children) and did not follow the childless path God would have had them choose.
If someone who trusted me to speak into their life told me they felt called not to have children, I would encourage them to pray about it a great deal. If I felt they had missed God, I would say so. However, without a close relationship with someone I cannot know what God wants for him or her, and even if I felt I did I would not have the place to speak to them.
A few things to help understand where I’m coming from:
- I believe God gives us a great deal of free will. That means I don’t think He often goes around our choices – things like causing a condom to fail so we have a child we did not plan. Of course, He is sovereign, and He can and no doubt does do this, but I think it’s rare. I also think we can give Him permission to override our will so His will may be done. When we do that, we are far more likely to see Him giving us what He wants in spite of our choices.
- I do not believe there is any biblical reason to say contraception is wrong, so long as it does not kill a fertilised egg. I know others feel very differently. This is another issue for another time.
- I once considered not having “children of my own”. I married a woman with a child, and there was a lot of mess in our lives. Putting off having children for several years was, in my view, the right thing to do. My bride was concerned I would someday regret not having a child I had fathered. I prayed and examined myself a great deal, and felt I’d be okay. Certainly, I’d have always wondered, but I felt it would not be a big problem for me. We even talked of me getting a vasectomy, but we were not sure it was what God wanted, so we didn’t do it. As we both got healing, and things got better, having a child became a reasonable thing. I am deeply grateful we have the now 21-year-old son we have. I believe we heard God and followed Him in our timing by waiting.
A couple other notes, from reading the comments:
Several mentioned the passages that tell certain people to be fruitful and multiply – either with or without the added instructions to fill the earth. Is this a command to all, or to certain groups? If it’s to all, when is it fulfilled? How do we define “filled”. Even if you think we have not reached full, there has to be a point at which the earth is full. A thought on being fruitful – trees can be so fruitful they damage or destroy themselves. The ability not to have children when it could cost the mother her life is, to me, a good thing. I doubt it’s ever God’s will for a mother of several young children to die trying to birth another – and yet it happens.
A note on barrenness being a curse – this was a strong cultural issue for a variety of reasons. Children were an important source of labour in an agrarian society, and boys in particular were important in a society often at war. Even more than that, children took care of you when you were old. Finally, every Jewish woman hoped to be the mother of the saviour God had promised, and not having children would have been seen as not caring about the coming saviour. This may or may not explain all the Bible says about the curse of being barren, but it is a part of the picture.
[The original post was Child free by choice?]