Pastor Deepak Reju and father of five is today’s guest blogger sharing wisdom on “When to Stop Having Children” in this two-part series. Read the first part here on Biblical Counseling Center‘s blog Mended Lives. It’s part of our August emphasis on families.
When Is It Selfish to Stop Having Kids?
Read the first 9 principles here.
- Are you stopping for selfish motives? What I don’t want to do is provide you safe reasons for you to decide to stop having children, only to find out the real reasons you stopped are more selfish (James 3:16)—like you want a really nice vacation, or you want to buy nice things for yourself, or you want to put your career ahead of your family, or you’re afraid that children will hinder your goals and dreams. If your reasons to stop are fundamentally selfish, that’s not a good excuse to stop having children. Your motives matter, so examine them to be sure you are not stopping for selfish reasons.
- Are you stopping because you want to do more for the children you already have? Maybe you want to send your two kids to a great school, but won’t be able to afford it if you have five kids. Perhaps you want to buy or do certain things with your kids, but you won’t be able to do what you want if you have too large of a family. You want to stop now because you have dreams and hopes for the kids you already have. Providing a certain kind of lifestyle for your current kids matters more than having additional children. Be warned though—this eleventh principle (the desire to provide well for the children you already have) can be misapplied. Maybe your desire as parents is for your kids to be at the high-end private school or to wear certain kinds of clothes or to participate in certain activities—none of which is essential. As parents, distinguish between what your kids need and what you want, so this doesn’t become an excuse for you to have a fancy lifestyle.
- Are you being conformed to the world? Are you scared to stand out? It is easy to be conformed to patterns of the world (Romans 12:2). Yet, Christians should not be scared to be distinct (Proverbs 29:25) because what God cherishes is different from the world.
Consider the plight of being a large family in a culture where families are usually small. My wife often gets the comment, “Are these children all yours?” We’re not as big as the Brady bunch, but we do have five kids. Some people are dumbfounded that we would choose to have more than two. The world doesn’t make it easy to have more children—minivans max out at a family of six. A typical restaurant seats mostly tables of four.
Big Families Are Counter-Cultural, But. . .
Maybe you are in a setting where you are surrounded by large families, and the wise choice for you is to have a smaller family. You should ask yourself, “Am I scared to look different from others?” If so, you are probably being conformed to the pressures of your culture rather than thinking what is wisest for your own family.
- Are you willing to stretch yourself? Did you make the decision to stop having kids because your family size will be easier to manage? Or because it would be convenient for you? Or because comfort and convenience matter more than having more children? Or are you willing to stretch yourself to have more?
- Is your default position to stop or to have more children? I think our default position should be to have another child. Why?
Because the Bible is enthusiastic about children. God loves, cherishes, protects and honors children. He values children much more than the world.
Because most of us have a natural bias to not having more kids. God has already given you kids, and frankly, you’re overwhelmed many days, or at the very least, exhausted. This applies especially to parents of preschoolers, who day-in-and-day-out are in the midst of constant mental, physical and emotional toil. (The preschool years are clearly the most physically demanding stage, which adds to the mental and emotional toil.) If you can’t get your kid to obey you, or you are constantly dealing with squabbling children or you feel like a chauffeur racing your kids around to their many activities or you feel like you are barely holding things together—why add more? When you have young children, your natural bias is to say “no, I can’t do this anymore.” Maybe you shouldn’t for many of the reasons listed in this article. Or maybe you should despite how hard things are already. Don’t let the difficulties of juggling your current kids make you automatically biased to saying “no” to any more.
When Couples Wished They Had More Than 2
I have friends who had two children early in marriage, and when they hit their mid-forties, they found themselves becoming empty-nesters. The dad said to me, “I wish we had more. We still have time and energy to parent.” He was in good health, at the peek of his career, and he’d grown in wisdom and godliness. But when their kids were young, it was a lot of work, and they assumed they should stop. Their natural bias was to say “we’re done,” but now he wished they hadn’t. Could that be you twenty years from now?
- Are you making this decision in isolation? One of the things that has surprised me the most about being a pastor is how often believers make major life decisions in isolation. The Bible does not ever encourage us to live the Christian life on our own. Individual Christianity is an oxymoron (Proverbs 18:1). There is no such thing. People are more accustomed to making major decisions on their own rather than asking for help. Maybe it is our pride that makes us do this. Maybe it is our sense of personal privacy, i.e., this isn’t anyone’s business apart from my own.
The most important thing you can do as a Christian is be a part of a local church where you can walk side-by-side with other Christians who will help you figure out what it means to follow Christ (Hebrews 10:25;13:13). And in this context, they can help you sort through important life decisions, so you never have to do this alone.
Deciding when to stop having children is an important decision for every family. Godly wisdom is needed to make this crucial decision. Pray and ask the Lord to give you wisdom, for He very kindly grants wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5-8).
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Permissions: “This article (15 Wisdom Principles on Deciding When to Stop Having Children by Deepak Reju) originally appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition websiteand is used with permission.”