Reconstruction Series: Fruitful and Multiply


What does being fruitful and multiplying really mean?

As I continue to explore my faith and learn who I was made to be, I am reconstructing many ideas. One thing I wonder if Christians need to reconsider how they define the phrase “be fruitful and multiply”?

While in the context of Genesis 1,2 and 10, it may indeed apply to human and animal reproduction. However, in the context of the Great Commission, it may be more about loving our neighbor than our birth rate. I have heard many Christian parents say, “Another one for the kingdom.” after the birth of a child. Yet not all of those children grow up and live in the same Christian practices as their parents. Their “Christian” parents have rejected many a member of the LGBTQIA community. Other children simply disagree with the way they were raised, becoming agnostic or atheist. Still others (like myself) find faith in a way that their parents decidedly disagree with.

mom on the couch with kids

And the parents are deeply upset because their core belief system told them to have as many children as they could, raise them “for the kingdom” and all would be well. So when their children no longer ascribe to that same view of the world, the parents feel that they have failed. Or the parents are in denial or devastated. It’s messy. It’s complicated. Some people are able to have healthy conversations and recover from the process. Some have simply lost relationships with family members, and others just have complicated relationships.

The Narrow Role of Be Fruitful and Multiply

When the definition of multiplying is having as many children as possible, women find themselves bearing the brunt of the labor, literally as well as metaphorically. Just keep having babies, with little regard for the women’s mental and physical health. Then there are the women with fertility issues, multiple miscarriages, and other challenges. Depression becomes a reality for many women either because they can’t multiply or because they have been fruitful, and don’t receive care for postpartum depression. Is having a large family truly the only means of growing the kingdom of God?

As we watch larger families such as the Duggars unravel, there is a sense of wondering about the purpose of women. If having a bunch of kids is the woman’s purpose, what happens when those kids fail you, at least according to your definition of success and failure? How do you cope with your own sense of worth in the eyes of God?

When you have people, like Rachel Jankovic, who are constantly spouting the rhetoric of holy housework and motherhood, but not acknowledging the privilege they have to make it happen. I don’t disagree that there is sanctifying work as a mother, but making it the be-all and end-all of Christian women is failing them. It is failing the women with fertility issues, and the ones who are single. It is failing to have the parents act as partners. The man makes the woman pregnant and she does the rest. It is failing to consider the value that women contribute to conversations of theology and ministry. Not all women are gifted in nurturing and not all women even want to be mothers.

What Fruit Should We Multiply?

When you put motherhood on a pedestal you reduce a woman to the ability of her uterus. Her sexuality, her talents, her dreams, all must be sacrificed to raise children for the kingdom. The multiplication is purely procreative.

What if we viewed multiplication as how we use our gifts in the world rather than how many children we make? What if making disciples is not about birthing them and indoctrinating them into a specific worldview?

Multiplying love in the world to those who are in distress and trouble. That is the spirit of spreading the good news.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus left us with a new commandment. Making disciples, not babies. Obviously, Christian parents can teach their children about the Trinity and reasons for faith, but discipleship happens both inside and outside of the home. It is not making more children in order to take over the world. Be fruitful and multiply through faith, compassion, and courage.

This content was originally published on Substack in May of 2023. To check that out sign up here.