Must married couples have children?


Hello Mr. Hamilton!

I hope this finds you well! I have a question and wanted to hear your thoughts on it. I don't know of any verse that says Christians, if married, should have children. However, in I Timothy 5:14, Paul says he wants widows to bear children. Does that mean they have to? Should that be applied to married women in general?


There is nothing scripturally wrong with a couple deciding to limit the number of children they have, even if they decide to have no children at all. (See Is it wrong for a couple to decide not to have children?) However, that decision should be made as a couple and, if possible, before marriage. It would be unfair to one spouse to enter into a marriage, expecting to have children only to learn later that the other spouse does not want children.

In I Timothy 5:14, Paul starts out with the Greek word boulomai. It means "desire, incline, or intend." It introduces a piece of considered advice. Thus, Paul's advice to the younger widows should be heeded, but it would not be a sin if it weren't followed exactly or completely. After all, getting married does not guarantee a woman will have children. The problem was that young widows had too much time on their hands (I Timothy 5:13) and were getting involved in gossip. Since they were young, they would still desire the pleasures in this world (I Timothy 5:11), which might pull them away from any pledge (I Timothy 5:9) to serve the church in exchange for being cared for by the church. Rather than have a potential cause for scandal, they should marry "and give the enemy no occasion for reproach" (I Timothy 5:14). All of this explains why widows younger than 60 or who have family are not put on the list for care by the church.

Since sex is expected in marriage (I Corinthians 7:2-5), children are the usual result. Most contraceptives have a failure rate, so while using contraceptives will reduce the odds of having children, a couple should be ready if the unexpected happens. They may never have children, but if an unplanned child does come, it should not be seen as the end of all happiness.

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