Try to think of a way in which God could communicate that he wants you to have lots of children. What would he say? What words could he use and what imagery could he employ?
Maybe he would tell you what a blessing children are. He could give examples of how having many children will improve our lives. He could contrast that with the devastation which comes from not having children. Maybe he would remind us of the joy we experience when we hear someone is pregnant, and the anticipation we have for the birth. He could promise that having many children is a direct result of our faithfulness and loyalty to him.
It seems to me that if God did everything in the above paragraph, it would be pretty clear that he is in favor of you having lots of children. And you probably guessed it already: that’s exactly what he did.
The idea of a God wanting you to have a big family is one of the clearest themes in the Bible. I have a hard time thinking of something which is more consistently and explicitly expressed in Scripture. God wants you to have a big family. I’ll show you what I mean.
In the Law, God makes a promise to Israel for blessing if they obey:
3 If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. 7 You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. 8 Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 9 I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you.Leviticus 26.3-9
Note the list of blessings: rains, productive land, fruit, abundant harvests, security, peace, nothing to fear, no dangerous beasts or invasions, success in battle…and many children. Multiplying children is an example of how God will keep his covenant.
The word multiply means “become numerous.” Of course, God is referring to the nation as being numerous, but how can a nation be numerous is the families in that nation are not numerous? I think we can agree that if every family had only two children, then Israel would not become numerous; they wouldn’t even maintain the population they had. It is the people in the land who are to be “fruitful,” and that is explicitly listed as one of God’s blessings.
Psalm 127 is another example.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,Psalm 127.3-5
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
I remember thinking about a quiver, and my conclusion is that God wants to fill my quiver. The only question I had was how big my quiver is! Each of us may have a different size quiver, and God is not giving us a certain number of children to have, or even a minimum or maximum. He does give us the imagery of speaking with enemies at the gate, with our children with us as arrows (weapons) in our quiver. How many arrows do you want in your quiver when facing an enemy? Will you be satisfied with just a couple of arrows? I wouldn’t!
Verse 5 above tell us that the man (or woman) who has a quiver full of children is blessed. My Bible dictionary defines the word blessed as “a heightened state of happiness and joy, implying very favorable circumstance and enjoyment.” God is telling us one of the keys to blessing, and it is in having a large family.
Let’s look at the very next psalm.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord. Psalm 128.3-4
Again there’s the reference to being fruitful, and to having children growing up around your table. I cannot imagine that the author of this psalm imagines two olive shoots being an example of fruitfulness.
The Bible is also consistent on its view of not having children. For those who want to have children and cannot — for whatever reason — the lack of fruitfulness is a tragedy. The same is true in the Bible. It’s never good not to have children.
In Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah were traveling through Gerar. The king of Gerar took Sarah into his harem, thinking she was Abraham’s sister. God punished the kingdom with barrenness. Again we see that God’s blessing is fruitfulness, now we see he curses a people with barrenness.
Jesus reveals what our attitude should be toward children in this telling passage:
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.Mark 10.13-16
Jesus tells us that we should receive the kingdom of God like a child. I think we’ve often misunderstood the point of his statement, and we’ve focused on how a child receives things (possibly confusing this scene with one in Matthew 18, where Jesus is in fact asking us to focus on how the child acts). I don’t think that’s what Jesus is meaning here. Instead, he is saying we should receive the kingdom in the same way we receive a child. Think of what you experienced when you had a child, or when you heard that someone you loved was pregnant or had given birth. Joy, excitement, anticipation, a desire to see the new arrival…this is how Jesus tells us we should receive the kingdom.
My point in including this scene in this essay is to emphasize that children are to be viewed as a blessing, not a burden or an expense.
There are no caveats in these commands. There is no place where God says, “Don’t have children unless you have enough money”, or “It’s ok to have fewer children if the world is a bad place,” or whatever excuses you are currently thinking about. These excuses expose the truth: you don’t trust God. You think you know better.
I read a book once where the author stated, “It’s not how many kids you want. It’s how many you want when you’re sixty.” I’m getting close to sixty now, and I can tell you that I want a lot of kids, and even more grandkids. I have eight children, and three grandchildren so far, and I can tell you that it’s true: children are a blessing.