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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Contraception, Part III: Contraception and Stewardship

In this post, I will examine the eschewal of contraception as it impacts matters of stewardship.

And I'll ask more questions :-)

I know of several large families in which the father holds a high-paying job. The families live modestly but well and the mothers stay home with the children. In families like these, apparently there are financial means to making a go of having many children.

Other large families I know of live a very “homesteading”-type life; they recycle, keep gardens, and otherwise conserve resources. I respect this tremendously but it's a full-time occupation. (I know; my family of origin lived like this although there were only 2 kids in the family.) Certainly not all large families can take the time to do all these Tightwad and conservation-minded things: they toss cans, bottles, etc. without bothering to rinse, crush, and recycle; they throw out leftovers instead of carefully saving them; they resort to using paper plates and plastic cups a lot; and they take many other more costly or wasteful “shortcuts” because when you’re in a crunch, something has to go. But how does one balance management of resources, monetary and otherwise, with being populous? I don’t believe that wastefulness and consumerism is included in the command to “subdue the earth...”

If you’re a mother with a baby in her arms most of the time and other children to tend to or to homeschool, you simply can’t take the time to do the most conservation-minded things. You may have to toss stained clothes rather than work all the stains out. You may need to throw out damaged or no-longer-useful things and purchase replacements rather than take time to get them fixed. (Or just live with them anyway, like we tend to do :-) ) You may need to pay someone to do stuff you can’t because you’re occupied with children – like housecleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. Chores like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning gutters, and innumerable other household jobs may need to be hired out as well. And BTW, all of this is part of stewardship of one's property.

And I do realize that once children are old enough, they can help with some of these things.

The resourceful family with enough time and hands can do most of these chores for themselves and thereby "save" money. The family that's short on time/hands but not on money can afford to hire help. But for the family short on both...what are their options? Seems they must either take out a loan, slow down in having children, send their children away from home for schooling, or live in a dump!

And what about lifestyle and debt? How much debt should a Christian take on in order to support even a modest lifestyle? By “modest lifestyle” I mean a still essentially comfortable way of life, one that provides basic needs and is conducive to developing innate talents and educating children thoroughly. Which begs the question: Is the American way of life sinful, at it’s core? (I.e., wealth, enjoyment of life, indulgence in pursuits beyond basic survival.)

To carry this idea further, is it right to update one’s home or put in a swimming pool when money could instead be sent to World Vision or other worthwhile organization? (This is an area in which I think Tony Campolo is a true prophet and living example. Although he also wears nice clothes and probably eats well too :-) ) By extension, then, one may ask: should I be paying for ballet classes and music lessons,for example, for my child when I could instead be helping to keep a few children in Africa alive with that money?

All of this frames my two primary questions: 1) Does God want us to compromise what we may be able to provide for our children, development-wise, by having more of them rather than less? Does He want children’s talents to go undeveloped because families cannot afford instruction due to their resources being spread thin? Would He rather a family come down to a choice between sending their kids to public school and producing less children in order to have the resources to homeschool them properly? Or choosing to send them to public school rather than homeschooling them so that there is money for the “extras”? (Or “essentials,” depending on your point of view.)

2) Does God want families to have many biological children when there are thousands upon thousands of children already in existence who are barely surviving? Does it honor God to pour money into one’s own children, regardless of how many one has, when that money could instead be used to adopt an orphan or otherwise benefit a needy child?

Or...does He want us to just churn ‘em out and leave the rest "in His hands?"

Part IV: “A Mother’s Talents and Training: Forsaken?” to follow.


  • Great questions!

    1) Does God want us to compromise what we may be able to provide for our children, development-wise, by having more of them rather than less? Does He want children’s talents to go undeveloped because families cannot afford instruction due to their resources being spread thin? I think God has a plan for each child, and sometimes that plan includes what they will learn or experience as part of their family. I don't think there are any outside lessons, or activities that can substitute for the lifelong relationship and friendship with a sibling, and the older I get the more I see that to be true. That said, I think if a child has a special talent that is supposed to be developed, there's always a way to get it done.

    2) Does God want families to have many biological children when there are thousands upon thousands of children already in existence who are barely surviving? I think God wants us to do both! But not necessarily at the same time. I believe there are seasons in one's life and during the season of raising a family we are supposed to be focused on raising that family. However, I have found now that I have a highschooler and a jr. high student, that we as a family can start to look outside of our family for other opportunities to serve our communities, thus instilling that value into my children and being good neighbors as well. When I'm done raising kids, I'd like to help more in other areas of need, but I know right now, this just isn't the season for it and I think that's fine.

    Or...does He want us to just churn ‘em out and leave the rest "in His hands?"Well, like it or not, it's in His hands anyway! One of the hardest part of being a Christian I think is learning to relax, because in the end I can't add an instant to my life by worrying about it!

    Really looking forward to the next post!

    By Blogger Elena, at 7:16 AM  

  • I am enjoying your series. You have an enjoyable writing style and express yourself clearly. Good stuff!

    Your issue of family size is extremely important.

    First, some general thoughts on families. Families are God's design for our sanctification. I think that is where a lot of the blessing comes in. As parents, children certainly bless us in obvious ways. I think there are deeper blessings, however. We all need to be drawn out of our natural inclination to be self-absorbed and self-indulgent. If nothing else, children certainly make it hard to be self-aborbed ;-) Also, as a parent I have learned a deeper kind of love and affection that I did not know was possible before children. It has given me a glimpse of God's love for me as an adopted son. The blessings are manifold for the children as well. Families provide a valuable training ground for how to live in this world. I realize I am speaking at a "design" or idealistic level. There are many broken and dysfunctional families out there; I realize this.

    That said, I want to ask you two questions.

    One, what is your family vision?
    Two, why have you and your husband chosen to homeschool?

    I am going to kick around your question about family size with my wife. She has thought about this issue a lot. I want to glean from her reflections.


    By Blogger The Dawn Treader, at 7:02 PM  

  • Jeff, thanks so much for reading, and thanks for the kind words!

    I agree with what you said about family. As to the particulars, those are things I'd love to discuss in detail with other like-minded parents, but opportunity doesn't seem to abound for that here :-)

    Your questions: a) What is your family vision?Wow...not sure I've actually thought about it per se, though of course we have one. I'll try to summarize:

    First and foremost, I'd say we want our family to be a close-knit unit. We want it to be the #1 support group for each member. Also the #1 place of ministry; a place where we can learn to know and serve God together. And a place where both the receiving and passing on of heritage is important. This includes particulars of who we are.

    b) Why have you and your husband chosen to homeschool?
    Well, this is interesting, because dh is a public-school teacher! And I am probably the one who believes in it more deeply. But, we are not at odds :-)

    Here's why we got started: as our oldest son was approaching "school age," the realization hit me one day that he'd be gone upwards of 7 hours/day were he to go to public kindergarten. (there was no 1/2-day option) This just struck me as...wrong! Dh and I both feel responsible for the raising and educating of our children, and didn't feel we should turn a large portion of that over to someone else. Especially when our children were at such a young and vulnerable age.

    We want our childrens' education to happen in the context of our family values and life, not to be a separate thing that they go somewhere else for. We also want our children to grow up as true companions. It is beautiful to watch this happen while they are at home together during the day.

    Also, we love sharing the educational process with our children. We love watching them learn! We want to be right on top of what's in their best educational interests, working with them at their speed and readiness yet developing proper discipline for learning. We also want to be able to balance the substance of their education according to their individual gifts.

    Guess that about sums it up :-) Thanks for asking!

    I look forward to further comments, and to hearing what you and your wife come up with regarding family size :-)

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:18 PM  

  • Elena, I apologize for not responding sooner. Your points about sibling relationships and seasons of one's life are well taken. I appreciate them both. I hope you will continue to comment on this series.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 10:42 AM  

  • Please forgive the length of this comment. My keyboard got long-winded ;-)

    You gave great, well reasoned answers. Do you think your hubby's answers will align exactly with yours? For fun, try it and see.

    The reason I asked is to see how much thinking ya'll have done along the lines of what is the purpose of family (and your particular family purpose). God has a teleos (i.e. design) for everything. Families are community structures that serve a divine purpose. Most people do not look at families this way. They basically have kids because it is what everyone does, or because they may think it will bring them happiness, or they accidentally get pregnant. If you step back from it and look at why we have families, it helps give perspective on the size of the family question.

    In my opinion, you and your hubby are way ahead of the game. You are not reactive like most. In the education area, for example, you are not pulling your kids out of a bad school situation. You are intentional and proactive about why you home school. This is awesome.

    Now, regarding the question, when should we stop adding children to the quiver? This is a toughie. It is easy to pontificate and add to God's word by specifying a number. Obviously that is wrong.

    As with everything, the answer always goes to the heart. You framed the question in terms of stewardship. My wife and I think of it in terms of, why would you not want a big family? (big is a relative term … in today's economy, big is bigger than two children).

    What are the heart and wisdom issues against having a big family?

    If the reasons are selfish, then they are obviously not good reasons.

    In our own case, we stopped at four. My wife was on bed rest for twenty weeks with our fourth child. Her pregnancy involved at least three dashes to the emergency room and one extended stay in the hospital. It was a touch and go pregnancy. I made an executive decision to stop. She disagreed with the decision but allowed me to lead.

    My sister stopped having children (at two) once she discovered that she was the carrier of a genetic disease (because her second child was born with a neurological disorder).

    These, in my opinion, are examples of strong reasons.

    It seems like everyone's story is slightly different.

    I do not think everyone is called to have big families, but all of us are called to prayerfully consider what the purpose of family is and take an honest inventory of our heart issues when we want to stop having children.

    I don't judge people who have small families. It is not my place. (I will be honest, I struggle with feelings of the criticism toward followers of Christ who choose to not have any children).

    My main beef is with people who give it little or no thought, or base their decisions completely on selfish reasons. The goal of our life on earth is not self-indulgence or living the American dream.

    In short, always go to the heart issues. Cover it with prayer. Ask for clarity from the Holy Spirit because of our tendency to deceive ourselves (Jer 17:9). Apply wisdom.

    Grace to you.

    By Blogger The Dawn Treader, at 1:52 PM  

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your wonderful comment! I appreciate every bit of it (compliments to your keyboard ;-) )

    You know, you're right; we hear a lot about the purpose of a Christian's life, the purpose of marriage, the purpose-driven church, yada yada, but not much on the purpose of family. (Or maybe I've missed it??) How interesting. Maybe it's because of the accomodation of divorce, or fear of invading private "family space"?

    I mean, we hear a lot about the Leave-it-to-Beaver-type family, and how to get along together, and how we should all eat dinner together every night, but I don't recall anyone mentioning the "teleos" thing. Care to write a book?!

    I asked my husband the "family vision" question: he says it's helping children find out who God wants them to be and creating an environment in which that can happen. (That's pretty much what I would've guessed :-) ) I don't think he's put a lot of thought into his view, though (not to say he's thoughtless LOL), what he thinks comes out of who he is & how he grew up. He is one of six. He loved growing up in a big family, in a supportive, Christian home.

    See, I'm the type that tends to over-think everything (has anyone noticed?) but I do believe strongly in moral/ethical imperative, and that is why I am examining the issue of contraception from every angle.

    I wholeheartedly agree that moral/ethical issues are essentially matters of the heart. And I get fuddled there too: sometimes I'm not sure if I'm being prudent, or lacking trust :-)

    My hat is off to your wife; she sounds like a very courageous woman!

    You know, I would really like to have another child. The main influence on my personal desire to have more after our first was to give him, and then his brother, siblings. And I still feel like my daughter would be a great big sister. When I see a small infant, I really want one...{sigh}...but then reality taps me on the shoulder & says, "remember...remember..." And I'm not so young anymore :-(

    If only adoption wasn't so darned expensive!

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:29 PM  

  • I am coming reeeeeeally late to this discussion. long story - 3 years late! But I will post anyway as I can only imagine i am not the only one reading it at a late date.

    You wrote: "But how does one balance management of resources, monetary and otherwise, with being populous? I don’t believe that wastefulness and consumerism is included in the command to “subdue the earth...”

    I ask how does one balance management of resources, monetary or otherwise, with denying life. What do those issues have to do with denying life. For that is what we are doing. If one is so sure (and many who don't have any children or only 1 or 2 are so sure they will have a dozen - truth points otherwise but that is a discussion for another time) that they would have more children if they did not "do something" to prevent it. Then they are consciously denying life to a being who already exists in their minds and may already exist in God's realm. When you look at it in that light, how do any of these arguments make sense?

    By Blogger jo, at 4:36 AM  

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