There are those who feel that having children would be a sheer inconvenience requiring physical, financial, and emotional resources they feel could be directed elsewhere. Others might point to global overpopulation, or the general need to altruistically address pressing socioeconomic crises like slavery and poverty, before bringing more humans into this messed-up world. These same factors may contribute to the decision on how many children to have.

We must address the fact that family planning is very much a biblical principle. In Luke 14:28–32 Jesus presents a common-sense principle: before you undertake a project, you take time to plan for it. Whether it’s erecting an edifice or engaging in battle, wisdom dictates that you plan ahead. Having children is certainly like building a home and could very well be likened to engaging in a battle. Before embarking on the enterprise, it is wise to take stock of what resources you have in order to determine the magnitude of the project you should endeavor to fulfill.

Our planning ought to be done in submission to God’s plan. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain,” declares the psalmist. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows,” he continues, “for so He gives His beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:1, 2). As the old Yiddish adage goes, “Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht.” meaning, “Man plans, and God laughs.” It is pointless to plan unless we’re willing to submit those plans to God, who is ultimately in control.

Taking their cue from God’s command in Genesis 1:28, some Christians advocate that married couples should procreate at every opportunity. If we applied the same reasoning to the very next verse, we would find ourselves advocating for gluttony, which is clearly not right (see for example, Prov. 28:7). Furthermore, God did not intend the sexual act between husband and wife only for procreation. Yes, procreation is one of the blessings and responsibilities that come with the privilege of sexual intimacy, but it is by no means the only one.

Christians must prayerfully consult their mission statement first. If having children would derail their individual mission or mission as a couple, then they need to determine if God is redirecting their mission. Likewise, if a couple cannot bear children, in consultation with their mission, they must determine if God is calling them to a lifework more easily fulfilled without children (e.g., traveling evangelist) or if they ought to adopt. Thereafter, practical considerations like finances and timeline should be factored into the decision about how many children to have.