What does the Bible say about birth control?
The only mention of birth control in the Bible is in Genesis 38:9-10. Judah's son Onan was obligated to father a child by his late brother's widow, both to provide an heir for his brother and to provide for Tamar. Instead, knowing a son would threaten his own inheritance, he withdrew from Tamar before ejaculation. God struck him dead—not for using birth control, but for his selfish motives.
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Fertility and children were seen as blessings in the Bible. Children are a gift; Psalm 127:3-5 says, "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! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate." Culturally, infertility was considered at least shameful, if not a curse (Isaiah 49:21). The greatest blessing a barren woman could receive was to have a child (1 Samuel 2:5; Luke 1). The only time infertility is seen in a positive light is in Matthew 24:15-21 when Jesus describes the hardships pregnant and nursing women would have during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in AD 70.
The Bible does not categorically condemn birth control. It is best to use wisdom and seek guidance in all things, including when we should have children. There are a few things to consider, however.
Birth control is not permission to be sexually promiscuous. 1 Corinthians 7:2 is clear: sex before marriage is wrong, even if there is a lessened chance that sex will lead to a child.
Hormonal birth control may cause abortions. Birth control that relies on hormones discourages the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus. If life begins at conception, this is abortion.
The "morning after pill" is not a viable option for a believer. It is designed to cause spontaneous abortion.
Hormonal birth control can cause other physical issues. Weight gain, mood changes, and problems with memory are all common side effects. In addition, many kinds of birth control can lead to future problems with fertility. (For more, see the Blogos article.)
In God's design, the norm is for married couples to have children. Parenthood is not the absolute standard for all couples, just as marriage is not the absolute standard for all individuals. But in general God wants the human race to bear children in the context of marital relationships.
Despite the issues, birth control can be fine for Christians in certain circumstances. Many health problems are mitigated by birth control. A couple may feel led to delay parenthood in order to concentrate on their present ministry. If a couple is absolutely unable to provide for a child, it would be perfectly acceptable to prevent pregnancy.
It is very common among certain Christian circles to insist that God will provide the number of children He desires a couple to have. Affiliated with that belief is the conviction that natural family planning should be the only birth control used. Natural family planning is a great method. But Romans 14:4 reminds us, "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." The Bible specifically tells us not to judge what the Bible does not condemn. It is fine to have our own Spirit-led convictions, but we should not impose those on others. Whichever choice we make, it should be with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:31).
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