Abortion: You Desire and Do Not Have, So You Kill

The following excerpts are from a message preached by John Piper on January 18, 1987.

The least we can draw out of this text [Psalm 139:13] is that the formation of the life of a person in the womb is the work of God, and it is not merely a mechanical process but a work on the analogy of weaving or knitting: “Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The life of the unborn is the knitting of God, and what he is knitting is a human being in his own image, unlike any other creature in the universe.


We can argue till doomsday about when this little being becomes “a whole person.” That argument will probably never be settled. But this we can say, I think, with great confidence: what is happening in the womb is a unique person-forming work of God, and only God knows how deeply and mysteriously the creation of personhood is woven into the making of a body. And therefore it is arbitrary and unwarranted to assume that at some point in the knitting together of this person its destruction is not an assault on the prerogatives of God the Creator. Let me say that again positively: the destruction of conceived human life—whether embryonic, fetal, or viable—is an assault on the unique person-forming work of God.


…what is going on in America today is by and large a cavalier, irreverent assault on the unique person-forming work of God. What God is knitting together into personhood, man is tearing asunder as something less significant than flesh and bones.


Why is this happening with unprecedented frequency and flippancy in our day?

Because We Have Made a God of Self

One answer is given in James 4:2 (following the punctuation of the RSV and NASB):

You desire and do not have; so you kill.

Desire what? 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.


On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court, in Dred Scott vs. Stanford, ruled that no act of Congress or territorial legislature could make laws banning slavery. The fundamental argument was that slaves are not free and equal persons but the property of their masters. The ruling is analogous to Roe vs. Wade because today no state may make a law banning abortion to protect the unborn. The argument is similar: basically because the unborn are at the sovereign disposal of their mothers and do not have personal standing in their own right.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Reprinted with permission.

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