I have written often on the subject of knowing and doing the will of God. Sometimes, though, particular situations arise in which we need very specific applications of those general principles. A reader of this site recently asked me about how to think about how many children to have. Here is what he wrote:
The topic of deciding on family size and what’s right for your family has come up among ourselves and our friends. It seems different for everyone. On the basic level, we know that God calls us to be fruitful and multiply and we know that to be a parent is an unselfish act as you give your time to parenthood. Yet big families are not for everyone and can cause problems in certain situations.
Let me explain how I go about thinking through this issue. The first thing I look for is clear and specific guidance from the Bible. Is there a clear command in the Bible that tells me that I must have as large a family as possible? And conversely, is there a clear command in the Bible that tells me that I must limit the size of my family? To my knowledge and understanding there is no clear command in either case. In the absence clear and specific commands from God, I am now out of the realm of absolute right and wrong; I am now free from being blatantly disobedient if I choose to have two children or if I choose to have twenty children. But this does not mean that I can now just do whatever I feel like.
In the absence of clear moral commands, my calling is to act wisely and to act in accordance with biblical principles, so my next action is to look to the Bible for principles that may guide me as I consider this issue. Here are a few that come to mind:
Be Fruitful and Multiply. God created human life and as one of man’s primary roles told him to “be fruitful and multiply.” It is our duty as humans to procreate and our special duty as Christians to fill the earth with people who know and love the Lord. Therefore it is reasonable to say that as a general principle God expects that a husband and wife will have at least some children.
Children Are a Blessing. The Bible is clear that we are to regard children as a blessing and not as a burden. Psalm 127 tells us that “children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Where our culture may see children as a financial, emotional or psychological burden, the Bible tells us that they are a blessing and a reward. Further, Many Children Is a Great Blessing. God gave no conditions to his command that we be fruitful and multiply. He did not say “multiply up to and including eight children at which point you must stop.” At the same time he did not say “be fruitful and multiply until you have exceeded two children.” We are given no rules about how many children are appropriate in God’s eyes. We do hear hints, though, that God approves of large families and that many children represent a special blessing. Psalm 127 continues, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.” Many children represent many blessings.