Understanding why Jesus didn’t say anything about abortion

Pregnant lady near stained glass

In ancient Rome, during the time of Jesus, abortion was not only common but widely accepted.  There were, of course, opponents to abortion including both Christians and non-Christians.  Since abortion has been in practice dating back even to the Old Testament, we can’t say that it wasn’t relevant during the times when scripture was written.  What then do we make of what the Bible says?

The dividing line
People generally find themselves on either side of this topic.  Terms have been popularized by both sides to support their stance.  These terms include “pro-family”, “pro-life” and “pro-choice”.  Since not a single one of these is accurate, I’ll omit them from this article.  What you’ll find as you talk to people on either side is that the differentiating factor is the answer to the question, “when does life start?”.  For the sake of this article we’re going to assume that you believe life starts at conception.  There are scriptures used by both sides to support their views but we’ll stick with the aforementioned assumption.  Because of that we find ourselves opposed to abortion.

The source of truth
Let’s look to scripture to see what it has to say about abortion.  Psalm 139:13-16 is often used by those who oppose abortion and it says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  This verse is extrapolated to support the belief that life starts at conception by saying God knew you before you were formed in the womb.

On the contrary, proponents of abortion use Exodus 21:22-23 which says, “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.”  Since the penalty for murder is death and this verse mentions a mere fine for an abortion, this is used to say that God views an unborn child differently than He views a born child.

Though there aren’t many verses which speak specifically about abortion, it is clear that abortion is a sin.  Which is really all that matters for the rest of this article.  Since we made a compelling enough case that abortion is a sin we can move on to talk about why Jesus didn’t have much to say on the topic.

What did Jesus say? (WDJS?)
In short, nothing.  Nothing specific anyway.  Why is that?  Is it because abortion was not an issue at the time?  No.  Is it because Jesus doesn’t value life (which starts at conception)?  No.  I never really thought about this question enough to really find out why Jesus doesn’t talk about something which seems like a cornerstone issue.  Jesus did, after all, have a lot to say about the poor and the lost.

Of all the missions people have had throughout the course of history, Jesus’ was by far the most important.  He didn’t have much time while he was here but in that time He gave us the perfect example of godliness and righteousness.  He spent a great deal of His time in relationships with people as well as teaching those who followed him (especially the disciples).  In his teachings were specific instructions on how we ought to live.  These instructions included what we ought to be passionate about, what we ought to do with our time, and how we ought to treat others.

Just because Jesus didn’t say much regarding a topic doesn’t mean it’s not important.  However, He does seem to draw a line to separate the things which are important from the only thing which matters.  Jesus’ message was that we accept Him as our personal Lord and Savior, and that we tell others about Him.  Knowing that, can we understand why Jesus didn’t say anything about abortion?  Yes, if we don’t try to overcomplicate the gospel.

What about abortion?
This is where I draw a conclusion.  Before I do that I would like to give some context as it relates to my personal views on abortion.  I’ve always felt that abortion is wrong.  I’ve even been quoted as saying it’s one of the most important topics as it pertains to Christians.  I’ve even voted for presidential candidates based on their views regarding abortion.

This was all before I began to question my own beliefs.  In doing so I came to have a much better understanding of God’s desired relationship with us.  I have also, however, come to have a very confused understanding of the church here in the US.  I use the term church since it represents the body of believers.  The church can be wrong.  In fact, history shows that the church has made many mistakes.  But that’s okay, it’s what Jesus died for — our screw ups.  Christianity, however, cannot ever be wrong since it’s rooted in the truth.  It’s a shame that the church is often viewed as a representation of Christianity…we suck at that.

Oh yea, my conclusion.  It became very clear to me that Jesus was so passionate about saving souls that there were lots of sins which he did not spend a lot of time on.  In fact, the sins He did spend a lot of time speaking about were the sins which could get in the way of someone coming to have a relationship with Him.  Shouldn’t we then also be so passionate about telling others about Jesus that the minor details don’t consume us or our faith?  Of course!

Don’t get me wrong, abortion sucks.  But Jesus would have been more concerned about the mother, father, doctor and anyone else involved than the baby itself.  Why?  Perhaps because the baby received salvation.  I don’t know, but maybe it’s also not for me to figure out.  It’s my human nature and my emotion which causes me to have such passion against abortion.  It’s not my faith, nor should it be yours.

We can all learn a thing or two from Jesus.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “Understanding why Jesus didn’t say anything about abortion

  1. charcoalmoon

    Thanks for discussing this. I am not a Bible scholar, but it had occurred to me a while ago that Jesus must not have said anything about abortion because no one quotes him on it.

    I wonder about Christians who vote straight pro-life tickets, but they don’t consider war (especially the elective war with Iraq), the death penalty, helping the poor/sick/hungry. Jesus has said to turn the other cheek to enemies — so how could war ever be justified? Especially a war like the Iraq war, where the U.S. was not provoked. So many pro-life Christians on the GOP side complain about welfare, but wouldn’t Jesus be in favor of a welfare type of system, where the poor and hungry were given a break on food and shelter?

  2. author

    You know…I’m not a biblical scholar either. But I don’t think you have to be in order to have a firm grasp of God’s desires for us. It’s comical to think that Jesus considered literacy as a prerequisite to come to know Him personally. I think back to Jesus’ day when it was the scholars who were misled. Don’t get me wrong, biblical study is great and digging into scripture is one of many great ways to know God more.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Regarding war there’s “just war theory” which is used to support some wars. Unfortunately, I think “just war” has grown in scope to include wars which I can’t understand as being just.

    Like you said, Jesus spent so much of His time with the poor and oppressed…that has to mean something.

  3. LC

    The writer made a very good point by saying we should focus on our relationship with Jesus. And if we did have a close relationship with Jesus, our hearts, minds, bodies and souls would be so aligned with love, compassion, generosity, service, and sacrifice, that we would never even consider abortion as an option; we would welcome with love, joy, and faith an innocent child no matter what the circumstance. That is the strength of the power and openness of Jesus’ love for humankind. The writer attributes his/her personal view on abortion to human emotion and passion; and that may the case for many others as well. But in a relationship with Jesus the decision would be based in love. Therefore, it very much would be connected to our faith in Him. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jack

    Thanks for a commentary from the “anti” side of the issue that expresses the merits of your position with humility. I find so often that those that claim to “speak” for Jesus are simply using Him to further their opinions and justify the imposition of them on the rest of us. Mostly, I’m on the “choice” side because I simply can’t imagine speaking for God when there is so little direction commanding me to do so. There’s is only abstract references to abortion and frankly, I think that if God wants to get a message about abortion across, He can get the job done. I also find it implorable to imagine that I myself would have to speak for God because He can’t. Guess what I’m really saying is thanks for demonstrating a degree of “humble” regarding God. We really are NOT His equal and we really don’t know His mind better than He does. So, from across the chasm, thank you.

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  6. Scott Huard

    But most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born. For they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun. (New living translation)

    Jesus didn’t say anything. During that time female babies were dropped on a hill outside of Jerusalem because they were unwanted. Out of 100 women getting pregnant, 25% will spontaneously abort, this makes god the biggest abortion provider. It is NOT clear that abortion is a sin, what is clear is that if two men are fighting and one of them knocks down a woman and she aborts, there is a FINE. Not a punishment for a sin. Its an infraction. Ecclesiastes 6 Better is a stillborn child.

  7. The error in your argument is in the fact that you do not recognize the fact that life does not begin at conception. Life can be assumed at conception but it cannot be proved to exist at conception. In fact most (70%) zygotes die shortly after conception and many that die do so due to genetic flaws. Because of the genetic flaws it is impossible to tell if the life that remains after the first 70 percent of conceptions die is in fact human. If a life cannot live as a human, then it is not a human life. What we know about conception leaves one with the fact that it is impossible to tell at conception if the zygote is human or alive.
    But that is not the worst part of your assumption that it is life at conception. That assumption leads you to cause the death of born people in an attempt to save fetuses that may or may not be alive. Please stop misleading people into believing that it is life at conception, it is a deadly and false assumption.

  8. Rachelle

    Russell,
    A beating heart and brain waves, don’t prove that the being is alive? Even if you can’t accept that it is human, you cannot debate that it is alive. By the time a woman knows she is pregnant their is a beating heart and by the time most abortions are performed there are brain waves. The cell divides within hours, there is just no debate about weather it is alive or not. You might not see it as human, and you might not see it as valuable as the Lord proclaims, but no one can debate that it is alive. Non-living things do not reproduce, consume energy, excrete, and exchange gases; these things all happen immediately. Do some never implant, do some die on their own, yes but that does not change whether they are alive or not. There is just no arguing that it is not alive. It moves, it uses energy, it reproduces, within hours of fertilization. That is alive, even if you disagree, it is scientifically the definition of a living organism. Zygotes in a petri dish will die if not properly handled, something can’t die if it isn’t first alive. Now if you want to debate if it is human, we can start with the fact that it contains all the DNA of a human, a beating heart of human (within days), and brainwaves of a human (within a few weeks). But I am not even addressing that, I am addressing that scientifically there is no assumption about it being alive, there is actual proof that those cells are alive from the moment of conception forward. Now, you tell me how on earth knowing that the baby is alive causes the death of born people. If you are talking about someone threatening the life of someone who doesn’t have an abortion, then the perpetrator is the one causing death. If you are talking about someone having to give up on certain plans, giving birth doesn’t require that, plus they knew the risks when choosing to have sex, and that isn’t death it is change.

  9. jennyr51

    Great thoughts on the subject. I feel very much the same way. I see Christians get so wrapped up in “standing for what’s right”, that all sense of purpose is lost. The heart behind the stance is right, but eventually the issue becomes the driving force behind decisions, instead of Christ. We are called to be disciples, not worry about the politics behind every sin people commit. If we can show people love and acceptance, despite the sin, God can change them. When God starts changing people’s hearts and minds we will find we have a lot less fighting for our cause to do, because God will have done it for us.

  10. Scott Huard

    I don’t want someone elses religious views and opinions forced on me and my friends because of their ‘belief’ by creating laws that ALL of us will have to obey. Frankly this whole issue is why CHURCH and STATE must remain separate. Here’s a phrase for you women out there. IT’S YOUR BODY. I as a man do not have power over you…And I don’t want that power either….
    If you’re against abortion, DON’T HAVE ONE. If your against gays marrying, don’t marry someone of the same sex, (marriage licenses were created to keep blacks and whites from marrying, and to collect another ‘tax’) We are trying to legislate personal moral choices, not public issues. If you REALLY hate abortion. PROVIDE BIRTH CONTROL. ITS MUCH CHEAPER TO PREVENT, THAN ABORT…. THINK about it…

  11. God creates life not humans. The formation of a fetus is not a human act but a supernatural spiritual act. Birth is a miracle. Just like our bodily organs function. Our organs function not because of our active will but by the will of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Back to the fetus, humans do not form the developement of the fetus it is formed by God. The Lord said, ” Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you.” If we apply birth as an act of God the debate is over

  12. Scott Huard

    OK…so now you just said that the holy spirit also makes animals (aside from humans), and god indwells animals as well…So when a lion/tiger/bear eats a human, its under the direct control of gawd…..right….Isaiah 45:7 god said he creates EVIL. …So birth is an act of god just like tornados and earthquakes and volcanos….You should stop taking antibiotics and going to the doctor…just pray over everything…oh and don’t forget the oil and wine….yer gonna need that…LOTS AND LOTS OF WINE….

  13. Scott Huard

    Oh and lets not forget that the Catholic church says that you can’t use birth control, you have to have kids regardless if you can feed them oh and if they starve to death…’its gods will’….I CALL BULLSHIT….

  14. Fleetwood_Captain

    What some do not know is that in Jewish law, there already were rules about abortion in the time of Christ. My thoughts are that these existing laws may be the reason why Christ didn’t say (or didn’t have to say) anything about abortion.

    The general idea of the Jewish Law on Abortion is that a Fetus is considered separate from the Mother and is technically not an actual person until birth. So in the event that a pregnancy could kill the mother, the life of the Mother is of greater importance than the Fetus. In some interpretations, abortion is actually MANDATORY when it is needed to save the mother’s life. Other permissible situations also exist, dependent on which form of Jewish law one follows.

    This adds an interesting twist to the abortion debate, as abortion could be interpreted as a right under the Freedom of Religion in the first amendment.

  15. sarah

    I don’t believe that you successfully established abortion as a sin per the bible. You quoted the bible which says nothing on it and then claimed that as a fact. There isn’t a method by which to force it in. The bible doesn’t mention abortion, period.

    It is fair to say that Jesus valued life highly. The problem is that there is nothing to establish that Jesus himself would have seen a fetus as a living person. It is fine to be pro life, but you can’t claim that Jesus backs you up. He simply doesn’t back either side in this argument. So it is a bit arrogant to claim divine support for your side.

    The 2 things the bible was silent on are contraception (except a vague reference to a man who pulled out when raping his dead brother’s wife. Excuse me if I decide not to listen to that specific passage) and abortion. Yet for so many Christians these are the pivotal issues of their faith. Jesus went on and on about helping the poor, nearly constantly, yet you hear a lot from the political arm of the religious right about pulling back social services and banning abortion. I know that isn’t how all Christians feel, but I am curious how Christian political leadership gets away with being so counter to the life of Christ.

    btw, when discussing the bible and life, please remember that the bible (esp. the first testament) is CHOCK FULL of god approved death and rape. Literally, could almost be the main themes. It is really difficult to see the bible being about life when old testament god’s favorite pastime seemed to be rape and mass slaughter.

  16. sarah

    Don White – if I am not Christian the debate is not over. Separation of church and state and religious freedom please.

    I may disagree, but I can understand why people are pro-life. It is an extremely complicated issue and deserves complicated, thoughtful discussion. You can argue that you simply believe that a fetus is a life and we therefore shouldn’t end it. That’s fine – please feel free to argue from that stand-point. Stating that you are speaking for god and then forcing your religious interpretation of morality on others is unacceptable, however. How are we supposed to respond to something that is based purely on a religious belief and not on harm to society, individuals, etc.? (once again, feel free to argue from that standpoint) “Flim Flam, the god of coffee, disagrees with your god as per the Book of Flim”? Seriously. It is not possible to thoughtfully discuss something when one side claims divine knowledge, which even if there is a god, no one has. Please be religious, but don’t claim your religion as the basis of where law should come from.

    If I can simply point to the bible to back up any law, rape and slavery are both a-ok. Also, getting a haircut is forbidden. And that’s just the tip of the ice-burg. God is fine with and even rewards men who throw their daughters out to a crowd to be raped to death (this happens TWICE in the bible). Shall I go on?

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