by Perry Boardman
I recently read a post on a blog by a woman who was attempting to defend nursing in public from the Scriptures. She cited several verses which spoke of women nursing children and then concluded that it is Scriptural for this to be done in public. And there were many comments by others affirming that this conclusion is correct.
It's wonderful that this person is seeking to determine truth from the Scriptures, for they alone and in their entirety are the infallible Word of God and the ultimate authority for truth. And this person made a good case that nursing children is indeed Scriptural. But none of the verses used to support this mention it being done in public. They simply affirm that nursing children is something beautiful that God has ordained. So the question remains: Is it appropriate in public? This is an important question because nursing in public is now legal in all 50 states and at least one organization has been formed to encourage women to take advantage of this liberty. Moreover, many believers, including pastors, have expressed their approval. The Scriptures do not directly speak to this issue, but they do give enough clear principles to guide us to the correct answer.
While it is true that a woman's breasts are primarily for nursing children, the Scriptures teach that they are also for the sexual gratification of a husband. Proverbs 5:19 says concerning a man's wife, "Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love." So it's evident that the sexualization of the breasts is not cultural; it's something God has ordained. And since He has designed the breasts to be sexually stimulating, we need to look at other verses that relate to this issue.
1 Peter 2:11 says, "Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." And similarly Romans 13:14 says, "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." 2 Timothy 2:22 is even more pointed: "Flee youthful lusts." In other words, we are to avoid in earnest any occasions that might cause us to have lustful thoughts. Why? Because Christ says in Matthew 5:26, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Since it's not easy for a man to disassociate a woman's breasts from their sexual function, it would be very difficult for him to obey the mandate given in these verses if a breast is exposed to nurse a child.
It could be argued that this is the man's problem, not the woman's. But we all have the responsibility not to be a stumbling block to others (Rom. 14:13). There were some in the early church who were under the conviction that it was a sin to eat meat which had been offered to idols, and to see other believers eating it was a stumblingblock for them. Though they had the liberty, the Apostle Paul says, "But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died ... It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak (Rom. 14:15, 21)." So while we should not judge a woman for nursing in public, she out of love needs to consider how this will likely affect men and avoid doing it in their presence, even though there may be some inconvenience. (For the importance of Christian love, see I Corinthians 13.)