We hear all the time that “adoption is in the Bible” and a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for us. But adoption (as it is defined today) is not something I see in the Bible at all.
This is something I believe more firmly each time I study God’s Word in light of adoption. (And it is a stance I would encourage any fellow Christian, or even non-believing Bible scholar, to challenge me on, with Scripture – not just opinion or sentiment, if you find I am wrong. Because the thought of leading others astray by misinterpreting and then misrepresenting what God has said literally keeps me awake at night, and returning to His Word over and over again to be sure I know and understand it.)
What God does (and doesn’t) say about adoption was something I was first introduced to decades ago when an accident left our family grieving the loss my youngest sibling at the time.
Trying to “fix” the loss and restore hope to their grieving family, my parents were in the process of pursuing an adoption when my father began to have reservations. With both my parents being Bible college graduates, my father being an ordained minister, and the Word of God being read to my siblings and I each morning and evening with few exceptions, the Bible was (and still is) the final authority in our family. In light of this, my mother knew that the way to relieve my father’s reservations, and continue with the adoption, was to show him (clearly) in the Bible where God instructs us as Christians to adopt.
What became clearer than anything else is that God doesn’t tell us anywhere in the Bible to adopt.
In fact, there are so many times in the Bible that it would have been perfect opportunity for God to instruct us to adopt, either by direct command (and I’m not talking about “caring for orphans” here – let’s not confuse orphan care with adoption), or by example (Himself adopting – He was, after all, the Son of God and would have made the best adoptive parent of all time), or by sharing a story of how someone else in the Bible adopted.
Now, before you think: Uh, this woman has no idea what she is writing about because there are many stories about adoption in the Bible, including Moses, Joseph, Samuel, and Esther… Please note that I don’t consider any of those to be Biblical stories of “adoption” by today’s definition. And I write about those as: Modern Parallels to Adoption [Not] in the Bible.
While I’ve known much of this since before I can remember, have shared it in-person for years, and started writing about it following the birth of my own daughter in 2012, I’ve only began publishing since last November after the anniversary of the death of another loved one was causing a stirring in my heart to do more with my life and with my calling and I’ve explained how that coincided with National Adoption Month as the catalyst to begin.
Since then, I’ve been challenged to continue to look more closely at the what the Bible says about adoption. I don’t have all the answers to the worldwide orphan crisis, nor do I need them. There are very few things in life that we have all of the answers to. But there is one thing we do have, and that is God’s Word. And because of that – we have everything we need.
And while believing that adoption is not in the Bible is extremely unpopular right now (I hope and pray that we will soon see a stirring of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His people on this), and while we may have many different opinions on how to translate and interpret the verses about “adoption” in the Bible, there is probably one passage we can agree on (those of us who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God). And that is Exodus 20 and the fact that the Ten Commandments are in God’s Word, and they are very clear.
So in this post, I want to go back to the basics, to a passage almost everyone has heard of, and share my thoughts on applying God’s commands to the people of the Old Testament to the modern practice of adoption.
At this time, I’m mainly referring to domestic adoptions. And I’m limiting myself to eight of The Ten Commandments.
First Commandment – “You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me”
When the Bible clearly states five times that God opens and closes the wombs of specific women and of entire households (Gen. 20:18, 29:31, 30:22; 1 Sam 1:5, 1:6) and we do not accept that as His providence but rather decide ourselves that it is our right to appropriate for ourselves any child placed by God in the womb of its mother, we are placing our wisdom above His wisdom.
God is not oblivious to what is going on in the wombs of birth mothers (Ps. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:5). He does not need the intervention of man in determining who will care for those children.
To suppose that we know more or better than God is to put ourselves above God.
Second Commandment – “You Shall Not Make For Yourself An Idol”
I’ve never met, heard about, or read about an adopting family that wasn’t absolutely beside themselves while waiting for adoption approval, preparing for a home study, wanting to be selected by a “birth mother,” getting an adoption finalized, or jumping through and over any of the many hoops and hurdles along the way.
It’s a very consuming process and whether it was joy or anguish, or any number of emotions in between, adopting families report (this is not me “judging” them and I don’t want to risk offending or bringing negative attention to any of those dozens of blogs, but put “adoption became an idol” into a search engine and you’ll see and can delve into the many results) that it’s all they can think about, they gain and lose weight, have sleepless nights, have marital and financial stress, withdraw from their communities, and the adoption process is something they protect at all costs. (People similarly share how God revealed to them that the quest to have biological children became, for them, an idol.)
They want a baby at the expense of that baby being in a relationship with his or her own family (some open adoptions mildly excluded).
Similar to the journey of getting pregnant with fertility treatments, adoption becomes the next end-all/be-all in people’s lives. It’s all they think about. They sacrifice relationships for it as they become consumed with the process, and especially expendable is any association in which someone might question motives, advise against the adoption, or wonder about the timing of it. They pour into adopting while depleting resources on many fronts (time, money, emotion).
While it’s easy with hindsight to recognize “idols” in our lives, I think it can be very difficult for adopting families to see clearly in this until after the fact, based on personal experience with idolatry in my own life and the testimony of those who’ve been through it. Becoming a parent (or becoming a parent again) can (and does) often become an idol.
Identifying idols in our lives can be as simple as asking, “Is this more important to me than God?” And while the textbook answer would be, “Of course nothing is more important to me than God!” the best way to really examine this is to ask a close and trusted friend or family member, who is walking through life with us, whether he or she would identify something as an idol.
Third Commandment – “You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain”
This might seem a stretch when you initially think about it, but consider whether it’s possible that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is not just using a curse word? Could it mean that saying that God “called” us to do something when He most likely didn’t (seeing as these “callings” are contrary to Scripture on many fronts) would also be considered taking His name in vain? Could it be as one Christian writer so aptly put it, when we “use His name falsely to invoke authority?”
And as I’ve said before, whenever someone throws down the “God card” so to speak, by saying they’ve heard from God or are “sensing” His “direction” or “leading” in the area of adoption, it’s highly frowned upon to question to that – no matter that people are now saying, months and years into their adoptions, that they while they had a “great adoption testimony” they themselves are no longer sure that they actually heard from God, or that they were in His perfect will.
If a seeming “leading” or “sensing” of the Holy Spirit is contrary to Scripture, let me tell you right now – It’s not from God. And to tell other people that it is would be taking God’s name in vain.
And if “all the stars align” (I’ve never heard an adoption story where they didn’t), the “coincidences” are too coincidental (another common thread in the retellings), the “feelings” are far too “real” to be ignored, and the provision is nothing short of “miraculous” (after tugging on the heartstrings of every friend and stranger in the nation) – please don’t attribute that to God if you cannot back it up with all of the Bible.
And even if you aren’t taking the Lord’s name in vain by saying that God directed you to adopt, the same applies for telling those who adopt that they “must” be in God’s will, that they are being “His hands and His feet,” or that you are grateful that they “obeyed God,” “were attentive to His leading,” “heeded The Call,” or were “a vessel fit and ready for the Master’s use.”
This message about adoption is not just for people who have adopted, are adopting, or are considering adoption, it is for the family and community at large, the people that those adopting, and those giving up their children for adoption, look to for confirmation and affirmation of their life-altering decisions.
The same could be said for telling a mother that she did the most “sacrificial” thing she could ever do by placing her child for adoption or that she has “Christ-like” love because she made the hard choice. There is nothing in the Bible that condones mothers giving away their children. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite: older women are to teach the younger woman to STAY HOME AND RAISE THEIR CHILDREN (Titus 2).
Using God’s Name (or our relationship with God or supposed knowledge or understanding of God or the Bible) to encourage parents to give away their children, is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Telling someone that God will bless them for making the “right” choice (when that choice is contrary to Scripture on so many levels), is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Fifth Commandment – “Honor Your Father and Your Mother”
This would have been the commandment for God to slip in some information and clues about the role adopters are meant to play in our lives, and ways to honor them. Yet, He doesn’t. How odd.
While it is entirely possible to honor someone you don’t know and who doesn’t know you, when I read this commandment, in light of the supposed biblical nature of adoption as we know it today, I just see how people worldwide have been deprived of the opportunity to honor their real parents in practical ways because they have little or no contact with them.
And in many cases (though this is changing) they do not know anything about their parents at all, or that they (like a neighbor who didn’t find out she was adopted until the funeral of her parent – in her forties) even have “real” parents somewhere, out there.
Sixth Commandment – “You Shall Not Murder”
Saving children from abortion was one of the first and foremost ways I saw domestic adoption justified (and advocated for) in Christian circles. Through the years that focus has seemed to shift more toward the “orphan crisis” and the biblical mandate to care for orphans. Yet still, anytime I talk about adoption I end up with the inevitable, “SOOO, you’d rather all these babies DIE than be adopted?!”
The opinion is that adoption plays a sizeable hand in preventing abortions. (And I think that’s really all it is, just an “opinion” – having found no actual independent studies on this other than anecdotal self-reporting Christian adoption agencies and Christian writers and speakers who draw from these sources, all of which reflect a conflict of interest.)
Those few children who were possibly saved from abortion become the poster children of domestic adoption. And the funds from good-hearted and well-intentioned people pour in as legislation paves the way for tax credits and granst all in the name of saving precious lives from murder!
But if you think about it logically (aside from the fact that there aren’t any official studies on this) a lot of people get abortions because they don’t want a pregnancy. After the pregnancy, the morning sickness, extreme exhaustion, weight gain, bloating, gas, sleepless nights, discomfort, incontinence, painful delivery, the fact that your body will never be the same, and all the other “wonderful” things that accompany pregnancy, there’s a real live baby that’s been nurtured, bonded with, and fought for.
The pain and discomfort are over (or nearly over) and your secret (if it was a secret) is out; everyone knows about the baby! Any partner, family, and friends have had months to adjust to the idea and possibly even meet the little one and be won over.
Unless she’s been living under a rock her whole life, I’d think it’d be pretty obvious to any young woman that there is a thriving market for babies. So, the idea that a woman will get an abortion because she’s concerned that she’ll complete the pregnancy and “no one will want the baby” is unfounded. [Just wanted to get that out of the way in case there was that lingering thought.]
Most women who are considering adoption are often too far along to abort anyway depending on where they live. But regardless of where a woman is in her pregnancy, adoption agency workers are poised to pounce either on the “early planning” where it is drilled into young women’s heads that “this isn’t your baby” or the last minute survival tactics where the agency says, “What do you need? We’ll take care of everything!” Except what they don’t say (at least to us, in their advertisements and self-promoting websites) is that they’ll take care of nothing in the absence of a marketable product – the baby.
Early planning makes it easier for the woman to sign the paperwork after the inevitable – that beautiful sound of her baby’s first cry. And early provision by either the adoption agency or the prospective adopters (or both) leads her to feeling obligated to not let down or disappoint the would-be adopters by committing the “terrible crime” of deciding to keep her baby.
These women are actually being conditioned to be more likely to have an abortion because they’ve already disconnected. From the moment they reach out to the adoption agency, they’re being told about some loving family that wants to raise their child. Their expenses are taken care of and they are given life and career counseling so that their expectations and focus are on futures without their babies.
It would seem that women in this state would be more likely to get an abortion because they haven’t latched onto the baby, only to the idea that it should given away.
Eighth Commandment – “You Shall Not steal.”
When we take someone’s child, we are stealing from them. Whether or not the mother recognizes it at the time is non-material. And this is something the justice systems helps us do “legally.” Which is another absurdity of adoption, because in any other instance it is illegal to contract with a minor and any such contract made is voidable and not enforcable. But when it comes to minors giving away their own flesh and blood, well, that’s a different story.
According to a March 2016 report by the Guttmacher Institute, it is legal in most states for a minors to place their children for adoption. Only five states require the consent or notification of a minor’s parent and only five others require legal counsel. How crazy is it that across this country, minor “children” cannot be bound by any other legal contract but at the very same time they can’t change their minds after an adoption – without facing an expensive and time-consuming legal battle?
And while these adoptions cannot take place in any state before the baby is born (thus the all-expense paid pregnancies of prospective birth mothers), they can take place just a few short days after delivery when the mother (who is usually already extremely hormonal throughout her pregnancy) is quite possibly in the throes of post-partum anxiety.
Regardless of how “legal” it is to take someone’s baby, I question the morality of it on many fronts and am ashamed for anyone in the adoption industry who would pressure or play on the emotions of parents who decide at the last moment that they want to keep their babies or who take parents to court in order to
take steal their children from them.
Ninth Commandment – “You Shall Not Bear False Witness”
A “normal” modern-day adoption begins with a lie. And these are mistruths that government both condones and participates in. The original birth certificate of the child is no longer of record and a new birth certificate that usually changes the surname and identity of the child (if not the child’s other names as well) is put in its place. The rights of the mother and father of the child are terminated and another name(s) goes in their place on the birth certificate. Then, everyone is expected to refer to the adopted child as the adopter’s “son” or “daughter.”
Aside from the above, young pregnant woman are often told that they get to play the heroine’s role in a beautiful plan that God is unfolding. The calling that He has placed on the hearts of the adopters. I don’t have to be there for these conversations, they’re all over the Internet (and again it is not my heart to link to any of these numerous blogs and single out or bring negative attention to good people who have poured their hearts into writing and sharing, but they’re there).
Instead of convincing her that she’s a mother and this is the child that a Holy and Perfect God (who makes NO mistakes) gave to her (not any would-be adopter), she is convinced that she is just a breeder. . . well, in so many words. The “breeder” is systematically coaxed into believing that she is doing a selfless and noble thing by giving away her baby. She is doing “this” for the first time and finds herself helpless against the seasoned and seemingly flawless “wisdom” of the agency workers who will drive hours to meet with a prospective mother, pulling out all the stops to wine and dine her. It’s a scenario that is played out over and over again.
In one story, the mother who faced an overwhelming amount of disappointment and disapproval from her shocked and grieved family members said, “The agency worker was the ONLY people who was actually exited that I was pregnant!” And that created an obvious bond between the young girl and the adoption agency. But what she doesn’t realize is that she is carrying a commodity and the agency worker’s excitement runs about as deep as that of the real estate agent who gets excited about a new foreclosure in the neighborhood. She stands to profit from it – when she makes a fee-paying customer happy.
Also, many adoptions in the past have been based on lies, half-truths, and hidden information. People haven’t found out until years later that they were adopted or who their real families were. Fathers have been kept in the dark that their children even existed. Children were trafficked by unscrupulous people who were seen as upstanding or even pillars in their communities.
Tenth Commandment – “You Shall Not Covet”
When we see what someone else has and we want it, that’s coveting. When God has not chosen to give us a baby but He has chosen to give it someone else – and we want it and think we should have it instead of the parents – we are coveting. End of story.
Adoption is such a tricky subject when it comes to “coveting” as many people genuinely believe that they are adopting out of the goodness of their hearts (and maybe they are) and for the benefit of the child.
Thank you. I’ve heard one account in which I was OK with adoption: the mother was an addict, got help, but still didn’t really want to take responsibility for the child, and adopted the child out. I am OK with adoption in situations like that — reminds me of the King Solomon baby decision case — and when the parents are deceased. Otherwise, I am amazed at the coveting in the Christian Evangelical community in particular. OK, granted, the Bible doesn’t explicitly state “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s children”, but it DOES say that we are NOT to covet ANYTHING that belongs to our neighbor.
The Bible also talks a lot about justice, mercy, righteousness, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, etc. There’s a lot in there that I would say calls for far, FAR greater support than ripping apart a family through adoption! In most cases, the support needs to focus on helping the ENTIRE family, not just the child! Yet I am amazed at Christians’ mistreatment of biological parents — sometimes going so far as not just ignoring biological parents, but even disparaging biological mothers who gave adoptive Christian families their children. That’s just sick imo.
I realize that some folks are unable to have children. I can understand wanting to adopt in that case. But, it should not come at the expense of ripping apart biological families with parents or family members able and willing to take care of the children. My $0.02, anyway.
I realize that most folks who want to adopt, are seeking to do so, because they love children. That is a good and noble thing. But there are much more effective means to blessing children. I am a former public school teacher. When you have a clean background, there are probably many opportunities out there for volunteering with or working in a local public school. (Not all school jobs are teaching. We need substitute teachers, bus drivers, janitors, sometimes crossing guards, etc.)
A number of these schools would probably welcome volunteers in the classroom, although that does depend on the administrator. Imho, the better administrators would be open to support from the local community.
Many junior high and high schools could really benefit from productive members of society mentoring their students, particularly any at-risk youth attending their schools. I can tell you from experience: I loved working with the more “at-risk” crowd. Watching those types flourish in part because of your presence and support is amazing.
Elementary schools would probably also appreciate volunteers helping to read to kids, help out in the classroom, etc.
And then, there are supportive non-profits like the Boys and Girls Club.
My point in saying all this is that you do not have to be a parent to make a difference in children’s lives. Before I was a mom, I was a schoolteacher. I got to work with and care for children on an almost daily basis, without having had a child of my own. It was very rewarding, and I got new kids to work with every year, so I never had to worry about my own kids growing up. And that was part of what made being in the classroom so rewarding. = )
So, I agree: we need to support families and quit coveting other people’s children. If you want a “kid fix”, please, support a local public school or community organization that helps youth! If you really want a “cute little kid” fix, volunteer in a Title I elementary school. That’s where you would likely do the greatest good for Christ’s Kingdom.
Great article! Thanks, Reflective Mom! God bless you and your readers!
Lynda, I appreciate your perspective and agree that we could all be doing more to help entire families and help many children (myself included) without having to adopt them and make them our own before we do that.
My husband and I were recently talking about an adoption decision where the mother had a host of problems that made her unfit to care for her child. Another family stepped in and took the long road to adopting the child (to the applause and relief of many) but I just felt so burdened and saddened from hearing about it and had to ask, “Why didn’t they adopt that mom?” The conversation just kind of dwindled as we both reflected on that and my heart was very heavy for the many parents and children who could be together if the number one desire in caring for “orphans” was to unite families, not build/complete/compliment our own.
In the King Solomon baby case, the baby went to the mother. It was not an adoption. In fact, this is something I have written about but not yet shared. This was the perfect opportunity for the wisest man in the world to either adopt the child himself or give the child to a better off family (they were two women living/staying alone and one of the was obviously deceitful and disturbed). He certainly had the connections and means to make that happen. Instead, in his God-given wisdom, he determined the true parent and reunited the baby with her.
“When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.” 1 Kings 3:28
I think it notable that this is a story that God chose to be included in His Word, when there are not any actual adoption stories found anywhere in the entire Bible.