Identifying the Underlying Cause of Abortion
Most of you are aware that for many years, while he was senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, John Piper would preach a sermon in January on Right to Life Sunday that addressed the epidemic of abortion in our land. Continue reading . . .
Most of you are aware that for many years, while he was senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, John Piper would preach a sermon in January on Right to Life Sunday that addressed the epidemic of abortion in our land. As I was perusing those many sermons, I was caught off guard when I noticed that once he based his message on James 4:1-6, specifically v. 2 where James says: “You desire and do not have, so you murder.”
Here is a synopsis of what John said:
“The issue of murder in this text is rooted in unsatisfied desires. ‘You desire and do not have; so you commit murder.’ We could spend a long time here examining all the desires and longings that an unplanned pregnancy threatens: [such as] a pleased boyfriend or husband, education, financial solvency, career, freedom from morning sickness and diapers and runny noses and the terrible twos and sleepless nights and homework help and sports and band and drama and transportation and teenage moodiness and college expenses. You desire all these things and all this freedom, but along comes a baby, and your desires are threatened, and you are tempted to get rid of the troublemaker, the baby. That's where abortion comes from. . . .
If we found in God what God really is, if we were not willfully blind and rebellious against him as our all-supplying portion in this life and the next, we would not abort our children. The root cause of abortion is the failure to be satisfied in God as our supreme love (emphasis mine). And, for all the great legal work that needs to be done to protect human life, the greatest work that needs to be done is to spread a passion – a satisfaction – for the supremacy of God in all things.”
So precisely what, then, are the desires that lead to the “murder” of the unborn? Piper answers:
“More financial security perhaps or more leisure or more education or more unrestrained teenage sex activity or more career options or the avoidance of a child who may be handicapped, or perhaps just less hassle for the next 18 years. We desire, and the desires may be good or bad.
But then comes the pregnancy—the beginning of a divine work of person-forming in the womb. And the result? The desires are threatened. We desire and then, because of the pregnancy, we cannot have. The child is going to cost money; or cramp our travel plans and our leisure; or keep us out of school; or hinder our career advancement; or consume thousands of hours with a possible handicap; and limit our freedom in a hundred ways for the next 18 years or more.
Now what? James says, ‘You desire and do not have; so you kill.’ We kill marriages and we kill unborn babies because they cut across our desires; they stand in the way of our unencumbered self-enhancement. And we live in a culture where self-enhancement and self-advancement is god. And if self-enhancement is god, then the One who is at work in the womb shaping a person in his own image is not God and the assault on his work is not sacrilegious, but obedience to the god of self.”
It is unlikely that James was referring to literal, physical murder. It’s difficult to envision that if the early church was given to killing its own members (or those outside the church) that he would have said nothing more than what he says here. He probably means something along the lines of: “you are murderously angry,” similar to what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:21-26. There he warns us against being “angry” with others in our heart. The Apostle John put it this way: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).
That being said, virtually all murder is itself the fruit of uninhibited anger and unsatisfied desires. I believe James would concur that if anger and selfish desires are not checked they can lead to physical violence.
In any case, the principle articulated by James surely has relevance to the subject of abortion in our day and the reasons why people choose to terminate the lives of the unborn. So I think John’s appeal to this passage is altogether justified.
[You can read his two sermons on this at www.desiringgod.org, “Where Does Child Killing Come From?” January 25, 1998; “Abortion: You Desire and Do Not Have, So You Kill,” January 18, 1987.]