Question: "Does God expect all of us to have children?"
Answer: It’s really not a matter of whether God “expects” us to have children, since He is sovereign and omniscient and knows who will and who won’t have children. The question is really one of whether or not having children is a requirement for Christians and whether or not we can have a fulfilled, obedient life in Christ without children.
The Bible tells us that children are a blessing from God. Psalm 127:3–5 says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” This does not mean that those without children are not blessed or that children are the only blessing of God. It simply means children are to be looked upon as a blessing, not a curse or an inconvenience.
When God created Adam and Eve, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:28). After the flood, God told Noah, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Procreation is part of God’s command for humanity, and He certainly “expected” most people to have children. We also see having children as part of God’s covenant with Abraham. He told Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2–3). This was ultimately fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Savior who is fully God and fully human—and who was born from the line of Abraham.
In the Old Testament, children were seen as a physical sign of God’s blessing. Even so, and even though most people of that time may have felt differently, infertility was not a reliable sign of God’s displeasure. Many couples in the Bible, such as Elkanah and Hannah (parents of the prophet Samuel), Abraham and Sarah (parents of Isaac), and Zechariah and Elizabeth (parents of John the Baptist), were godly men and women who for years had been infertile.
In the New Testament, children are certainly still seen as a blessing. Jesus welcomed children and taught His disciples that children exemplify many of the values of the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul gave instructions to parents and children about living well together (Ephesians 6:1–4). One of the requirements for an overseer in the church is that, if he is married with children, he must manage his own household well; if he cannot take care of his own family, he is not likely able to care for the church (1 Timothy 3:4–5). There is no question that family is highly valued by God. But the New Testament focuses more on spiritual fruitfulness and multiplication than on physical blessings. Believers in Jesus become children of God (John 1:12). It is His family primarily that we want to expand. We are to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), not just biological offspring.
Children are and always will be a blessing from God—no matter how a child becomes part of one’s life. But even though God has declared children to be a blessing from Him and procreation is part of the mandate for humanity at large, nowhere does the Bible state that every married couple must have or desire to have children. Again, infertility—at any age—is not a sign of God’s displeasure. Couples without children are in no way less valuable or important to the kingdom of God than those with children. In fact, one might make the case that couples without children are able to devote more of their energy and focus to kingdom work than those with children, much like single people (see 1 Corinthians 7:32). Married, single, with children, or without children, every child of God is an important member of His family and an integral part of the body of Christ. God’s specific will for every individual and every couple is different. For many, God’s will includes having children, whether naturally or through adoption. For others, His will does not involve having children.
For those who want children yet are unable to have them for any reason, committing the desire to God in prayer is best. He can help you walk through the painfulness of the journey and also help you live out His best in this season. For those who do not desire to have children, committing the desire to God in prayer is also best. Sometimes our lack of desire is God-given. Other times, it is driven by past hurts, fear, or selfishness. When we expose our hearts honestly before God, He can help us sort out the mess, bring healing, and give us the desires of His heart.
It is all too easy for our desires for our own lives to become idols. Even good desires, when they take the place of God in our lives, become idols. All of us, no matter our life situation or stage, do well to examine our hearts, be honest with God in prayer, search His Word for wisdom, and commit our lives to Him. Ultimately, it is God who satisfies our hearts, and our lives are to be lived for His glory alone (Romans 12:1–2; Psalm 37).