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What does the Bible say about population control / depopulation?

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The Bible doesn’t say anything about population control. Instead, humans are told to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22, 28). Psalm 127:3–5 tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord and that the fruit of the womb is a reward from Him.

At the time of this writing, there are approximately 7.1 billion people in the world. That’s a lot of people, but to put that number in perspective, there are about 7.5 trillion square feet of land in the state of Texas, in the United States, alone. This means that, theoretically, every person in the world could fit in the state of Texas, and each person would have 1,056 square feet of living space—4,224 square feet for a family of four! One might say that the problem is not the number of people but rather the lack of resources (food, water, etc.) and the ability to distribute those resources.

If all the people on Earth could fit comfortably in Texas, imagine all the room people would have if they spread out evenly over an entire continent. How much room would everyone have if all of Africa (11.7 million square miles), for example, was used for housing? (The answer is about 1 acre per person.) Even if we remove the Sahara Desert from the equation, Africa, the second-largest continent, would have plenty of living space for every person on the planet and still have room for water, arable land, and roads and other infrastructure. The point is, the earth has lots of room, and the world’s population should not need to be “controlled.”

Of course, there are certain areas of the world that are overpopulated—that is to say, certain metropolitan areas contain an unhealthy concentration of a region’s population. People continue to migrate in large numbers into urban centers that are ill-equipped to handle the influx. The poverty, disease, and crime that overcrowding engenders are tragic to behold. There are no easy answers to the problem of urban overcrowding, but there is nothing wrong with programs to build more housing, increase the labor force, and provide education and birth control.

Unfortunately, those who advocate population control often support ungodly methods of control, such as abortion, euthanasia, and forced sterilization. Schemes such as forced abortion directly conflict with the Bible’s teaching that human life is sacred. Many promoters of population control advance policies that presuppose the problem is too many humans, while the real problem is ignored.

The root problem is neither population size nor resource availability. The problem is sin. Selfish, sinful, and power-hungry people have misused God’s creation. God intended that man have dominion over the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26). Men were to be stewards of the earth, and 1 Corinthians 4:2 adds that “it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (ESV). Sadly, corrupt governments, rather than acting as trustworthy stewards of a country’s resources, often hoard food, mismanage resources, and squander money instead of seeing that their own people are fed. Unscrupulous corporations, too, strive for more control of the food supply and seem more willing to strike lucrative deals than to benefit society.

The biblical answer to “overpopulation” is not to demand fewer people, especially if that involves culling the current population. The biblical answer is to honor people enough to provide for their needs (see Mark 12:31). There may be a problem with how the population is distributed and with how resources are managed, but the problem is not too many people on Earth. Greed, lust for power, and foolishness lead to the mishandling of resources, and millions of people suffer as a result.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022