Large Families A Calling?

I didn’t intend to write something on this topic but a Facebook exchange ‘pushed’ me to.

I was recently asked for comments by a Straits Times reporter assigned to write a special report on “More Grads Having Big Families”.  Well, the article came out today, on Christmas Day, and although we were not the main item, our family photo was used as the main photo.

One of my Facebook friends posted it on FB and an exchange ensued between him and his FB friend.  His friend challenged the correlation between religion and large families.  So, my friend, a Christian, explained it was biblical to have children like arrows that fills one’s quiver, quoting from Psalm 127:4-5, and in his words, “the more the merrier”.  His friend then asked, “So why did you stop shooting?”  Now, check out the answer given … “Because I have a different ‘calling’, and that is to spread the grace message.”  I would have let it go if the reply had stopped at the ‘calling’ bit.  But to justify it with another ‘call’ to spread the grace message?  That really got to me.

In the first place, since when was having a big family ever a call?  Where does it say in the Bible that some are called to this task of producing many babies, and some are not?  As far as I know, every couple has been blessed with the ability to reproduce.  The question is not one of call but one of choice!  You either want to have children or not.  That said, there are many who want to but can’t.  I suppose you would say these are then “not called”?  In times past, having many children was never an issue.  Large families were the norm!  Were these of yester-years called?  And somehow, less and less are called today? Oh puh-leeeeez!

God’s command to be fruitful and multiply has never been cancelled or superceded.  The bibilical principle that children are blessings still stand.  Christians love to quote God’s Word but not live it.  Worse still, we twist it to justify our actions and decisions with statements that sound spiritual and responsible … “Oh, God gave us brains to think.” … “If I can’t manage many children, I should not have them.” … “I want to give my child the best.” … “I cannot afford so many.” … “I’m not the patient type.” … “I want to serve in the ministry.” … “I’m not called.”  I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but let’s not confuse our feeble excuses with the call of God.  That’s taking His name invain, I believe.

In the second place, aren’t we all called to preach the grace message and the good news of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom?  If we buy into this deceptive spiritual-sounding argument, then we can use any other statement to justify the decision not to have children.  “Oh, I am called to be an usher in church, so I can’t have more children.” … “Oh, I am really needed to arrange the flowers every Sunday, so I can’t have more children.” … “Oh, I am called to play golf everyday to evangelise the rich, so I can’t have more children.”  What utter nonsense!  What happened to obedience to His Word, submission to His will, living by faith and trusting in His provision?

Serene and I never started out wanting many children.  Like every other well-trained Singaporean, we were happy just to have two.  And interestingly, it was after having two that we were convicted by the Lord.  If we said we trusted Him, would we trust Him with our family size?  If we said we believed in His provision, would we believe Him to provide for all of us?  If we agreed that children were blessings, would we allow the Lord to give us more of these blessings?  I want you to know that we struggled to say “yes” to the above questions!  And the biggest barrier was not whether we were called to have a big family or not, but pure selfishness!  Yes, plain ol’ selfishness on our part!  Like many others, Serene and I also wanted control over our freedom, time and money.  We wanted to do what we wanted when we wanted.  We wanted to have enough to spend on ourselves, to live comfortably and luxuriously.  Any person knows that once he or she becomes a parent, their time is no longer their own!  And if that is true for one child, can you imagine if that is multiplied many times over?!  No thanks, Lord.  Here I am, bless them!

So did God call us?  Yes, to be His servants, to preach His Word and to share His good news.  I am today a pastor and a teacher, involved in a trans-denominational ministry, a school of ministry and a local church.  Serene is my helper, doing a wonderful job of managing the household and the children.  Together, we desire to be a testimony to the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives.

But did God call us to have many children?  No, He didn’t.  He merely challenged us if we would stand on and live according to His Word.  In our weakness, we said “yes”.  Across the years, we have learnt many things as parents to seven children.  Parenting has humbled us, and continues to do so, as we face different mountains and situations.  The Lord has used our family, through the many children, to show us how much we need Him each and every day.  Contrary to popular belief, our children were not born perfect or obedient.  In learning to train and raise them, we have seen our own sinfulness and rebelliousness that bring grief and pain to our Heavenly Father.  As we receive His love and grace, we also learn to love our children and extend grace to them.  Day by day, Serene and I are growing and we cannot deny that the seven children that we have received from God, by His grace, are indeed blessings!

My intention is not to offend anyone at all – least of all, my friend on Facebook.  If you have decided not to have children, or to stop at a certain number, I respect that.  You must have your reasons and quite possibly, you too struggled with many questions and challenges.  But be honest with your reasons and say it like it really is.  Don’t use or abuse the word “call” to justify decisions concerning having children.  That may sound spiritual , but it is not biblical.

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