Can we be in God’s will and still forego children?

Tim Challies wrote a blog post today that I strongly disagree with. In it he asks and addresses the question: Is it ok to deliberately not have children. He sites Christopher Ash and his book Married for God.

This post is a rebuttal to his arguments.

Does God's blessing always and only mean children?

Created for children or created for companionship?

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Gen 2:18

The #1 reason Eve was given to Adam was companionship. “It was not good for the man to be alone.” and “I will create a helper suitable.” These are companion words. God even made all the animals and took them to Adam so that Adam himself could see that he needed, and desired, companionship.

Filling the earth and multiplying was a blessing, not a purpose.

Others have taken the “command” to be fruitful and multiply as a requirement to personally fill the earth, as in have as many children as your body is able to. Just as I believe birth control is a matter between a husband, a wife and God, so too I believe that the decision to have children at all is a matter between a husband, a wife and God. If it is OK for me to choose to stop having children after 2 or 3 or 10 (and I believe it is), then it is just as OK for me to choose to stop having children after — zero.

I do not see this verse to be fruitful and multiply as a command. I see it as a benediction; a blessing of abundance on the new relationship God has created – the married couple.

Is there only one way to serve God?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.1 Cor 12:4-7

Another premise here is also that the only way for a couple to serve God is through raising children. That is very short-sighted and limiting to God’s plan for the Kingdom. Serving God through raising a family is a wonderful thing for the Kingdom of God. I have 8 children myself and have loved it tremendously and longed for more! But I don’t think parenting would have been my only way to serve God. It makes it sound like a childless couple, whether by personal choice or by God’s design, is second class or less than God’s best .

I’ve been in churches over the years that look at teens and think, “if they are wanting to serve God they should either become a pastor or a missionary.” YIKES! Talk about limiting!

  • How about if we encourage them to live a life of surrender and sacrifice?
  • How about if we teach them to love others as themselves?
  • How about if we build a heart of service in their lives?
  • How about if we challenge them to do everything to the glory of God, including schoolwork and career choices?

There is no difference between that scenario and a couple. Shouldn’t we encourage every couple to seek to be more effective in service to the Lord together than they ever were apart? Couldn’t we see that their unique and God-given giftings are essential to the body of Christ and that using them to serve others is a powerful way to build the church and expand the Kingdom of God? Wouldn’t it be best if we challenged them to live lives of surrender to God in whatever circumstance they are? And if that continues to be childless, then they are walking in honor and delight to the Lord.

Blessings come in many shapes and forms.

He shall receive a blessing from the LORD
And righteousness from the God of his salvation. Ps 24:5

The other thought brought up is that children are a blessing from God. I completely agree with that! Scripture also says that a wife is a blessing, but do we tell someone who chooses to remain single (as Paul did) that they are thwarting God’s purpose and wrong for choosing to not step into that blessing? No, we don’t. We applaud them for their commitment to the Lord (or we may pity them for missing out), but we don’t chastise them as if they are wrong. Why do we assume that a couple choosing to forego children are wrong for choosing not to step into the blessing that children are?

God blesses in many different ways. There isn’t one single blessing that God gives. So why are we so quick to assume: “Ah ha! This couple is blessed because they have children, but that couple is not because they don’t!”

  • Why can’t we look at a childless couple and see how they are touching lives for the Kingdom?
  • Why can’t we see the myriad of ways God is blessing them in their fruitfulness that bears different fruit?
  • Why must we assume that if they forego one particular kind of blessing that they are out of God’s will?

God’s ways are not our ways, and our ways are not God’s.

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom 14:4

It just bothers me when we take our preconceived (no pun intended) ideas and proof texts, create doctrines from them and lay a burden of “if you really are a Christian, your life must look like XYZ.” That is legalism and bondage. Please let’s give grace and freedom to one another and not lay burdens on each other that God hasn’t.

I have no problem with encouraging a couple to make sure they are walking fully surrendered to God and not allowing their selfish ease to dictate their lives. I also think every couple should pray and seek God’s wisdom for their marriage regarding children. And this will mean a hard look at who dictates their view of children: God or the world. BUT that doesn’t mean the opposite of this is choosing children. They might do all the soul searching and praying and still choose to remain childless.

Walking in surrender will look different in each person and each couple. And I believe very firmly that we can be just as surrendered without children as we can with a quiver-full (regardless of the size of your quiver).

All Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB.
Unless otherwise indicated, photos from

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  1. Good article. I agree and would add two points if I may without meaaning to diminish your excellentt blog which stands on its own without my comments.
    . 1) any time we define Gods will in ways which are not both clearly and repeatedly identified in scripture as Gods will for everyone we serve to diffuse and obscure the Gospel. We make the Kingdom of God about eating and drinking as it were and this confuses both the world and younger members of the church.

    2). There is always a tendency as you point out in your third point, to take any good act of service which we are doing and apply it to everyone. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t let God apportion the parts as He sees fit. We must stop trying to do the casting for the Great Director as he as has already done so and doesn’t need our help.

    3). (Clearly I can’t count). Even though we may implicitly or explicitly excuse people from roles they cannot play, in this case those who can’t have children, strong stances on disputable matters like this only reinforces among those who can’t have kids that they are less than the those who do have kids. Less blessed, less useful, less valuable and less loved. This is of course a tragic unintended consequence of such a stance.

    • True, true and true!!


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