If you received e-mails with the following questions, what Scripture would you answer with?
“We have three children, and my husband does not want any more. What about vasectomies and tubals?”
“We believe permanent measures are wrong, but what about natural family planning?”
To respond to the questions about having children or not having them, one has to begin with Who/who is in charge of planning families. The world tells Dad and Mom to decide how many children to have. However, God’s very first recorded command to mankind is, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth . . .” (Genesis 1:28). God has not told man to stop; as a matter of fact, after the flood, He reiterated it twice: “. . . Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 9:1); “And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply . . .” (Genesis 9:7).
Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord tell a husband and wife to plan how many children to have. This issue of the number of children is critical to each family. If God intended for parents to make that decision, would He have left that direction, whether explicit or implicit, out of the Bible? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What Scripture says is that children are an heritage (Psalms 127:3) and that we are to go and multiply (Genesis 9:1).
I have had a few men justify limiting children by saying that God tells us to plan as in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” Yes, planning is good as long as we are being consistent with all Scriptural commands. Oftentimes Scripture can appear to say one thing when just one verse is considered. However, Scripture must be evaluated in context, and the context of Luke 14:28 is a discussion of the faith of being a disciple of Jesus.
The two verses prior to 14:28 are: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). The Lord is teaching us about the true cost of being His disciple. In essence, this verse is teaching the exact opposite of us planning a family; we are being challenged to have the faith to let Jesus control our lives. Do we have the faith to receive the good gifts He wants to give?
A practical application of Luke 14:28 is that thinking about the future is good. There is an important difference, though, between planning for what the Lord chooses to send us and planning to hinder His will for our lives. Proper application of Luke 14:28 in regard to family size would be for the couple to say, “Lord Jesus, we are committed to being good stewards and not wasting money so we will be ready for any children You choose to send us.”
In 2 Kings 13:15-19 there is an account of Elisha and Joash, where the wicked king of Israel came down to Elisha. Elisha told Joash of an arrow that Joash shot out the window: “. . . The arrow of the LORD’S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them” (2 Kings 13:17). Elisha then told Joash to smite the ground with the arrows. When Joash quit after striking the ground with the arrows only three times, we are told that Elisha was angry because Joash only smote the ground three times and not five or six. What Joash didn’t know is that each time he struck the ground it represented a victory the Lord would give him over the Syrians. He felt he had struck the ground enough and quit.
Sadly, many, many families tell the Lord “enough” when they fail to trust Him for the future and how He desires to use their family to glorify Him. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth” (Psalms 127:4). Families seem content to settle for fewer children, not realizing that children are like arrows in our hands to reach a lost and fallen world.
The most common reason we hear for not wanting more children is that the parents believe more children will be a hindrance. There is no doubt children will greatly impact a person’s life, but so much depends on a person’s frame of reference. Have we “got Jesus” as some have a rabbit’s foot in the pocket, and now we can live life to the fullest with no fear of hell, or are we purchased by the blood of the Lamb and here to glorify Him with our lives in whatever way He chooses to use us?
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). If our heart’s desire is to wholeheartedly follow the Lord Jesus, families will find that children are the opposite of being a hindrance; they become part of a family’s credentials. “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6).
Some would say they are concerned about being able to provide for more children. How does the Lord Jesus speak to that concern? “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:30-34). Little comment is needed because the Lord clearly states that we are to trust Him to provide for our needs.
A number of times in the past, when I told my dad that the Lord was blessing us with another baby, he asked, “Where is the money going to come from for another child?” I would say, “The Lord will provide for what He sends our way.” And He has. We are told to deny ourselves and follow Him. He will provide.
Yes, they may “cost us,” but aren’t we bought with a price and stewards of His money? Would the Lord give us children if He didn’t want us to have them? Would He give us children if He wouldn’t provide for them? Of course not. Isn’t it a matter of faith and learning to depend on Him?
A side note here: What is the solution if a family trusts the Lord with family size and yet they struggle financially? A dad must fervently seek the Lord to find out why needs aren’t being met. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). When we have faced difficulties without answers, I turn to my Lord with a fast for as long as I can handle it. God has always answered. Children are a great stimulus to improve our walk with Christ. They sure have been in mine.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as “natural family planning” condoned in Scripture. Any understanding of a normal husband and wife relationship and human physiology cries out against this misguided concept. I have had some support this notion by referencing 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not. . . .”
I want to be discreet because we know children sometimes read the Corners, but this is not teaching natural family planning. The closest one can get to supporting family planning from this verse would be that if the family’s life is in such chaos and trouble, the husband and wife would fast and abstain for a time. However, I’m confident the vast majority of couples are not fasting when they think they are “applying” this verse.
Then we have e-mails from people asking us whether “permanent” means to limit children is a sin. With Teri’s depression, we permanently cut off the possibility of more children. I wrote about that in a previous Corner (We’re Reversed a Bad Decision), and so I won’t go into that here except to say the God changed our hearts as we studied Scripture.
Tubals and vasectomies are considered permanent means of surgically “breaking” something that was healthy. Doctors are given skills to heal and restore, and those should not be used to destroy something God-given and wonderful.
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This verse tells us clearly that believers are purchased by the blood of Jesus. Our bodies are not our own to do what we want to do with them. We are to be good stewards of Jesus’ property.
God would not give us permission to “break” something that He has control over. He would simply choose not to give us more children if that was His will. We have to face the reality that surgical sterilization is taking control over something we don’t want God to control. This is difficult to say. Please understand, I speak out of love, and I am not being judgmental. I wonder if sterilization might be analogous to one aspect of suicide. Both take into control what God intended to be under His control. What do you think?
Any time we go against God’s will, it is sin, and worse, when we take permanent measures, it likely takes away any future option of a change of heart. God was so merciful in giving Teri and me children after I repented and had a reversal. However, I’ve talked to many families who haven’t been able to have children even after a reversal. Don’t presume upon His grace. Certainly, don’t take permanent measures to limit children.
When we travel, we often encounter families who trust the Lord to decide how many children they will have and to provide for babies that He sends. I frequently sense a spirit of faith and peace in their lives. I have spoken with so many families who surrendered this area to the Lord Jesus, and they rejoice at what He has been doing in their lives ever since. Regularly, we will receive e-mails from a family who first chose to limit their family size, but then the Lord changed their hearts. We rejoice with them when they write to tell us that they are expecting a baby.
If you have chosen to limit children, seek the Lord to see if your reasons for limiting children are selfish—most are—and if so, repent. The world has deceived families saved by the blood of Jesus. Please, please, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. …”