John Piper of Desiring God Ministries in response to several questions over this issue has allowed for the use of non-abortaficient birth control. Go here to see several questions and answers about family planning on the Desiring God website. After reading his brief responses to the issue of Christians and contraception, it appears Piper makes two arguments in favor of allowing for the use of birth control. His first argument is over the principle of stewardship and that’s the one I’ll address in this post. Piper is in complete agreement that the Bible holds children up as a blessing and reward from God. He goes on to say, though, that just because something is a blessing, doesn’t mean we should always seek it. The exact quote from the Desiring God website is as follows: “Just because something is a gift from the Lord does not mean that it is wrong to be a steward of when or whether you will come into possession of it.” I disagree that the receiver of the gift has much control over when and if he comes into possession of said gift from the Giver, but I’ll attempt to address this argument anyway.
I want to begin by using Christ’s teaching on stewardship. In the parable of the talents (Mathew 25 and Luke 19) Jesus tells the story of a man who entrusts his goods to his servants and upon his return rewards (or condemns) the servants according to how much each made out of what he was given. The whole point of this parable is that stewardship is maximizing what God has given us so that we can turn around and give it back to Him. Has He given us money? What are we doing with it? Has He given us time? What are we doing with it? Has He given us knowledge? What are we doing with it? Has He given us fertility? What are we doing with it? Nobody would say, “No thanks, God, I don’t want to know any more. I’m on information overload. I can’t handle learning another thing from Your Word. I’d rather remain ignorant”. This is not the question. The question is how are you using the knowledge He’s given you? Is it causing you to be more obedient to Him? Are you trying to pass on that knowledge to others by teaching your kids or in your local church? In the same way I would argue it’s what we’re doing with our children that’s the issue here, not how many we have. Are we teaching them about the Lord? Are we doing Scripture memory with them? Are we having family worship? Are we disciplining them in love? It was not the place of the servants in the parable to tell their master how many talents to entrust to them any more than it’s our place to dictate to God how many children He should give us. That part’s up to Him, our part is what we do with them once we’ve got them.
What if I tried to apply Piper’s “stewardship” argument to another kind of blessing that God gives? What about the blessing of agricultural productivity or the fruit of our ministry for that matter? We can plant seeds, but God must give the increase. It would be unthinkable to not desire God to give the greatest increase in these instances, would it not? Do we pray for our missionaries that God would save only a few in their midst or many?
God also uses the terms “barren” and “fruitful” to refer to the state of our spiritual lives. After listing the fruits of the spirit in 2 Peter 1:5-7 Peter says, “For if these things are yours and they abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We all know what Peter’s talking about here. As we grow in our knowledge of the Lord we should also grow in obedience and holiness which is manifested by how we act. Certainly we wouldn’t desire to show just some fruit of our knowledge of the Lord. Every Christian knows that the goal is to grow as much as possible! We want to bear the most spiritual fruit that we can. Is it so hard to believe that Peter chose these words because his audience already understood that being barren (unable to have children) is a curse, but fruitful (having many children) is a blessing? The same is understood in agriculture, as well. You don’t desire just a few crops to grow here and there, but a bumper crop, as many as will fit. I think the meaning of fruitful is obvious. Full of fruit. The idea here is not just a few, but overflowing with whatever is being described. In other words, wanting just some of a blessing when you decide and if you decide is in direct opposition to the whole concept of fruitfulness.
Piper talks about rewards in Battling Unbelief and how it’s NOT wrong to chase after the right kinds of rewards (in this case heavenly ones). Piper argues in favor of pursuing God’s rewards at the cost of temporary worldly rewards. I don’t know why children wouldn’t fit into this category, as well. A child has a soul that will never die. The old saying “you can’t take it with you when you go” is only true of material things. It’s not true of children. This is why teaching our children about the Lord is so important (Deut 6). Piper endorses large families and says he loves seeing large families in his church. I think his concern is, or should be, that the parents in his church, regardless of family size, are busy teaching their children to love and serve the Lord.
Stewardship is all about the managing of resources. We know that every good gift is from God (James 1), so He is the gift Giver and we are the receivers. I agree wholeheartedly that we are to be good stewards of what the Lord entrusts us with. I do not agree, however, that stewardship has anything to do with when or if we receive the gift. The key to being a good steward is the understanding that nothing is ours, it all belongs to our Master. All of our resources are God’s. Our life is not our own, it is His. Our time, money, abilities, health and physical capacity, understanding, material possessions, relationships, and even our children are His. What are we doing with them? Will our Master be pleased with us? Will He say at the end of our lives, “Well done good and faithful servant? I know that is what we all desire to hear.
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.