The Bible and Population Growth

2889883615_b80eff6360_oFor years there have been heated discussions about the Earth’s population. Some, like Paul Ehrlich in the late 1960s and 70s, warned that the Earth could not support the growing human population.1 He wrote the bestselling The Population Bomb (1968), repeatedly went on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, and subsequently his “Zero Population Growth” movement took off. Recently, Ehrlich said in an interview, “I believe it is immoral and should be illegal for people to have very large numbers of children because they are then co-opting for themselves and their children resources that should be spread elsewhere in the world.”

Whenever people suggest that families should be restricted in the number of children they have, we must remember God’s two original, basic commands to mankind concerning the population on the Earth: (1) Be fruitful on the Earth. (2) Spread out on the Earth. To Adam and Eve God said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). To Noah and his family, God repeated, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. . . . And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it” (Genesis 9:2, 7).

And then, throughout the Bible, children are consistently considered a blessing, a gift from God (see Matthew 2:18, 18:5; Luke 1:17, 11:11). Consider a few passages:

  • Deuteronomy 28:4. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.
  • Genesis 33:5. And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”
  • Psalms 127:3-5. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them.

Many in the 20th century advocated for fewer kids in order to curb population growth. Ironically, as the 21st century unfolds, there is growing concern that humans are reproducing too slowly and that by mid-century the population will begin shrinking in a frightening way. Falling birthrates now threaten the ability of aging populations to take care of themselves in the future, and so countries such as Russia and China are taking measures to increase population.

There is a profound lesson for us in these historical circumstances: An unbiblical attitude that assesses children as a burden rather than a blessing has disastrous consequences.


  1. See “The Population Bomb?,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000003712862/the-population-bomb.html?action=click&contentCollection=us&module=embedded&region=caption&pgtype=article (2015). 

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- 2017