Question:

I have read several articles about Christian couples who choose not to have children. One article called it moral rebellion to willingly choose not to have children, while others of course say that God calls people to do other things that may not involve children. I know when God created man and woman, he created the family as well. Since I can remember I have never had any desire to be a father, but I do desire marriage. Am I going against Scripture? Thank you for your input!


Answer:

When someone states that not having children is a moral rebellion, which would be just another way of saying it is a sin, then difficulty is encountered when this rule is applied equally to all people. For instance, what about people who choose not to marry at all? Sex outside of marriage is a sin, so are they committing a moral rebellion by choosing not to marry? The answer is no. God gives people the right to choose whether to marry or not. "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it" (Matthew 19:12).

Then what about those couples who are unable to have children? Is their inability to have children a sin? What about couples who decide to limit the number of children that they have?

What we must actually address is whether humans are allowed by God to control the course of nature. God has placed man in charge of his creation (Genesis 1:26-28). We are expected to use it for our good and our pleasure. In fact, in many cases man is commanded not to let nature take its natural course. For example, the natural state of man is naked, but God requires us to oppose the natural order and wear artificial garments (Genesis 3:21). Notice that the wearing of clothing is not strictly utilitarian. We also wear clothing for our personal comfort and for a desired look (Genesis 24:22, Luke 15:22). We also live in furnished homes and cities. Trees and rocks do not naturally form themselves into dwellings. Yet, God has always approved the altering of nature to meet the needs and desires of man (Genesis 4:20; Matthew 2:23; Acts 21:8). Plants and animals grow naturally, but not in quantities sufficient to meet man's needs. Hence, man creates artificial farms, vineyards, and flocks which meet with God's approval (Genesis 4:2; 9:20; 47:3; Psalm 23; Matthew 13:3-8). The natural mode of transportation for man is walking, but God has approved the use of artificial transportation, such as animals and ships (Genesis 24:61; 45:19; 46:5; Acts 27)

Some, such as the Roman Catholic church, object to most forms of birth control. From their viewpoint, sex was given by God to reproduce, based upon the command, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Anything that interferes with the possibility of a child resulting from an act of sexual intercourse is considered to be going against the command of God to be fruitful and multiply.

The Catholics might have a point if the only purpose for sex is to produce children. However, sex serves a legitimate purpose separate from reproduction. Paul tells us that sex is an expression of marital affection and a means of controlling sexual desires (I Corinthians 7:2-9). It is expected that couples enjoy sex (Proverbs 5:18-19). In fact, we can see from these teachings that couples are permitted, expected, and even commanded to have sexual intercourse even if the conception of children is not desired or possible at the time of having sexual relations.

The use of contraceptives is simply another tool to control the course of nature for man's needs and enjoyment. There are times when having children would not be wise. For example, when a wife is having health problems, when a couple is older and a pregnancy might risk the woman's health or carry a high risk of producing a defective child, or when a couple is not financially able to support another child. Sexual intercourse is required in a marriage and avoiding sex simply to avoid having a child is not right. Like all authorized activities the control of the production of children can be misused. However, because some misuse a right does not imply that a practice is inherently wrong.

Another objection to the use of contraceptives goes as follows: Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5; 128:3-5; 113:9; Titus 2:4; I Timothy 5:10,14; 2:15). Preventing the conception of a child is working against God by preventing His blessing. It is true that man is commanded to be fruitful and multiply, but that doesn't imply that every couple is to have as many children as is possible. Every child given to a parent, whether planned or unplanned, should be loved and cared for, but nothing says a couple cannot limit the number of children that they will have.

God has blessed us with many things, but these blessings can and sometimes need to be limited. Wives are a blessing from God (Genesis 2:18-24; Proverbs 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-31), but men must limit themselves to only one wife. Food and drink are a blessing from God (Matthew 6:11, 25-32), but we cannot gorge ourselves. Sunshine and rain are blessings from God (Matthew 5:45), but we prefer limited amounts. Sex is a blessing from God, but it is limited to married couples (Genesis 2:18, 24; I Corinthians 7:2-5, Hebrews 13:4).

Another argument is that when a couple has children should be left in the hands of God. It is true that God directs our lives (Proverbs 16:9), but we are left to choose our mates, or even if we don't marry at all (I Corinthians 7:1,5, 8-9, 26-28). The decision to marry ultimately determines if a child is born since one must be married before engaging in sexual intercourse. Besides God approves of man planning for his future (Acts 19:21; 20:3, 16; Romans 1:13; II Corinthians 9:7). When we plan, we should take care that our plans are in harmony with God's will (Proverbs 16:9). We should always be aware that some things are simply out of our control (James 4:13-15). Yet, this does not mean we do not plan for the things God has left in our control.

Finally, some point to the sin of Onan, recorded in Genesis 38:6-10, as proof that God is against contraceptives. It is true that Onan used a natural method to prevent conception. He withdrew before releasing sperm. However, it was not the method he chose that was his sin. Onan's sin was attempting to keep Er from having an heir so Onan would be able to inherit a greater portion of his father's wealth. The withdrawal was simply the method Onan employed to accomplish this sin of greed. The withdrawal was not, in itself, Onan's sin.

There is nothing scripturally wrong with a couple deciding to limit the number of children they have, even if they decide to have no children at all. However, that decision should be made as a couple and if at all possible before marriage. It would be unfair to one spouse to enter into a marriage, expecting to have children only to learn later that the other spouse does not want children.