Is it wrong for a Christian woman to desire to have children without having to marry first? In other words, can a Christian woman simply adopt children and form a family without a husband? What if a Christian woman wants a husband and children but she wants them much later in life so she can pursue educational and career interests?
The questions above are a summary of questions I recently received from a young woman named Jill who is a college student. Jill, like many young women in recent decades, would like to put off having children longer and even when she does she wonders if she needs to have a husband to have children. But before I get to Jill’s email we need to talk about the unsettling fact that there are more and more women like Jill who are choosing to wait much longer to have children and if they have children at all they have fewer children than women of previous generations.
Women Are Marrying and Having Children Much Later In Life
Ellie Kincaid wrote an article for BusinessInsider.com entitled “Why having kids later is a really big deal“. In this article she made the following conclusions based on CDC study that showed women having children much later in life:
“The average age of first-time mothers is increasing because more women are waiting until their 30s and 40s to start having kids and fewer women are having their first kids in their teens and 20s, the CDC report says.
The majority of all births are still to women under 35 (about 85% of the total), but rates for all births, not just of a first child, to women over 35 have been rising over the past 20 years, while birth rates for younger women are stable or declining…
Data from the World Bank show the seven countries where the average age of women giving birth to their first child is above 30 (Greece, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, according to the CIA World Factbook) all have general fertility rates below what’s called the replacement rate. That means the generation currently having kids isn’t having enough to replace itself. Countries with low fertility rates have populations that are aging and set to shrink, meaning fewer people of working age have to support more older dependents.”
Let me summarize what this article above just said. If the world continues down the path of westernization with women becoming more focused on their education and careers than on having children it won’t just be a few countries where the population is shrinking. Instead it will be the world population that begins to shrink.
Each generation will be smaller than the one that preceded it. To say this will cause problems for governments and economies is a vast understatement. And the world population will continue to decline unless this trend of women being more education and career oriented is stopped.
A United Nations Report entitled “World Population in 2300” states that if the rest of the world follows western countries in having less children than the replacement level needed the world population will drop to 2.3 billion by the year 2300. To put that in perspective, today the world has 7.6 billion people so that means the world population will drop by 70 percent over the next three centuries.
So as we can see Jill is not in the minority of western women with her thoughts about having a career and having children later in life. She is in the majority of women who are choosing to put off having children to a much later age than women of the past and there are very real consequences for this decision by the women of this generation.
With all that said as introduction we will now dive into Jill’s email to me.
“I am a Christian female university student in my mid-20s. I am currently in a Bible college. I want to pursue a Master’s, and I want to be in charge of a library. I have a question. Is this considered “authority?” If I am in charge of a library used by men and women, and in charge of hiring men and women, is this wrong?
I am unmarried. I do not want to get married. I just am not interested in it. 1 Corinthians 7 says that it is okay, and even good, to stay unmarried. I often have asexual feelings and I just do not care for marriage.
I want to have children, much later in life. I know a godly woman who never married, though she wanted to. She adopted a girl who had little chance of ever being adopted by a two-parent family. The result has been beautiful. I have prayed about this, and I still am praying. I desire something similar in my life, if it is God’s plan.
If I ever have children, I will work in a school or other similar setting so that I am home when my child/children is home, and away when they are away during school hours. I will even work from home if I have to. I want to have a child or two, I want a dog, I want to direct a library and if I do not do that then I would like to teach at a Christian school or work in ministry. I want to be a kind boss. I want to show God’s love everywhere I go. I want to help people
If I ever get married, I feel led for it to be an equal-but-different partnership. I pray about these things. I feel led by God in this direction, at least for now.
I would like to hear your thoughts. Please comment on each of these paragraphs and tell me what you think. “
Now as Jill requested I will answer each of her statements.
Should Women Be in Jobs Which Place Them Over Men?
Jill ‘s Statement:
“I am a Christian female university student in my mid-20s. I am currently in a Bible college. I want to pursue a Master’s, and I want to be in charge of a library. I have a question. Is this considered “authority?” If I am in charge of a library used by men and women, and in charge of hiring men and women, is this wrong?”
Yes someone who hires people is an authority. If you are hiring men, then you are any authority over men.
The Scriptures tell us that man is to be the head of woman and this is not restricted to just the Church and the Home and would also extend to society in general:
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.“
1 Corinthians 11:3 (KJV)
In our modern culture we don’t want to admit it but we know it is unnatural for a woman to be in authority over a man. Think male secretary to a female a boss. This is because God designed for man to be over woman in all things.
In the Old Testament we are told that women ruling over men is just as shameful as it would be for children to oppress men:
“As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.“
Isaiah 3:12 (KJV)
Even the heroine of modern day Christian feminists, Deborah, said this when the cowardly men of Israel insisted that she go into battle with them:
“8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.”
Judges 4:8-9 (KJV)
We know that Deborah was refering to Jael, the wife of Heber, who eventually killed Sisera. But Deborah talked about the honor being removed from Barak and these other cowardly men for insisting a woman go into battle with them. There was no praise for these men in what they did.
So the second part of the answer to your question is – you as a woman should not seek authority over men. Now sometimes because of this sinful world we live in women are sometimes placed over men – but Christian women should not seek this out.
Is Celibacy Right Before God?
“I am unmarried. I do not want to get married. I just am not interested in it. 1 Corinthians 7 says that it is okay, and even good, to stay unmarried. I often have asexual feelings and I just do not care for marriage.”
It is true that Paul calls celibacy “good” in I Corinthians 7 and he honors celibacy in service to God:
“26 I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be…
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
I Corinthians 7:26 & 32-35 (KJV)
Celibacy is an exception that God makes to his first command to mankind in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply”(to marry, have sex and have children). God’s normative design was for man to image him by being a husband to a wife and father to children and going out in the world about his work. He created woman to help man to fulfill his mission to image God by her dependence upon her husband for his leadership, provision and protection and by her serving him and submitting to him. In this way the husband and wife relationship pictures the relation of God to his people with man modeling God and woman modeling the people of God.
Celibacy should only be sought after either because a person has NO desire for a spouse and NO desire for children or their zeal and dedication to serve God is so strong that it makes any thought they would have of having a family seem like nothing. This kind of person wants to dedicate their life in a undivided way in service to God. Now that does not mean celibate women have to be nuns. They could be missionary nurses or doctors, they could be school teachers or a host other occupations in undivided service to God.
So yes, celibacy is a good thing and it is even called a gift in the Bible. But it is only a good thing if it is pursued for the right reasons and not in order for someone to fulfill their own selfish ambitions or for someone to escape gender roles that God has assigned to marriage.
Can a Christian Woman Have Children Without a Husband?
“I want to have children, much later in life. I know a godly woman who never married, though she wanted to. She adopted a girl who had little chance of ever being adopted by a two-parent family. The result has been beautiful. I have prayed about this, and I still am praying. I desire something similar in my life, if it is God’s plan.”
Many Christian women have had children without a husband over the centuries. But it is important to understand how they came to be the mother of children without a husband.
Some women were raped and then gave birth to their rapist’s child and they had to raise this child on their own. Some women did have a husband, but perhaps they became pregnant and then he died. Other single women have faced situations where they had no choice but to take orphaned or needy children in who had not place to go. God honors all these situations where these women courageously raised these children on their own.
But these women did not purposefully seek to have children without first being married to a husband. These situations were thrust upon them by God.
But for you to purposefully seek out having children (even through adoption) without first having a husband is a violation of God’s design for how we are to go about having children.
The Bible tells us God’s design for when women should have children:
14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
1 Timothy 5:14 (KJV)
God’s design for women having children is simple and straight forward. First a woman marries a man. Then she joins with her husband to fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply by freely and regularly giving her body to her husband in the marriage bed. Then she has children as a result of her obedience to give herself to her husband. She cares for the needs of her husband and children. She also takes care of the affairs of the home after marriage. This is God’s order, this is God’s design.
Jill, you are making up your own design for the family by even entertaining the thought of trying to have children without first being married. And yes God will sometimes still bless us in spite of the fact that we went about something the wrong way, but that does not make it right for us to do.
Can A Woman Work While the Kids Are School?
“If I ever have children, I will work in a school or other similar setting so that I am home when my child/children is home, and away when they are away during school hours. I will even work from home if I have to. I want to have a child or two, I want a dog, I want to direct a library and if I do not do that then I would like to teach at a Christian school or work in ministry. I want to be a kind boss. I want to show God’s love everywhere I go. I want to help people”
It is admirable that if you had children you would want to make sure you were home when they are home. But being a wife and mother is about so much more than just being home when your children or husband are home. It is about caring for the home while they are gone, taking care of their clothing needs, the house needs and preparing food so that when your husband and children come home everything is done and in order. If you try and work while they are out and get home just before they do then you will have to do all these things in the evening and you will have little time or energy for your family.
A lot of women who aspire to have careers do not consider these things. The greatest lie of feminism is “you can have it all”. No you can’t. You must make a choice. Will you fully dedicate your life and time to your family and the help-meet position God made you for or will you try and dedicate half your time to your own desires and give your family what is left?
You desire to help people is wonderful. And I think working in a Christian school or other Christian ministry in a full time capacity would be a wonderful thing for you to do. But you have to make a choice. You can help people by dedicating your life in celibacy in service to God in a Christian school or other Christian ministry giving up having children and a husband OR you can choose to help your husband and your children by caring for their needs and the needs of your home. You must be 100 percent dedicated to one or the other – if you try and do half and half you fail at one.
Is Marriage an “equal-but-different partnership”?
“If I ever get married, I feel led for it to be an equal-but-different partnership. I pray about these things. I feel led by God in this direction, at least for now.”
The Bible tells us we cannot live by how we feel, but by instead by what the Word of God says despite our feelings. The Bible tells us this about trusting our feelings:
“26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.“
Proverbs 28:26 (KJV)
It is foolish for us to follow our feelings, but rather we must trust in the Lord with all our heart and allow his Word, and not our feelings, to direct our path.
“5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)
Also in regard to feelings – we can with the Lord’s help over time change our feelings and direct them as he would have us to. That means that we can as we surrender to God’s will for our lives come to love what he loves and hate what he hates. We can feel good about what he wants us to feel good about even if we did not feel good about it before.
So this brings us to the next question. Does the Bible teach marriage as a “equal-but-different partnership”?
“23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
Ephesians 5:23-24 (KJV)
The passage above from Ephesians tell you as a young woman why God created you. He created you to play a part in painting the beautiful picture of the relationship of God to his people. In this model, you play the part of the Church who submits to Christ in everything. Your service to your husband, who represents Christ in this model, is your service to God. The only exception to this design is celibacy in service to God – but only if you are truly called to it for unselfish reasons.
“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear…
6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
I Peter 3:1-2 & 5-7 (KJV)
While women and wives are joint heirs with their husbands of the grace of life, the Bible never calls husbands and wives equal partners – it fact it never calls them partners (despite the NIV changing the translations to “partner”).
Women are called to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. Are the Christ and Church equal partners or is one the subordinate to the other?
And God did not just flip a coin and put man in charge of woman. He made woman for man as the Scriptures tell us in I Corinthians 11:9 “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” Woman submitting to and serving man is a beautiful picture of mankind submitting to and serving God. And the man lovingly leading, providing for, teaching and protecting his wife is a beautiful picture of God doing all these things for his people.
As I close let me just point out something based on this statement you made “I want to have children, much later in life.” Let’s be honest – why would you want to have children much later in life? The honest answer is because your love for education and your career ambitions to be a librarian are more important to you than having children, yet you desire children. But you desire children outside of God’s designed path which is marriage. This is by definition a selfish ambition. Anytime we desire things that outside God’s design for us that is a selfish desire.
When a woman desires to have children without a husband that is just as selfish as a man who desires to have sex with a woman without having to marrying her. Both the desire for children and the desire for sex are God given desires, but when we seek to go about to fulfill those desires in a way which violates God’s design we sin against God in doing so.
So Jill– you have a choice to make. If you feel you cannot fulfill the role God designed women in general to fulfill – to be subordinate helpers to men to help them paint the picture of God and his people – then you can exercise the celibacy option in service to him. But you cannot take half measures and actively seek to have children and make a family the way you want it, instead of the way God designed family to be.
Even if you decide you will follow God’s design for having children and marry a husband first if you do as you have stated and “have children, much later in life” this could still be selfish ambition on your part.
It is one thing if you are vigorously as young woman pursing a husband and family and during that time you are working to support yourself. There is no sin in this. But God knows your heart. If in your heart you know that you are purposefully delaying finding a husband and having a family so that you can pursue educational and career interests and then later you will do the “family thing” that is utter selfishness before God. That is NOT why God created you. He created you for man, he created you marriage and the only exception to that is true dedicated celibacy in service to him.