In The Family Life of a Christian Leader, Ajith Fernando says, “The challenges of parenting are immense. As parents struggle, especially in the early years of a child’s life, their burdens may be so heavy that they can forget what great work parenting is. They should try to remember that the Bible views parenting as a noble calling. After all, most great victories are won by paying a big price.”
Fernando is correct to say that parenting is costly. The problem is that fewer Indian Christian couples, especially in urban cities, want to have children. This is exactly because it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and costly. In their view, children have become unwelcome. They are an interruption, not a priority.
However, Jesus’s approach to children demands us to reconsider. In Matthew 19:14 he says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Should Christians who can have children, deliberately choose not to have them? Here are three common reasons couples choose not to have children and why the Bible wants us to think differently.
Reason #1: Having Children is Costly
Couples do not want to have children because raising children is expensive. Parenting requires time, money, and energy. From inception to delivery to the first five years, a parent’s time revolves around the child. Pregnancy, infancy, and education in urban cities are not cheap.
Most parents want to give the best to their children. But this can be heavy on the wallet. As they say in Hindi, Aamdani Atthanni Kharcha Rupaiya (income is 50 paise, but expenses are 1 rupee). Along with time and money, couples still need the energy to maintain their current responsibilities while investing in this new life. Having children is a costly affair.
Reason #2: Having Children is Frightening
Firstly, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is actually controlling why people do not want to have children. They simply think it will hurt their career goals, travel plans, pursuits of pleasure, and independence. This ideal is nicknamed DINK, “dual income, no kids.”
Secondly, the fear of inadequacy affects the desire to become a parent. Couples fear whether they will meet the perceived ideal standard of parenting. Couples often do not feel prepared for parenthood. Or they want to feel in control and raise children without making any mistakes.
Thirdly, the fear of repeating history. Some adults may have had a poor experience in their childhood. Perhaps they experienced past trauma or abuse, so having children frightens them. Added to all this, there is the fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and unmet expectations.
Reason #3: Bringing Children Into This World is Not Right
The world is a decaying place. It is under the power of sin, along with a rising population, depleting resources, and coping with many post-pandemic complications. It is no place to raise our beloved children.
In 2019, an anti-natalist, Raphael Samuel wanted to take his parents to court for giving birth to him without his consent. Indians like him are part of a growing tribe of “child-free” proponents. They call themselves the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM) and do not believe it is morally right to have children.
Others may simply believe adoption should be the only option. While adoption is a noble cause, as well as a Christian doctrine, some couples just do not want to “fill the world with children.” In being childless, they believe they are healing the world.
In my experience, couples who can have children but do not want them are generally privileged and sophisticated urbanites. It is not a problem for the have-nots but for those who have plenty.
The ones with the most tend to complain the most about the cost, the inconvenience, and ill-preparedness. They do not see children as God’s design, desire, and delight. They want to have total control and provide everything, but they forget it is God who gives, sustains, and treasures life.
But God wants us to think differently.
Children Are a Heritage From the Lord
At first glance, these reasons sound convincing. The cost, the fear, and the despairing state of the world may discourage couples from having children. However, Christians must learn to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Christ teaches us to welcome children (Matt. 19:14). He assumes marriage and children are from God. It is the Lord who wills and gives children. As the Psalmist says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Ps. 127:3).
God created Adam and Eve and gifted them with marriage. He commanded our first parents to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). This command was not limited to Adam and Eve. It is reaffirmed to Noah, after the flood (Gen. 9:6-7).
The Bible assumes children to be a natural part and parcel of marriage (Eph. 6:1-4). Sadly, some may not be able to follow this natural process because of infertility and threat to life. However, it does not nullify what God has called married couples to do.
God Values, Protects, and Preserves Life
The whole Bible demonstrates that God loves life and treasures children.
David recognises God’s deliberate design when he says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). But God’s delight in life is not simply because he designed it. He miraculously intervenes to bless barren wombs of married women, like Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth.
God also understands the cost, inconvenience, and pain of caring for his children. At the cross, God demonstrated his willingness to pay the highest price by sending his Son to be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. Yet, it was his love and gracious will to send his Son so that through him we might become the children of God (John 1:12-13).
Children are God’s design, desire, and delight. Couples who can have children ought to prayerfully and thankfully receive this gift. Those who are unable to have children or want more children can and should explore adoption. But, God simply does not encourage us to quench the desire to have children. This choice betrays God’s design, desire, and delight.
Not only is God for children, but he also promises his love, care, and providence for them. As the apostle Paul says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)
God is Our Perfect Father Who Sustains Us
There are truly many legitimate fears and uncertainties about parenting. We must be wise and prepared. But nothing in this world can be absolute or prepare us fully. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us this lesson. Money, jobs, health, and circumstances can change at any time.
Only God is constant and in sovereign control. If God willed you to have children, he is more than capable of helping you to parent in his ways. He is the only perfect parent and he will provide his children with what is good.
As Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11)
God delights in his children depending on him for everything. He is not expecting us to be perfect parents but to point our children to their perfect heavenly Father.