How far would you go to make your children happy? Would you buy them everything they want if you could? Would you let them do anything they want so long as it is safe? Would you forfeit your own dreams or aspirations for them? Some people would turn to the Bible for answers to this question. Some say the Bible tells us everything we need to know to live.
I do not believe the Bible answers these questions specifically, though it does tell us to bring our children up to be moral and faithful and to protect them from harm. As is often the case, detailed application in modern times is up to us.
Conservative Christian families and other Christians often have large families for religious reasons. Many adopt from foster care or international orphanages. I can’t criticize anyone who is providing a family for an orphan. But I am not in favor of adding to our overpopulated world for the sake of increasing your Christian legions.
If a family has a whole brood of children it isn’t possible to bend over backwards to meet the needs of one child. Those in favor of popping out a dozen Christian babies may say that it is not necessary to bend for the child. I doubt that. Let me illustrate my point with a hypothetical family. Let’s say a young married pair has two children. The younger child seems anxious and insecure. The couple feels that they must give a lot of attention to the younger one to help him grow secure and assured. The pastor counsels this couple on the importance of letting God decide the number of children in the family and not spoiling this child. “Do not let the child rule the roost,” says the pastor. “He will become spoiled and willful.” Imagine the hypothetical couple has a gaggle more. Some of them grow up to be fine Christians, but the anxious one spends his young adult life fighting a drinking problem and eventually walks away from his family and his faith. Now imagine the hypothetical couple decides their pastor is wrong. They google “birth control methods” and “help for anxious children.” They switch to a mainline denomination and raise two fine, confident Christians who attend college and contribute to society. Can you seriously believe God would punish the couple for choosing to stop at two? Was it wrong of them to devote their lives to raising their children well?
If you live in a community where all the families have similar priorities and yours are in-line with everyone else’s then you can reasonably expect your children to accept the way things are. If your children’s peers have attention, privileges and opportunities that your children do not have, then they will feel deprived and resentful. The talk and teaching of your inner circle and church will cause conflict and stress for the child. While they may come around to your way of thinking, they are just as likely to reject your beliefs in their adulthood.
Obadiah and I would love to crowd our dinner table with foster children. The problem is, we cannot deprive Sprite and Scout the opportunities that their peers have. In our middle-class, suburban community parents take their children to their games, parties, lessons and recitals and we stay to watch. We talk with them at length about the things that matter to them. We send them to college. While love is unlimited, money, time and space have defined boundaries. What would God have to say about this? Are we letting the ways of the world master our lives? Or are we just meeting our children’s needs?
I am not as good as Abraham. He tied up his son Isaac and set him on the altar to sacrifice, only sparing Isaac at the last moment because an angel intervened. (Genesis: 22) I can’t even deprive my children of their extra-curricular activities. I can tell my children ‘no’ when I am sure it is for their own good. However, I value my two children too much to deprive them of good things so that I can grow a larger family to add to the total number of Christian soldiers.