As a Family and Children Pastor I obviously believe children are a gift from God and are undervalued by most Christians. I’m a defender of the big family and I get excited about every kid that I get the opportunity to minister to. It would thus make sense that I would be bothered by the Christian married couple that intentionally abstains from having children or in other words “dink”s (dual income no kids). While relatively recently you would be correct to make that judgment, I now believe the Christian “dinks” have been given a bad rap. I want to be clear, I do not believe it is acceptable for Christians to abstain from having children because they don’t like children or want an easier lifestyle, that attitude is selfish and worldly. I instead seek to argue it is an appropriate choice for a Christian couple to either intentionally abstain from having children so they might better serve the Lord and His people or to limit the amount of children one has for the same reason. I’m aware most Christians who choose to avoid or delay having kids only do so for selfish reasons and to some degree my argument will be akin to defending a unicorn’s right to drive a car. Nevertheless, I fear many Christians impose an unbiblical legalism in regards to child rearing.
Before showing the Biblical argument for small families, I want to address the primary reason many pastors and Christian leaders teach married couples need to procreate. The command “be fruitful and multiply” appears at least a dozen times in the Bible, few things are commanded more. This command was given both to Adam and Noah, the fathers of all people and disobeying it would have caused substantial consequences. The command to be fruitful is so rooted in Old Testament Israel that barren women were considered to be a shame to their households. It is understandable why many church leaders find it to be so obviously relevant to Christians today. I fear Christians who run to this passage so quickly to address the concerns of the “dink” are failing to appreciate the context for this repeated command.
Every time “be fruitful and multiply” appears in scripture as a command it is in the context of early ancient Israel in the Pentateuch and most are in the book of Genesis when the earth was largely unpopulated. Even in Genesis the first two occasions for the command come when the population of the earth is a mere handful. Elsewhere this command is given to the fathers of ancient Israel who God needed to grow into a new and special nation so that He could one day bring King Jesus through that kingdom. Both uses of this command have been fulfilled; the earth is unquestionably populated and God already brought forth the seed of Abraham. Not only does the New Testament fail to repeat the command to be fruitful and multiply, later sections of the Old Testament seem to consider the command to be in the process of completion. One should not ignore that command from scripture, however for Christians our commanded fruitfulness is a spiritual fruitfulness. Our fruitfulness is seen in people being won to the kingdom and the apostle Paul tells us sometimes that happens best without kids in the picture.
What then is the Biblical support for intentionally being “dinks” for the Lord? The passage I think speaks most in support of intentionally childless parents would seem on face value to have nothing to do with the issue. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Paul argues for many it is glorifying to God to remain single for service to the Lord. Paul claims the married person has divided allegiances between concerns about their family and service to the Lord’s work. This passage is sometimes abused to suggest that marriage is a necessary evil or serving your family is not an act of Godliness, yet one cannot doubt there are ways serving the Lord is substantially more complicated with a family. The biggest hindrance to ministry in marriage during Paul’s day and largely our own is the presence of young children.
Most service to the Lord not only can be done with a Godly spouse but is in some ways even is benefitted by a marital partner to serve with. Frankly, this cannot be said of families with children (especially families with a lot of them). Having children means serving in certain ways at church is impossible without childcare, one cannot share the Gospel with a lost person at a coffee shop at 10pm, and missions work is substantially more complicated. There is a reason most Christians are freed to serve more in their church when the kids leave for college. During Paul’s life for most Christians, children were a necessary part of marriage. In the first century birth control was virtually unheard of and Paul taught sexual abstinence in marriage is sin. Apart from infertility, to be married was to have children and often many of them. Paul’s appeal for singleness was primarily an appeal to childlessness. Today it is very possible for married couples to serve the Lord in the same way Paul suggested singles can. With the advent of safe and moral birth control one can live out 1 Cor 7:32-35 as “dinks”.
I am proud each and every day to be a father, I highly recommend having children both for the opportunity to serve them and the way they grow you. Not everyone feels the same and according to Paul that is perfectly acceptable. If you’re a young married couple feeling the pressure to have children, you don’t have to feel guilty. Perhaps God is guiding you a life of being “dinks” for the Lord and if so praise God for the ways He will use you. Maybe you have children but feel pressure from TV personalities or pastors to have many more. Limiting the number of children one has so they might better be able to serve the Lord in certain ways is also a very relevant application of 1 Corinthians 7. Christians are given the right from the Lord to make these decisions for themselves according to how they believe they can best serve God. Shaming families and idolizing childrearing is neither Biblical nor is it honoring to God. Young families out there still navigating these waters, prayerfully make whatever decision you feel God in His word is leading you to. Families that have already made that decision for themselves, please let everyone else decide this for themselves.