There is much controversy these days, even among Christians, over the number of children that a married couple should have. The argument, so it goes, is that a large number of children are bad for the environment, will use an inordinate amount of the world’s resources, will leave of all things (heaven forbid) a larger carbon footprint. Oh, by the way it will also possibly cause the wife to waste her education or possibly miss having a real career.
The implications are clear: to have a large family is irresponsible, selfish and poor stewardship of our planet (and a woman’s life).
As with any idea or proposition that believers must wrestle with in life the ultimate question should always remain: what do the Scriptures say? As believers in Christ, the ultimate issue is what authority shall we live by? For Christians, the answer of ultimate authority is simple and straightforward, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” Psalm 18:30.
So what do the Scriptures say about the size of one’s family?
In Genesis God gives this command to the first married couple, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it'” (Genesis 1:28). God repeats this same command to Noah and his children as they emerge from the ark, “As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it” (Genesis 9:2).
Later in the Scripture the psalmist exalts a large family as a sure sign of the blessing of God, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 147:4-5). It may be of interest to note that the quiver of a solider in that day traditionally held five arrows.
While there are numerous more Old Testament passages that exalt a large number of children as a sign of God’s blessing, in the New Testament we also find evidence of the same.
For example, we are told the family of Jesus was quite large by today’s standards. While Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born to Mary, Jesus had a large number of brothers and sisters, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:54-56). Even by a conservative estimate there were seven children in the family of Jesus.
What was Jesus’ attitude toward children? “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these'” Luke 18:6.
We would simply make the point the Scriptures by both teaching and example consistently portray children, even a large number of children, as a blessing and not a curse upon families and the earth. “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him” Psalm 127:3.
While each couple must come to their own conviction as to the size of their family before God, it is important that we not condemn as irresponsible or unbiblical the desire of a family to raise a large number of children. John and Charles Wesley, two of the greatest figures in modern church history, came from a family of 17 children born to an Anglican pastor. In our family, Bob’s grandfather was one of 13 children and his mother was born to a family of seven. Cheryl’s father was raised with seven other brothers and sisters, and her mother was raised in a family of five children.
Tomorrow we will discuss the truth concerning overpopulation and the alarming reality.
Bob & Cheryl Moeller