October 31, 2011 will go down in history as the day on which the world welcomed its seven billionth baby. The global population is now at seven billion according to experts. This was widely covered in the news media all across the globe but was received with mixed reactions. As one who recently became a father, I read all the news reports with great interest. While many people celebrated this phenomenon, some bemoaned it as a crisis to be managed and a curse to be avoided at all costs. This raises the question which I plan to address in this article, “Is the population growth a blessing or a curse?” What does the Bible say about this? How should Christians view this?
I would like to share a few thoughts on this matter from the Bible and then draw out some conclusions. Although we cannot find biblical passage which directly address global population growth in 2011 and its related questions, there are sufficient passages in the Bible which should guide and dictate our behavior and opinions on this matter.
Firstly, the Lord God says in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The same command is repeated in Genesis 9 verses 1 and 7. This was a command, not a suggestion, from the sovereign God to Adam and his wife Eve. This command is fourfold: be fruitful; multiply; fill the earth; subdue it and God was serious about each one of these. When God gave this command, He was aware that the people to be born would need to be fed and cared for so that they would realize their full potential as men and women made in His image. He was not concerned about the depletion of the earth’s resources to provide man’s physical needs. He was not concerned about climate change. He was not concerned about anything. God is good and He is sovereign over all things. If God has given you children, trust Him to provide for you and your children however many you may have. He knows the collective and individual needs of His people and promises to meet each one of them (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19, etc). David said, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25).
Secondly, the Lord God says, that children are a blessing. Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” This is the attitude that we see throughout Scripture in relation to children. The people of God knew that children are a blessing from the Lord. So when they couldn’t have children, they asked the Lord to give them children. The Bible is replete with examples of people praying for the blessing of children. For example, Hannah (Elkanah’s wife) who prayed for a child and the Lord heard her prayer (1 Samuel 1-2). God blessed her not only with Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20), but with three sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 2:21). The Bible does not view having many children as a curse or a sign of judgment from God. The opposite is true. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5; Psalm 128:1-6). The world has turned this upside down by leading us to think otherwise. Barrenness is what the Bible views as a curse and sign of God’s judgment although this does not apply to every case.
Thirdly, there is a spiritual aspect to having children which the Bible talks about. This has to do with God’s covenant with His people. In the beginning, God gave Adam a general principle to procreate (Genesis 1:28). However, as God continued to reveal Himself and His plan of salvation for sinful mankind, this was intensified beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12 where the Lord says to him, “…I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you…” (v.2). Then in Genesis 15:5, the Lord says to him, “Look toward the heavens, and number the stars, if you are able to number them…So shall your offspring be.”
Genesis 17:1-8 gives us the clearest picture of the correlation between Abraham’s descendants and God’s covenantal blessings which extended to them as well. God says to Abraham, “I am God Almighty, walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly…Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between you and me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Spiritually, the promises and blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants extend to the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul addresses this specially in Galatians 3 where he writes, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham…So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (vv. 7, 9). He continues to argue that God’s covenant with Abraham covers everyone who is in Christ (v. 28). Then in verse 29, he says, “…if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
What’s the point of all this? Global population growth is a blessing not a curse. Christians should celebrate when babies are born and should pray that the Lord God in His mercy would save every child born in this world. Furthermore, Christians should desire to have more not fewer children and should seek to raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This means that Christian parents should pray for the Lord’s blessing upon their children even those who are not yet born that they should come to faith in Jesus Christ. The church should encourage families to have more children and to raise them up in the ways of the Lord. If Christian parents stop having children, there will be no legacy of faith left behind. As it has commonly been said, “Christianity is only one generation away from extinction.” As parents, we must strive to raise up the next generation of Christians and that begins by having children. Let’s have more children, not less for this is God’s will for His people.