Literal Fruitfulness and the Body of Christ

By Mark D. Roberts

May 9, 2015

God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ ”

Genesis 1:28


In the last few days, I have been reflecting on the command in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful.” In yesterday’s devotion, I talked about the importance of literal fruitfulness, that is, the bearing and raising of children. I am concerned that what I said, no matter how important it may be for some, might appear to leave out people who are not parents. Was I suggesting that people without children cannot experience the fruitfulness God intends for them?

No. Not at all. In Genesis 1, the man and the woman were given the responsibility of being fruitful in the sense of bearing and raising children. Yet, this obligation is not something that every single human being must follow in a literal sense. Some people, for a variety of reasons, are not able to be parents. They can, nevertheless, experience fruitful, God-honoring lives. (In fact, 1 Corinthians 7 suggests that there are kingdom benefits to singleness.)

We can all think of people who, though they do not have children of their own, contribute in substantial ways to God’s work in the world. But, it should also be pointed out that these folk are also essential in the task of raising godly, productive children. This task is a work of the body of Christ together, not just individual parents or couples.

When I think of what has helped my children to flourish in life, I am reminded of so many people who contributed to their growth in life and faith. I think of Sunday School teachers and youth leaders – several of whom did not have their own children – whose influence on my kids was profound. I think most of all of Beth, who was once my children’s babysitter. In time, however, she became their coach, mentor, teacher, encourager, example, and beloved friend. The fact that Beth did not have children of her own gave her the time and energy to invest in the lives of my children. Beth’s influence upon them simply cannot be measured. So, when it comes to the literal fruitfulness of my life, my wife, Linda, and I are eternally grateful to Beth and to the Lord for bringing her into our lives.

While many of us will obey the command to be fruitful by raising children we have conceived, all of us have the opportunity to contribute to the growth and discipleship of young people. Thus, all of us, as members of Christ’s body, can be truly fruitful in all dimensions of life.


In your life, are there people besides your literal parents who contributed richly to your growth and well-being? Have you or are you playing this role in the lives of others? If you do not have children, do you see yourself as someone who is essential in the raising of young people to live godly, fruitful lives?


Gracious God, thank you for giving all of us the responsibility of raising children to live full lives as your disciples. Thank you for the way your church supports parents and shares in parenting together. Thank you for all of those who, though they do not have children of their own, are deeply invested in the lives of children that are theirs in Christ.

Lord, as your people, may we embrace together our responsibility of being fruitful in all senses. May we be a place where all people are valued, where all people are able to contribute their gifts and their love. Amen.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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