Theologian John Piper is weighing in on whether or not it is selfish to pray against becoming pregnant due to the stress another child would bring.
In response to a North Carolina mother who inquired if he thought it was sinful to pray to not get pregnant again on a recent episode of AskPastorJohn, the Reformed theologian and author posited Monday that it "may be biblically sound" to desire to have a limited number of kids if one's motives "are informed by the priorities of Christ and the Scriptures." The mother said she loved her children but did not feel as though she could presently handle any more kids.
To suggest that wanting fewer children might be in keeping with biblical teaching strikes many as contradictory since the Bible explicitly describes them as a "blessing," he said.
In the creation story in Genesis, God says that is "not good" that man be alone and that he would make a suitable helper for him, that the man would leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and become one flesh, and that they are to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth, Piper explained.
"In other words, it is right, normal, and proper to want and pursue a family in the world as God created it. It's right to want to raise up lots of lovers of God who fill the earth with his glory. I would say that's normal and good."
But tension emerges in light of the Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7, where he urges men in certain instances to remain single and not get married, which is "astonishing" counsel given God's words that it is not good for men to be alone.
"The lesson I draw from this is that while it is normal and right and proper in the ordinary order of creation for marriage to be pursued, nevertheless, now that Christ has come into the world, there are redemptive priorities — saving priorities — where it's right for redemptive and saving purposes for a person to forego marriage."
"This means that Christ-exalting kingdom principles and kingdom values on this side of the cross relativize the mandate for marriage in the order of creation. In other words, the goodness of it is relative to the glorification of Christ and the advance of His kingdom."
If this thinking is correct about marriage, he continued, the same principles apply to reproduction and starting a family, he explained.
Thus, "there may be situations in life when for Christ-exalting, God-centered, kingdom-advancing reasons, restricting the number of children that we have may be appropriate," Piper said.
The theologian recognized that his answer placed the burden on the mother of trying to know if her heart was in the right place and whether her reasons for not wanting another child are indeed godly. But such is the case with many of the decisions Christians have to make in life, he said.
"God knows your heart. He's a merciful Father, and He loves children. But our having children is not His highest priority. His highest priority for His children is Christ-exalting faith and Christ-magnifying joy that overflows in meeting the needs of others. That's His highest priority."
"He loves big families with lots and lots of children — but not for their own sake, but for Christ's sake."