Four Common Questions Christians Ask About Having Children*
God gives the mission of multiplication to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 when He calls them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” God created the family as part of His ultimate plan to extend His glory throughout the earth through future generations who bear His image and worship His name. This means that God’s blessing of children is not primarily about our personal gratification but rather His own glorification. God loves children, God loves life, and God loves to spread His glory through multiplication. Therefore, God’s people must make the mission of multiplication a priority in their lives, bringing their ambitions in line with God’s ambitions.
Any time a topic like this is addressed, it raises a lot of questions for Christian couples. Many of these questions are difficult to address in a thirty-five minute preaching format. This article will attempt to answer briefly four of the most common questions Christians ask about having children and planning their families. Hopefully, it will bring clarity to a perspective on childbearing that is counter-cultural, complex, and yet distinctively Christian.
1. Is it wrong for Christians to plan the number of children they want to have and when they want to have them?
The key issue with this question is one’s heart. This is not a ‘number-ofchildren’ issue; it is a heart issue. The question is not: “How many children must I have to meet my spiritual quota?” The better questions are: “Do I love what God loves?” “Are my ambitions in line with God’s ambitions?” “Is the plan I have for bearing children driven by worldly ambition or kingdom ambition?” The act of planning, whether you’re planning when to have children or when to stop having children, is not in itself a wrong action. The Bible extols godly wisdom and biblical planning, and these principles certainly apply to planning our family. What makes one’s planning godly or ungodly are the ambitions and priorities that drive the plans. Are there godly reasons a couple may choose to postpone or stop having children? Sure. But there are also many culturally expected, yet ungodly reasons a couple may make these same decisions. Christians must be careful to make sure the plans they have for their lives, including plans for their family, reflect the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of the world. Unfortunately, far too often, Christians approach the issue of bearing children in a manner that is far more reflective of the priorities within American culture (e.g. career goals, a particular standard of living, etc.), rather than the priorities within the kingdom (e.g. filling the earth with the glory of God). This is a trend that must be challenged.
The ultimate concern when approaching questions related to family planning is one’s heart (i.e. motivations, ambitions, and priorities). The specific response to God’s mission of multiplication will look different for different families, which is okay, as long as the response is driven by prayer, faith, and kingdom ambition rather than selfish ambition and cultural expectations.
2. I know the Bible says that children are a blessing, but I do not always feel blessed by them. Should I feel guilty about this?
I am the father of three young boys with my first daughter due in just a few months. This will make four children in about five years for us. In these five years, there have been plenty of really difficult days. Remember, God never said that parents should always “feel blessed” by their children. He does say that we should consider our children a blessing. Sometimes, we consider our children a blessing in spite of how we “feel” emotionally and physically. One’s response to these various feelings is what makes all the difference. One of the best definitions of faith I’ve heard is this: Faith is trusting God’s word is true regardless of circumstances, emotions, or understanding. This is the type of faith that honors God.
There will be days, weeks, and seasons when the task of parenting will become discouraging, frustrating, and exhausting. God is honored in the midst of those seasons when you remain committed to your family despite how you feel physically and emotionally. It is this enduring commitment to your home that honors God, not constantly having a warm, fuzzy feeling toward your family or an unending well of physical energy. Our feelings are fallen; this is why we don’t trust them. We stand on God’s word because it is perfect. Trusting and obeying God’s word despite how you feel, that is what honors the Lord.
God uses children to expose the sins of selfishness and pride in our lives. Whenever I think to myself, “I do not feel very blessed by my children right now,” it is often a sign of a sinful attitude in my heart. I typically feel this way whenever my children are “robbing” me of my own selfish desires (e.g. money, personal time, worldly pursuits, etc.). Parenting is largely a selfless exercise, which requires us to die to ourselves daily. If the greatest desire of your heart is personal recreation, worldly achievement, and relaxation, then chances are you will not feel very blessed by your children most of the time. If, however, the greatest desire of your heart is to be like Jesus, then you will consider your children a blessing, in part, because you will find in them a means to obtaining your greatest desire: Christlikeness.
3.What if we are struggling with infertility?
There’s no question that problems of infertility bring emotional and spiritual turmoil. Christians who are struggling with infertility should lean on the character of God. God is our Comforter and Healer. He is also our Redeemer and thus can redeem hard situations and use them to accomplish great things. The motive behind God’s command in Genesis 1:28 should bring great hope to any couple struggling with infertility. God’s desire is to fill the earth with His glory through image-bearers who worship Him. This is a mission all Christians can be engaged in, even those who cannot have children due to infertility. Adoption, foster ministry, and multi-generational discipleship are all ways to be engaged in God’s Mission of Multiplication. These ministries are high callings, not second-tier opportunities.
4.What does the Bible say about the use of birth control?
Space limitations prevent giving a full answer to this question here. Two statements must suffice. First, good, well-meaning Christians disagree on some points of this issue. It is a complex and difficult question to answer. This is not an excuse to avoid studying the Scriptures for direction; this is a question all married Christians should study. However, approach this topic, like all topics, with humility and love.
Second, you need to know that there are some forms of contraception that possess abortive effects. Christians should do the research necessary to know which contraceptives have these effects and avoid them. The Bible teaches that human life begins at conception; therefore, any contraception that terminates an already fertilized egg (such as the “Morning After” pill and IUDs) should be avoided.
For more information on a biblical perspective of birth control see Ethics for a Brave New World by Feinberg (Chapter 7), God, Marriage, and Family by Kostenberger (Chapter 7), or you can find some helpful articles and interviews on this topic at desiringgod.org.