There is a debate that wages in many Christian circles about Psalm 128:3: "Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table." Other verses included Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 127:3-5. Some think this mean that we have as many children as the Lord gives us (no family planning), while others believe the Lord commands us to have children, but leaves the number to our discretion.
This is a topic that I have prayed about and read a lot about it too. Recently, a friend and I began reading Mark Chanski's book Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit and he comments on this verse:
Fruitfulness varies in its manifestation among different plants. A fruitful grape-vine will sport many, many clusters of grapes. On the other hand, a productive pumpkin vine may only generate four or five pumpkins. A farmer is very thankful if a single cornstalk produces two ears! Fruitfulness will vary from womb to womb, family to family. Revelation, providence, liberty and wisdom must be conscientiously blended. p. 32 (emphasis mine)
Let me be up front: Josh and I plan to have a big family, Lord willing. We do believe that children are a blessing from the Lord, but we also believe that family size is an area the Lord gives us wisdom to make decisions. I applaud the Duggars for raising 18 children (soon to be 19), but there is no way that Josh and I could afford to have that many children. They spend $3,000 a month on groceries alone. For many people, including us, we would spend our entire paycheck feeding that many children, and how would we clothe or provide a home?
There is the argument that God will provide for all our needs, and I believe that fully, but also believe that he gives us wisdom and discretion about family size. A family who has a disabled child has to spend much of their time and money to provide for that one child and may be physically or emotionally unable to care for more children. A family who is in ministry and dependent on the support of others has to decide how big of a family they can support.
Chanski's thoughts on procreation and fruitfulness were very helpful to me in explaining why it is okay for families to make a wise and prayerful decision about family size. Each plant is different in its fruitfulness and the Lord made us that way. Families come in all sizes and that is okay.
A caveat: I do believe that Scripture is clear that Christians are to have children unless they are physically unable. It is a sin to willingly remain childless because God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. And our American culture views children as a hindrance instead of a blessing as anyone can clearly see in how available abortions are here.
There is much more that I can say about this issue, but I will stop for today. What are your thoughts on this topic? I'm sure some of you disagree and I would love to hear your feedback. Maybe what you say will give me a topic for another day.