Here’s a shocking thought:
Most of us approach child-rearing from the perspective of, “How many kids do we want to have?”
Will any of us approach parenting from the perspective of “How many children does God want us to have?”
Is such a perspective even in the church’s mindset?
The very first command God gave to humans was to be fruitful and multiply, but this isn’t a command that most modern Christians take seriously. “The world has enough people,” some say. “If anything, it’s overcrowded. That command was given a long time ago, to a much different world. It no longer applies.”
Others think the command has been “cancelled” by the “reality” of over-population, even though Paul Ehrlich’s famous The Population Bomb predictions in the 1970s now sound laughable and Al Gore’s infamous ten-year prediction (in 2006) of reaching the “point of no return” for a “true planetary emergency” has also come and gone.
Readers know I avoid politics in this blog—I’m not trying to be political here. I’m just saying that a human being, an image bearer of God, who can worship, research cures, spread love, build businesses, create art, and conceive other people, is a breath-taking creation. People aren’t the problem, and the world has room for more—particularly more people raised by Christian parents who disciple them in the ways of the Lord.
If we think the job of populating the earth is “done,” or that there are a sufficient number of children born to Christian believers, we don’t understand the world, how economies work, how much God loves children, or the miracle of creating life that will live on into eternity. I’m not faulting you—I don’t think my wife and I had a clue about any of this when we were young parents. In the interest of full disclosure, Lisa and I have three children. We would have liked to have more, but there were medical considerations that, to this day, I still think make sense.
But the fact remains, when other faiths take the command to be “fruitful and multiply” seriously while Christians don’t, there are enormous implications. There is no guarantee that a child born of any faith will embrace that faith, but it is far more likely that they will. And if we train our children well, using biblical priorities, it is even more likely that our children will embrace what we believe to be the true faith: God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Remember when Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and the servant of all”? But do you remember what He did next? He took a child into his arms and added, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the bit about being a “servant” comes right before Jesus mentions how welcoming a child is tantamount to welcoming Him. Kids take a ton of work. They are expensive. They can be exhausting. But Jesus loves them. And He says that to welcome a child into our home is to welcome Him.
Jesus doesn’t deny the sacrifices parenting demands of us, but He also taught that there are more important priorities than a few extra years of being less tired, having more money in the bank, nicer cars or homes, or taking satisfaction in bigger retirement savings. God prioritizes people. People have eternal destinies. Nothing else a couple does can compare with bringing a child into the world and training that child to follow the true God. Nothing.
Some might say one of my biggest human accomplishments was writing Sacred Marriage, but ten thousand years from now, no one will be reading that book. Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven, and on the new earth we’ll be perfectly holy, so I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read a book about a relationship that no longer exists in order to become something (more holy) that we already are. But Lisa and I will be able to walk hand in hand through heaven, enjoying a family reunion with perhaps thousands of descendants we never met on earth, look at each other, and say with awe, “These people are here on the new earth because of the love we shared on the old.”
If you’re a younger family trying to decide whether you’re content with the 2.1 children so favored by Christian couples today, will you at least consider the theological implications? Does it hurt to even ask the question, “Is it possible God might desire for us to have more?”
Nobody should have more children simply because they are motivated by guilt. That’s an awful thing to do. I’m also not telling any couple how many children to have or even whether to have children. All I’m saying is this:
If you consider God’s command, if you meditate on the spirit of Christ’s affection for children, if you will reflect on the implications of Christians thinking that populating the world with more Christian families is passé, if you consider carefully the eternal impact of creating and raising image bearers of God, and if during this exercise God’s Holy Spirit convicts you—well then, at least you will have made a biblically informed decision, giving God the opportunity to take off your cultural blinders and perhaps consider a new perspective with which to decide, “Just how many children should we have?”