What Does the Bible Say About Abandoning a Child?

In the scriptures, God makes it clear that children are precious and abandoning them is sinful. Parents are to care for, love, and delight in their children as they are a special reward from Him. In broken relationships, parents must remain prayerful and loving, always ready to forgive and reconcile.

Let’s take a closer look at the scriptures and grow in our understanding of the role of parents and God’s example of the perfect parent. Is there ever a time when abandonment is okay?

Abandonment in the Bible

While the Bible doesn’t use the word “abandonment” when it talks about children, it illustrates the idea in several ways. 

Abandonment in Provision

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)

Timothy rebukes those who won’t care for the widows in their families. He is speaking to the heads of families who are able to care for their family members in need but choose not to. 

Here we see the value God places on the practical love within a family. God calls us to love one another, it is the second great commandment (Matthew 22:39). To not lovingly meet the needs of your family members, or to abandon your own child, is a grievous sin. 

Note: Giving up a child for adoption is not abandonment. In fact, it is a unique way to provide for a child that would otherwise not receive the love and care (both practical and emotional) that they need. This is far from giving up a child due to a deformity, condition (like dropsy), or weakness.

Abandonment in Love

It is possible to meet the physical needs of someone but abandon them emotionally.

Isaiah 49:15 (ESV) “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you…”

Here the God uses the special bond of a mother and child to illustrate His perfect love. We can see that there are two unique ideas that show love toward a child: remembrance and compassion. To neglect or be harsh and uncaring towards a child is the opposite of love, it is emotional abandonment.

Proverbs 13:24 (ESV) Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The scriptures are clear. Parental love and obedience involves training and discipline – perhaps even spanking at times. Children are to be taught about God and corrected according to His Word. To not do these things is a form of neglect and abandonment in God’s eyes.

Mentions of Abandoning Children in the Bible

There’s really not much outside of a few stories.

In Exodus, we see Moses’ mother abandon him into reeds of the Nile, but it was obviously for his good.

abandoned child in river

In Genesis, we see Joseph abandoned by his brothers – but this is clearly painted as an evil deed by his brothers. An evil deed that God would bring much good out of.

The Value of Children In the Bible

We can understand God’s view of abandonment better if we consider His view of children. They are precious in His sight.

Psalm 127:3 (ESV) Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 139: 13-14 (ESV) For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Matthew 18:5-6 (ESV) “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

It is clear that children are a blessing, a special reward from God. He made them wonderfully. He loves them, he longs for them to come to Him. And He is very angry when someone leads them astray.

Broken Relationships with Children

Sin can corrupt the bond between parents and their children. Sometimes a child goes their own way and chooses a path of sin. Sometimes parents neglect or abuse their children, severing the relationship. 

It can be tempting to cut all ties and abandon the relationship. What does the Bible say? Let’s consider the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. 

The son did wrong. He demanded his inheritance and left home. He squandered it and found himself destitute. In humility he returned home with a repentant heart, hoping to take the position of a servant. But when his father saw him, he embraced him and rejoiced, crying tears of joy. He threw a party and honored him! 

There was true repentance, complete forgiveness, a desperate longing for reconciliation. This is what God calls us to—unconditional love. It is the way that He loves us.

God, The Perfect Parent Who Never Abandons

If you have never known the love of a parent and have suffered from abandonment, there is hope! You have a Heavenly Father who promises to parent His children with love and joy. 

If you have received Christ as your personal Saviour (Romans 10:9), understood that He died on the cross to save you from your sins, and rose again to offer you eternal life, then God is YOUR Father. He has adopted you into His family (Galations 4:5). And He won’t let you down.

The Father who created you (Psalm 139:13) will delight in you (Zephaniah 3:17). He will wipe every tear from your eyes (Revelation 21:4) and welcome you to union with Himself. He is unchanging (Malachi 3:6) and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). You can trust in Him.

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