Amy writes in to ask, “Pastor John, why should I even consider having kids of my own when there are so many children in need of loving homes now?”
Let me set up an understanding of Scripture that makes that question valid even though Genesis 1:28 says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” because there is a structure of biblical thought that I have to put in place before I can try to answer this. A person might say, “Well, doesn’t that just settle it? Be fruitful. That means have babies. Multiply and fill the earth, so do it. Don’t just adopt, do that.”
Bearing Children in a Fallen World
Well, it is not that simple. The way I get at it is by comparing the question with marriage, because Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So marriage is normative. You might even say it’s commanded in the creation order. And yet Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:7–8 says, “I wish that all were [single] as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” And so he explains that the reason he is commending singleness is because in this fallen world and in this urgent hour, there is greater difficulty in serving the Lord fully without any distraction when you are married than when you are single. So he wants to see some people single so that they can be more fully devoted without having to take thought for what a wife or a husband might need. And yet he says, You do not sin if you marry (see 1 Corinthians 7:28).
Now I am going to take that same principle and apply it to children. If you can say to God’s good marriage ordinance that the redemptive order after the fall may call for a relativizing of the created order before the fall, maybe — I think the answer is yes — the redemptive order of having children after the fall may relativize the created order of be fruitful and multiply before the fall. I have counseled a lot of people who have asked me, “Should we even have children?” Usually they weren’t putting this in the context of adoption like this question does. And they ask, “Can we choose not to have children?” And I never say yes. I say what I am saying now.
“The modern resistance to having children as though they get in the way and are a pain in the neck is a sign of cultural corruption and selfishness.”
Children are a blessing from the Lord (see Psalm 127). That is plain in the Bible. And the modern resistance to having children as though they get in the way and are a pain in the neck is a sign of cultural corruption and selfishness. And so if that is your motive for not having kids, no, you are not obeying Jesus. If you are viewing children as that kind of pain in the rear end, and you want to go on and do your thing without the encumbrance of having to care for kids, then you have an attitude that isn’t biblical. I would never commend childlessness the way the world commends childlessness.
But there may be kingdom reasons for not having children. And I don’t think those reasons can be elevated to normative or absolute. So we shouldn’t require that of anyone, just the same way I don’t elevate the creation order to absoluteness, like, You must have children.
Love the Orphan
So how does a couple decide, especially in view of the number of orphans in the world who need a home? Beware of making artificial judgments here. Look, the reason most people don’t adopt is not that they want children of their own. The vast majority of adoptive parents have children biologically — children that they have gotten through their own union. That is what I mean when I say children of their own. You have to be so careful, because our adopted children are children of our own.
The question boils down to whether the natural, good desire for the joy of reproduction — having children from your own union — is permissible and good if it keeps you from adopting a child practically. I would say, first, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. I mean, I have never met anybody who hasn’t adopted because they have had children of their own. But the second thing I would say is that it is permissible and good for us to eat food even though others need food more. We wear clothes that others need more. We pursue education when others have less. We are housed in apartments or in houses when others have less.
Now, how is that right? How is it justifiable? It’s a huge question. But the answer seems to be that our having is usually not the reason others don’t have. It is not a zero-sum game in this world of resources. Therefore, love is usually not our going without, but rather our giving effort and time and money and things and ourselves to help others have access to what we want for ourselves. That is what neighbor love means: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 7:12; 22:39). Work for their access to what you want access to.
Called to Give
There is no doubt in my mind that this will simplify our lifestyles and make a wartime way of life for us. But in and of itself, simplifying or going without does not do anyone any good unless you have a strategy to help them get access to what you want to have for yourself. So now when I come to apply that to children, it seems to me that the call on our lives is not mainly not to give birth, since the Bible portrays that as a great blessing and a legitimate joy.
The call on our lives is to give ourselves in the ways that we can to provide for orphans. That may be adoption, and I pray that it would be more and more. And it may mean fewer biological children, not often, I would guess, but it might. But it will always mean praying and acting toward as many ways as we can of investing our lives in the cause of the orphan along with all the other needs in the world.