Earlier this summer, a New York Times columnist responded to an inquiry from a young couple who were debating whether or not to have children, given the alarming predictions about climate change’s effects for our planet’s future.
The couple wrote, “Is it selfish to have children knowing full well that they will have to deal with a lower quality of life thanks to the climate crisis and its many cascading effects, like increased natural disasters, food shortages, greater societal inequity and unrest?”
This isn’t the first time in history a couple has wondered whether it’s the right thing to do to bring children into a broken and hurting world. According to a study conducted in 2022, more than 1 in 5 adults in the United States do not want to have children at all, for a wide variety of reasons, including the state of the world, the environment, and a simple lack of desire.
Of course, the decision to have children is a deeply personal one. While the aspirational norm in American marketing campaigns is the nuclear family (father, mother, 2.2 children), the Bible articulates many different variations in the way an individual could choose to live—with or without a partner, with or without children—and the actual demographics of American families are just as complex as in biblical times (just take a look at any family in the Old Testament for evidence).
What will our future global family look like? How do we bring new life into a world where babies are abandoned in alleyways, extreme weather impacts the lives of millions, violence seems to escalate, wars persist, and hunger rules?
Do We Live in Hope or Fear of the Future?
It’s easy to become paralyzed by fear to the point we lose hope for the future. Why even continue to “be fruitful and multiply” when multiplication seems to be partially hurting the world?
The NYT ethicist responded, “It’s realistic to think that children who are raised with a sense of responsibility could — in personal and collective ways — be part of the solution, ensuring human survival on a livable planet by promoting adaptation, resilience and mitigation.”
When fear threatens to end life as we know it, love insists that there’s more work to be done here, more rivers to flow in the desert, more streams to run in the wasteland. Ours is a faith rooted in love and redemption.
Even if the future forecast looks bleak, the people of God are called to remain rooted in Christ, to have hope, to believe in the power of love to sustain life, and to participate in the work God has begun and continues to do on this planet. All things are being reconciled to Christ, even when it seems dark.
So, Should You Bring Children into the Warming World?
If the desire to have children is in your heart and you’ve struggled like this young couple to decide whether it’s the right thing to do, consider that you were also once a child, with hopes for a better future.
You could be the parents who raise up children who will have the same choices to make, to protect and nurture the world and each other. Each generation has a responsibility and a privilege to step forward, closer to the restored kingdom.
Here are ways you can encourage the kind of character in your children that will embolden and empower them to help make the world a better place:
Teach Your Children to Love the Earth
This is the only planet we have, the only creation God gave us to inhabit, the only Garden God instructed us to tend. We treasure and care for the things we love, so the more we invite our children to study and experience the wonder and awe of nature, the more likely they will be to love the Earth and look for ways to protect it.
Root Their Identity in Christ
Each of us is made in the image of God. It can take us a while to discover that image in us, but the more our children look for Jesus and learn who Jesus is, the more their lives will be rooted in the hope of Christ, the love of Christ, and the mission of Christ. Of all of the identities they will bear throughout their lives, knowing they are a beloved child of God can be their true north in a sea of uncertainty and doubt, providing them with a compass of hope for the future in the midst of crises and tragedy.
Pass on the Guiding Truths of Scripture
The living and active Word is a powerful tool that provides us with the first-hand accounts of Jesus’ life, guidance for how to navigate relationships, stories of great faith and great disasters, and a message of everlasting patience and love from God the Father to God the Son, sustained in each of us by God the Holy Spirit. The complex, textured, and beautiful stories of the Bible tether our faith to the Maker of the Universe.
Model Simplicity and Hope
Our own attitudes and behaviors influence children and others perhaps more than anything else we try to teach. The more we practice sustainable living, the more likely our children are to adopt the same posture towards our natural resources.
Likewise, if we walk around all day complaining about the state of the world, declaring its doom and announcing that it is headed to “hell in a handbasket,” our children will see the world through that same lens. But that isn’t at all the Good News. The gospel is good news of hope and redemption, access to God’s love and light, the way into abundant life. If we want our children to be children of hope, we have to be people of hope ourselves, believing and acting in such a way as to make the world a better place.
There is no simple, four-step process to creating a healthy next generation, reversing the effects of climate change, or changing the world. But there are daily practices, like these, that shape the paths of our lives as the Lord directs our steps.
There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater (shortage). We can admit and own up to the challenges present in our world while simultaneously committing to be better stewards of creation and the best parents of the next generation, growing together in love. So, go for it – be fruitful and multiply!