In this week’s episode, I’m tackling another question sent in by a listener: Is having babies a waste of time? Should Christian couples skip having kids to focus on sharing the gospel?
That’s certainly not a question I hear every day, but it’s one that definitely deserves some discussion and some deep digging into God’s Word.
You can read my listener’s original message and my response to it below this week’s show notes. (Scroll down)
- “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127:3-5
- “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
- “Now people were even bringing their babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. And when the disciples saw this, they rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus called the children to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Luke 18:15-16
- “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” – Deuteronomy 11:18-19
- ““Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” – Mark 10:15
- “So God created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.’” Genesis 1:27-28
- “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’” – Genesis 9:1
- “This is what the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles who were carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease.'” – Jeremiah 29:4-6
- “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
- “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:21
- “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6
- “Then Jesus declared, ‘i am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'” – John 6:35
- “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
- “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
- “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10
- “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9
- “But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you.’ Nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.'” – 1 Corinthians 12:18-21
Question: Should we skip having kids to further the gospel?
My husband and I would like to have many kids, but I’ve heard something along the lines of “you shouldn’t spend your time raising kids but should spend your time evangelizing and building the church instead.” They say the creation mandate applies to fulfilling the Great Commission not having children.
My husband and I do try to show Christ wherever we are and my husband is known for his Christian influence at work. I was just wondering how you think through this.
I know the Bible says many great things about having children, but I also don’t want to be wasting my time if that ideology is indeed true. Thank you!
Answer: Let’s see what the Bible says
It’s obvious this listener and her husband want to do the right thing and use their time wisely, but they aren’t sure how to proceed.
Have you ever felt that tension? Like you only have a finite amount of time on the earth, and you want to be as wise as you can in the way that you spend it?
If you’re a believer, you probably want to use it in a way that honors God. But what is that kind of intentional, wise stewardship supposed to look like?
Does it require us to forgo having children for the sake of the gospel? Isn’t raising kids “a waste of time” when there’s a whole world of people out there who need Christ?
My first thought when I read this letter was, isn’t that just like the devil? To throw shade and cause us to question something God has so clearly shown in Scripture to be good and desirable, and then to sow seeds of doubt and confusion in its place?
That’s been his modus operandi from the beginning, and he’s still using it today BECAUSE IT’S SO EFFECTIVE!
I saw a meme on Instagram this week that contrasted the words of Christ with the words of Satan:
- Jesus says: “God has said…”
- Satan says: “Has God said?”
It’s important that we recognize the difference.
So, I want to take this letter point-by-point and examine what God’s Word has to say about all these questions that are presently bouncing around inside this listener’s head — especially since, now that I’ve reprinted it here, some of those same questions may also be bouncing around inside your head, as well. ☺︎
Basically, there are 5 Biblical truths I’d like to acknowledge in
1. The Bible calls children a blessing from God
This listener writes, “My husband and I would like to have many kids….”
First of all, can we pause long enough to recognize what a rare statement this is? Not every couple can honestly say that having many children is something they desire.
Second, it is entirely reasonable that Bible-believing couples should want children. Scripture depicts children as a blessing from the Lord, so desiring children means desiring God’s blessing. That makes total sense.
My advice on this matter? Don’t be quick to discount or second guess your heart’s desire when it is so clearly aligned with God’s Word.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse can be taken two ways: When I delight myself in the LORD, He will grant the desires that are in my heart. Or when I delight myself in Him, He will place within my heart the desires He wants to reside there.
I think both are true. When we take delight in Him, He first transforms our desires to bring them into alignment with His own (not my will, but Thine be done) and He then fulfill those desires by giving us exactly what we’ve begun longing for as a result of spending time with Him.
So it is entirely possible that God is the One impressing on this couple’s heart the desire to have many children, and they should not be made to feel guilty for wanting that.
2. Having children opens new doors to evangelism
My lister continues: “I’ve heard something along the line of ‘you shouldn’t spend your time raising kids but should spend your time evangelizing and building the church instead.'”
This sounds super spiritual, but it reminds me a little of the disciples turning parents away when they tried to bring their children to Jesus, because they mistakenly thought Christ had more important things to do than interact with a bunch of kids.
Do you remember what Jesus did when he heard what the disciples were up to? He set them straight in a hurry:
We’ve got to recognize the fact that raising children and making disciples are NOT mutually exclusive activities. You don’t have to choose between having babies and building the church.
You can do both at once! You’d be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity for making disciples than the teaching-as-you-sit-and-walk-and-lie-down-and-rise-up responsibility that God has uniquely entrusted to parents. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
Furthermore, Jesus Himself observed, ““Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:15) So the idea that time spent with children is time lost to kingdom-building clearly didn’t come from Christ.
3. Being fruitful and making disciples are not mutually exclusive
Here my listener’s letter gets a little technical. She writes, “[Some people] say the Creation Mandate applies to fulfilling the Great Commission, not to having children.”
What do all those words even mean?
Taking them in order, the “Creation Mandate” – which is sometimes called the “Cultural Mandate” or the “Dominion Mandate” – is found in the very first chapter of the Old Testament, where God is speaking to Adam and Eve:
God repeats this mandate after the flood, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1)
Interestingly, this was still God’s message to His people, even during the Babylonian captivity:
Jeremiah 29:4-6 reads, “This is what the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles who were carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease.'"
In fact, it’s important to note that nowhere in Scripture do we see God rescind the instructions found in the Creation Mandate to be fruitful and multiply.
The Great Commission, on the other hand, is given in the first book of the New Testament, where Jesus is speaking to his disciples:
I guess the question we need to ask is, are these two mandates – The Creation Mandate and the Great Commission – at all related? I believe a good argument can be made that they are.
So clearly there are a lot of parallels between the two. But I see no indication that Jesus meant for us to completely set aside the Creation Mandate when He gave us the Great Commission, any more than He meant for us to completely give up eating physical food when He called us to partake of the Bread of Life.
When Jesus declared in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” He was not commanding us to stop filling our bellies , but was emphasizing the fact that physical food alone will never satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.
Likewise, when He commands us to make disciples, He’s not abolishing the old mandate, but rather expanding it. Whereas the original command was concerned with physical goals: having babies, planting gardens, eating the produce, the new command adds spiritual goals on top of the other: living out the gospel, making disciples, shepherding souls.
4. We should be sharing the gospel wherever we go
My listener admits, “My husband and I do try to show Christ wherever we are, and my husband is known for his Christian influence at work.”
This is exactly as it should be. We should be sharing Jesus wherever we go, beginning in our own home and spreading out from there. Jesus made this abundantly clear in the book of Acts:
See how Christ told them to start where they were (in Jerusalem), then spread out from there? Even the word translated go in Matthew 28:19 literally means having gone: “Therefore, having gone, disciple all the nations….”
It assumes God has already put you somewhere, and that particular somewhere is where He intends for you to start. So be faithful in sharing the gospel there, until He moves you somewhere else.
Moreover, you can reach people in your sphere that I will never even meet in mine, and vice versa. This is a concept my husband tried (unsuccessfully) to explain his father when he expressed disappointment that Doug chose a career in medicine rather than following in Dad’s footsteps to become a preacher.
Nevermind the fact Doug deals with patients every day who might never darken the doorway of a church, but guess what? When they’re sick and scared and uncertain of their own prognosis, they’re often much more receptive to the gospel and bolder about asking my husband to pray over them before taking them back to the operating room.
In the same way, we are friends with a local lawmaker who regularly rubs elbows with folks in Austin that will probably never cross our path, but he is so intentional about sharing Christ at every opportunity. In the 20 years we’ve known him, I’ve heard him speak at weddings and graduations and rallies and conventions and community events, and it doesn’t matter where we are or what his role — whether he’s the keynote speaker or introducing other speakers or making announcements or leading a prayer — I have never once heard that man speak without sharing the gospel in the process:
No matter how brief his remarks, at some point he manages to weave in the fact that we’ve all sinned, every one of us, and that the penalty for sin is death. But Jesus lived a perfect life and died in our place, so that if we will repent of our sins, confess Jesus as Lord, and believe that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved to live with Him eternally in heaven.
The word “gospel” literally means “good news,” and that, my friend, is the good news in a nutshell.
5. We all have different but important jobs to do
My listener ends her message by writing, “I was just wondering how you think through this. I know the Bible says many great things about having children, but I also don’t want to be wasting my time if that ideology [that the Great Commission supersedes the Creation Mandate] is indeed true.“
The answer to how I think through this is with much prayer and searching of Scripture.
Because the truth is — whether you deliver the gospel in a nutshell during a pre-op exam or you explain it in exquisite detail during a Sunday morning sermon — sharing the good news of Christ’s sacrificial love is just the first step. It is planting a seed.
In the same way that parenting is a long and drawn-out project, so is evangelism and disciple-making. In either endeavor, it often takes years before we see the mature, ripened fruit we desire.
And while I don’t buy into the notion that raising children is a waste of time when there are still people in this world who’ve never heard about Jesus, it’s not because I don’t think taking the gospel to the ends of the earth is an important goal. It is!
I’ve read enough missionary biographies and met enough real-life missionaries who’ve dedicated their entire lives to carrying the gospel into previously unreached areas or translating the Bible into previously unwritten languages that I know such workers are vitally important to God’s eternal plan for drawing unto Himself people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
I once had a friend who deeply longed to do big things for Jesus. In her mind, those big things took the same shape as some of those missionary biographies we’ve read. “What if God calls me to Africa, but doesn’t call my husband there?” she once asked me.
It was obvious in talking to her that she viewed ministry as something that takes place outside the home, and saw her spouse and children as obstacles to the hypothetical call God might someday place on her life. She didn’t want to waste time raising children when she could be doing important Kingdom-work!
Yet what my friend failed to recognize is the fact that parenting, when done as unto the Lord, can be Kingdom-work just as surely as overseas missions can be. And while she didn’t yet have a clear call to Africa, as a wife and the mother of young children, she did have clear Biblical commands to respect and defer to her husband and to love and nurture her children.
C.S. Lewis argued, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Christ’s reaction to the disciples when they tried to send the children away lends some validity to Lewis’s statement, although I think we need to be careful assigning levels of importance to Kingdom-work of any kind.
Paul speaks to the fact that each of us has a different role to play in the body of Christ (another name for the church), and we should never look down upon those whose roles differ from our own:
So, my answer to the married couple who wants a lot of children? Go for it, and don’t let Satan convince you that raising children is a waste of time. That’s ridiculous.
To couples who already have kids, I’d say: As much as possible, avoid outsourcing your children’s training while they are young. They stay little for such a brief period of time! See those years for what they are — important Kingdom work — and do everything you can to instill in your children a love for God and a respect for His Word.
And to singles and couples who don’t have children? Recognize that God has a purpose for placing you in your current circumstances and resolve to serve Him wholeheartedly in whatever state you find yourself.