“Your Word Is Truth”
Why Do Babies Die?
THE death of any child, no matter what its age, is a painful blow to parents. Its life, having recently begun, suddenly ends, making the months of pregnancy, the pangs of childbirth, the tender care given the young child during its first days, weeks or months of life all seem empty of any purpose, wasted. No wonder then that hurt parents ask, “Why did it happen?”
Bereaved parents often are not satisfied with the explanation that, actually, babies die from the very same causes that older persons do, namely, sickness, accidents, perhaps congenital defects or, in times of poverty, malnutrition. Babies seem so innocent that many parents feel that somehow they should be divinely exempt from such causes of mortality. What answer does the Bible give to this troubling question?
God’s Word points to the underlying cause of death, saying: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) But do newborn or very young babies have such death-dealing sin within them? The Bible shows they do. How? By inheritance. As the inspired psalmist expressed it: “Look! with error I was brought forth with birth pains, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5) Let us see how this works out.
The historical account in Genesis shows that the first man Adam chose to rebel against God’s law. Our first parents’ being cut off from good relationship with their Creator introduced emotions of guilt, anxiety, insecurity and shame. (Gen. 3:1-13) This inevitably had a damaging effect upon their system, for it was not designed with any ‘built-in tolerance’ for wrongdoing. As is well known, damaging emotions adversely affect the body chemistry. This would be true of the first man and woman. Their organs and bodily functions involved in reproduction may have suffered damage. At any rate, from the start children were born with weaknesses. Sinful from birth, they could not measure up to the standards of perfection that Jehovah had purposed for humans. As faithful Job observed: “Who can produce someone clean out of someone unclean? There is not one.”—Job 14:4.
Additionally, environmental factors can affect human life and health. By refusal to be governed by God’s law, Adam and Eve deprived themselves of divine direction and guidance. This obliged them to learn much by trial and error. Wrong judgment and ways doubtless submitted them and their offspring to many problems that brought further mental, emotional and physical strain and damage, even as happens today.
Eventually the sin that had alienated Adam and Eve from Jehovah God led to their death. They did not possess immortality. Their life depended on God. It was not just a matter of being supplied with sufficient food, water and air. As Jesus Christ said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matt. 4:4.
Yes, for Adam and Eve to continue living, God had to sustain their life. If obedient, their bodies would have been kept alive forever through God’s sustaining power. Indicative of this is the fact that Adam lived for 930 years despite God’s allowing his body now to deteriorate.—Gen. 5:5.
Thus, the death of all humans, infants included, can be traced initially to disobedience to God’s law, that is, to sin. Man is created in such a way that he can live only by remaining subject to fixed laws. A violation of any of these laws has an adverse effect upon the body and can lead to death. For example, a person who fails to get sufficient rest and take in proper nourishment will eventually weaken, sicken and die. The result is the same when he violates moral laws.
God’s unchangeable law is that the “wages sin pays is death.” (Rom. 6:23) Should he suspend this law as regards newborn or young infants? True, newborn infants may be incapable of consciously violating divine laws. Yet the ease with which even small babies can become ‘spoiled’ or go into ‘temper tantrums’ is but one small evidence of the sinful inclination they inherit. The Bible’s statement is: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) As a child grows, the truth of this statement becomes more evident. Should God, because of the apparent innocence of a babe at birth, miraculously preserve its life against sickness and other causes of death until such time as it visibly manifests the sin inherent in it? The pull of emotion might cause us to prefer this, but God holds true to his righteous standards and laws. However, in his loving-kindness he has made a provision that should warm the heart of bereaved parents. What is that?
It is the resurrection. While on earth, the Son of God said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) The fact that Jehovah God has upheld his law respecting the wages of sin and proved true to his righteous standards assures us that his promise of the resurrection is dependable.
This resurrection hope enables true Christians to avoid becoming overly sad about the death of loved ones. They do not “sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13) They rejoice that infants will be brought back to life under the kingdom of God’s Son, with the opportunity of never dying again. They are comforted in knowing that their children’s sleeping in death will not permanently injure them.
It is also comforting to recognize that an early death may have even spared children from many severe troubles and suffering, both in past times and in the present. That is the way Job felt about the death of infants as compared with his own miserable state, saying: “Why from the womb did I not proceed to die? Why did I not come forth from the belly itself and then expire? . . . For [in that case] by now I should have lain down that I might be undisturbed; I should have slept then; I should be at rest [in death].”—Job 3:11-13.
Realizing that it is transgression of God’s law that has brought about death and its accompanying sorrow, should we not seek diligently to conform our lives to God’s righteous requirements for life? Certainly we would never want to rebel against divine law deliberately as did Adam and Eve, to their own injury and that of their offspring. So, while we continue seeing the payment of sin’s wages, even in the case of infants, we may draw solid comfort from the resurrection hope, ever appreciating that obedience to God’s commands is the way to life.