Skip to content

Overpopulation

“With regard to ‘filling the earth and subduing it’, do you think that Christians also have a responsibility to the earth and its strained resources? I.e. is it possible for Christians to have ‘too many’ kids? (Is the earth overpopulated and strained; how much should we consider this?)”

The answer to this question is ‘yes’ and ‘no’!

Yes, Christians certainly have a responsibility to the earth and its resources. In the context of Genesis chapters 1 and 2, where this phrase is found, ‘subduing’ the earth implies a responsibility towards the good world that God has given us – our job is to be the ‘image of God’ in the world, servant rulers over the creation. So we must take our responsibilities seriously, caring for the earth as God cares for it.

However – and this is where the question is heading – does the second part of God’s command negate the first? That is, have we come to a point where there are simply too many people in the world, and where any more ‘filling’ will mean that we aren’t properly taking care of the world? Or to ask it in perhaps a more biblically faithful way, have we already completed our obedience to God’s command to ‘fill’ the earth – i.e. is the earth now full and we can stop procreating?

The answer to these questions is a resounding “no” (at the very least not yet) – and let me explain why. Overpopulation, at least by itself, is not causing the strain on the earth’s resources. What is causing this strain is a much more basic problem, a problem which Francis Schaeffer identified way back in the sixties, a problem which the Bible talks about again and again – human greed (e.g. Exodus 20:17, Romans 1:29, James 4:2-3). It’s not that there are too many people, it’s that each person, on average (especially in the West), is unsatiably using more and more resources. Think of Australians: in general, on average, we are gobbling up oil to get ourselves around more conveniently, we are gobbling up land because the average household size has dropped so that fewer and fewer people are now living in bigger and bigger houses – not to mention the extra cost in electricity for heating and lighting, etc. The strain on the earth’s resources would be stopped overnight if we all became content with what we had and happy to live with larger families under one roof.

Or take food resources, for example. To quote a statistic I heard only recently (see this news article): there are now more obese and overweight people in the world than there are malnourished people in the world (that includes countries such as China). That statistic means that there is far more than enough food for everybody, many times over. It’s just that it’s not being distributed properly – because of corruption and greed. The technology that we have at our disposal means that we are able to distribute the world’s resources. At least in the area of food, the statistics show that we are far from overpopulated.

In my experience, when I have met couples who refuse to have children because they don’t want to contribute to “overpopulation”, it’s far more likely that this is not the real reason. The real reason is much more likely to be that they don’t want their comfortable lifestyle, and their desire to be “upwardly mobile” (i.e. covetous) to be affected. In fact, a far better thing for them to do for the world’s resources would be for them to have children and to teach them, by word and example, to be less greedy, more content to live with each other in the same household and use less petrol and electricity, etc.

Of course, the best thing we can do for our world is to speak and live out the the gospel, to our neighbours and our children, which will bring change in people’s lives, teach us contentment, and enable us to put greed and covetousness to death.

Published inGenesis

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Recent blog posts

  • Elf on the Shelf Balloon. Photo by Kim on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/thegirlsny/8208193899God: Beyond us—and with us (Ephesians 3:20–21)
    God is nothing like the Elf on the Shelf. God’s power is far beyond us. Yet God’s power is at work in us. So God’s glory is our joyful goal.
  • EducationWhen education is not the answer (Romans 2:17–27)
    When education is not the answer (Romans 2:17–27). Amongst all the pragmatics & demands & struggles of ministry, you first need to know the why of ministry. You need deep and strong theology, and to apply that theology to your life & ministry.
  • Colosseum with skyThis is huge (Ephesians 3:18–19)
    God’s plans for his world, and his love for us in Christ, are vast and awe-inspiring. They change everything. That’s why need prayer to grasp them.
  • Inscription behind table in St Stephens Anglican Church NewtownWhere does God live? (Ephesians 3:16–17)
    Can God’s presence be with us? If so, how? In bread and wine? In a tangible experience of worship? In Ephesians, Paul speaks about how Christ dwells among us.
  • Photo by Greg Rakozy on UnsplashWho are you praying to? (Ephesians 3:14–15)
    Most people pray. But not everyone prays in the same way. Your view of God will have a profound effect on your prayer life. Who are you praying to?
  • Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on UnsplashWith Israel Folau (repost)
    Given the current controversy surrounding Israel Folau's social media post, a piece I wrote for the ABC News website has again become highly topical.
  • My afflictions, your glory (Ephesians 3:12–13)
    We can react to suffering by avoiding or escaping or denying or rationalising it. For Paul, the gospel of Christ leads to a profoundly different reaction.
  • Ceiling Pattern, Christ Church College Staircase, OxfordGod’s multidimensional wisdom (Ephesians 3:9–11)
    Do you think being a Christian is boring? If so, maybe your view of God is one-dimensional. But Paul sees God and his purposes in vivid multidimensional glory.
  • People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal MuseumThe meaning of ministry (Ephesians 3:7–8)
    Christian ministry is hard. So why be involved at all? Pragmatics and techniques alone can’t answer that question. We need to know the meaning of ministry.
  • Photo by Sai de Silva on UnsplashThe open secret (Ephesians 3:4–6)
    How can we know God’s will? Some try to see God’s will in the progress of history. But this is disastrous. God’s will is something we can’t work out by ourselves.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor