Earlier this week the world population was supposed to hit 7 billion. I was really intrigued by the reports for a number of reasons. One: because my sister-in-law was in early labor and about to have my niece (she was born on Tuesday!). Two: because so many of the reports were laced with implications that the world population is simply becoming too much to handle.
There are a variety of angles in each report about the amount of people who now populate the earth. Some see it as greater proof for the need for population control. Some see it as an opportunity to encourage and help women become better educated, believing that greater education leads to a lower birthrate. And other simply speculate on the reasons for this “population boom.”
I’m not a population expert by any stretch. I don’t follow the growth trends or theories surrounding our growing world. But I am a news watcher. One of the things that was troubling to me as I watched a number of reports on the prediction that we would be 7 billion strong by this week is that so many of the reports included questions about population control. Coupled with fear over the strain on natural resources in more depressed parts of the world, some are implying that in order for our world to be sustainable we must do something about the number of people we are now bringing into this world.
China could be a test case for this, though no one really wants to use them as the example. The Chinese government has strictly enforced a one-child policy over the years, leaving many parents to fear when they accidentally (or intentionally) get pregnant for the second time. Not to mention the untold numbers of baby girls who are either aborted or left for dead because of the premium on boys in China. The problem when we begin to tell people how many kids they can have is that we begin to think we can control other aspects of childbearing, like gender and the health of the child. When you only get one shot at it, the less than desirable is sacrificed in pursuit of the perfect.
The biblical command to be fruitful and multiply doesn’t include an ideal number. Some could say that in the best interest of an overflowing world that command should be fulfilled with fewer children. But others could say that God’s promise to keep us here until his appointed time trumps any alarming statistic that we might run out of resources.
Another study says that the population, while still growing, actually includes more gray haired people than before. People are living longer, and as healthcare improves this will continue to be the case. So if the surging population is actually due to the longevity of our elderly, wouldn’t the “population control” folk actually want to pare down that demographic as well?
Whenever we get into the details of telling people when they can and should fulfill their God-given command to procreate, or their God-appointed time to die, we are entering territory that is only to be traveled by our Creator. The world is growing at a rapid pace. There is an increasingly healthy elderly population. Some cultures are producing children at a rate faster than their natural resources can be replenished. And in these cultures some women are forced to marry extremely young and have as many children as their husband wants. As Christians, we know that the earth is groaning under the weight of the curse of sin. Ground that doesn’t produce food and water that dries up is proof that this is not how God intended it. Little girls being forced to marry at the age of 8 or 9 and then have children right after their first period is atrocious. The answer isn’t universal population control. Human beings were created in God’s image. That is why God told Adam and Eve (and every person after them) to be fruitful and multiply. When a child is conceived and born he (or she) gives glory to the Creator in whose image this baby was made. This doesn’t mean that we don’t personally make decisions that might control how many children we have, but that’s not the government’s job to do for us.
As Christians, 7 billion people in the world should not be cause for concern about the state of our resources. Rather it should be cause for prayer and rejoicing; prayer because so many of them don’t know Christ (and are giving birth to children in terrible conditions) and rejoicing because each person represents a life made in God’s image and a soul that will never die. God is still the creator of this broken and decaying world. He is not surprised by overpopulation and he is sovereign over the newborn baby’s cry in a hospital and the water source of a small village. Population is his to control.