Bearing Babies for God

I was struck by a recent article in the conservative evangelical magazine Boundless. It was called Why Have Babies? What struck me were the reasons the author gave, and must how much these reasons undergird so much of what I saw growing up in a Christian homeschool family.

Good Reasons to Have Babies

The world says babies are expensive, that they diminish your happiness, and that they limit your spontaneity. They are, they do, and they will — just like a whole host of other things (some worthwhile and some not) that you’ll say yes to in your lifetime. Those negatives are not the whole story. And they’re not reason enough to delay starting your family. Babies are wealth. They increase your joy, and any challenges they may bring are God’s means for your sanctification.

Babies are God’s blessing. God’s first words to His newly created man and woman were a blessing but also a command, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Children are a reward from God. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). The blessings God promised His chosen people in the Old Testament when they entered the land always included the fruit of the womb: babies (Deuteronomy 7:12-14).

Babies are part of God’s good design. The only thing that was not good at creation was man being alone (Genesis 2:18). We were designed for community, fellowship and family. Sex and babies were part of the created order, and the procreative process was in place before sin entered the world. Having babies is part of the normal order of creation. Why?

God wants the earth to be full of people. Isaiah 45:18 says, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.'” And how will all these babies come to know God and worship Him?

Married couples are called to make babies — disciples of Jesus Christ. All Christians are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), that is, spiritual children. But Christians who are married have the added calling — where God enables them — to make physical offspring (Malachi 2:15). Couples are called to be fruitful and faithful to raise children in the fear and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), to the praise of His great glory. And where will that glory be fully realized?

Heaven will be full of worshipers. Only people are made in God’s image. Every baby born is an eternal being made in God’s image, with the potential to praise Him. We know that one day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Babies born and given hope through Christ are those people who will one day enter heaven. Where there will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10).

In other words, Christians should have babies because: (1) children are a reward God gives to people; (2) God designed procreation; (3) God wants there to be even more people in the world; (4) by having babies Christian parents can create Christians rather than converting them; and (5) God wants lots of people to tell him how great he is. I’m sensing a theme here.

Interestingly, the author starts by suggesting that having children will indeed diminish your happiness. But she asserts that you’re supposed to have children because God said so, not necessarily because you want them or because they will make you happy. She does say  that children will bring you “joy,” but in evangelical circles “joy” often serves as a code word–it’s the thing Christians are always supposed to feel even if they aren’t happy. The basic idea here is very much a theme in evangelical Christianity—God does not call you to be happy, he calls you to obey him. Your happiness matters less than whether you follow what God lays out in his word (as interpreted by various church leaders, of course).

Why have babies? This question seems to be an important one in a generation where delaying childbearing or eschewing it altogether is increasingly common. But answering the question with “because God said so” rather than actually exploring what’s causing today’s young adults to put off childbearing strikes me as backwards.

The reasons this author gives for having children have nothing to do with how having children will benefit you—instead, they are all about how having children will benefit God. The thing is, I want every child to grow up in a family where she is wanted and welcomed for her own sake, not simply because God said so. There are plenty of articles out there expounding the benefits of having children in an attempt to convince the unconvinced, but unlike this one they usually focus on the way children will enrich your life, not on the idea that you should be having children for, well, God.

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