I've written previously about why we aren't "Trusting God" with the size of our family. I've also written about how to decide if you should have another baby. But today, I want to zero in on one specific idea I've heard repeatedly, especially in homeschooling and large-family circles.
Nervous about whether you can afford more children? Don't be! Trust God and just keep having children. God will provide!
Can We Trust God to Provide?
Can we trust that God will provide for us? The short answer to this question is "YES"!
Our God is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Nothing is beyond his ability. The Bible is full of his promise to take care of us tenderly and generously.
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? ... But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
(Matthew 6:25, 33)
So can and does God take good care of us? Yes, he certainly does.
But God's ordinary means of provision are through secondary causes.
God Provides Through People
While God certainly can provide in miraculous and supernatural ways, his ordinary means of provision is the work of our hands and the hands of those responsible for us. He provides by commanding us to work and to provide for those in our care.
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)
Trusting God to provide for us involves trusting that his commandments are good and right.
If you suddenly lose your job, part of what it means to trust God to provide for you is to diligently seek alternative employment or means of income, and if needed, to reach out to your community (family, church, charity, civil government) for help.
Anyone can find themselves in a difficult financial situation due to unforeseen events such as illness, disability, or job loss.
But planning to put your family in a situation where, under ordinary expected circumstances, you will not be able to provide for them is not "trusting God". It is a failure to believe God means it when he calls you to be responsible (as a secondary cause) for meeting the needs of your family.
Constants and Variables
Another part of what it looks like to trust God to provide is to trust the priorities he has clearly set forth in Scripture. God definitely says that children are a blessing. And one could make a good case for homeschooling as a healthy form of education.
But neither homeschooling or having a large family are commanded in Scripture (they really aren't). However, providing for your family is a clear and unequivocal command.
In other words, providing for our family should be the constant, and other matters of wisdom (educational method, number of children, etc.) should be variables based on that constant, not the other way around.
Endangering Your Family's Provision
If we make homeschooling and continued family growth the constants, then providing for the needs of the family becomes the variable by default.
It's rare for a family to intentionally plan to under-provide. But this is what can result when we make choices we know will likely stretch us beyond our current or potential means.
This is also what happens when we have an unbiblical anthropology (understanding of how God made people) and fail to see the deep interwoven connection between body, mind, and soul. We cannot sacrifice care for one aspect of a whole person in order to care for another.
Most families do not have the option of significantly increasing their income. Dad might get a raise each year. Mom might be able to take on a side-gig to earn a bit extra.
But under ordinary circumstances, most families who are still in a phase of growth are not going to be able to move into another economic stratum altogether in response to increased need.
Wise plans should be made on the basis of current resources, finances, and earning potential.
Worst Case Scenario
Since God most often uses ordinary means to provide for us, making choices that stretch us beyond our reasonably expected resources can betray a willingness to fail to meet the needs of those in our family in some way shape or form, or at least a failure to understand what those needs are.
Even if you are able to maintain housing, food, and clothing, it may come at the expense of the emotional, spiritual, or relational health of members of the family.
I want to outline a potential but not far-fetched worst-case scenario. This isn't based on any one person's story, but is a compilation of stories I have heard from many sources.
The Extra Work Usually Falls on Mom
When the budget gets tight and there aren't options for earning extra money, the burden falls on mom to reduce spending.
This means that she needs to increase her work significantly. This might include ...
- Making more food from scratch
- Growing food in a garden
- Traveling to multiple grocery stores to shop sales
- Mending instead of replacing clothing
- Hunting through yard sales and thrift stores for second-hand clothing
- Washing laundry more frequently because each child has fewer items of clothing
- Homeschooling without the assistance of online classes, co-ops, or tutors
- Managing without a second vehicle
- Living in a smaller space with less storage and room for being alone
- Going without a babysitter or mother's helper
- Working with broken or outdated household appliances or tools
- Making repairs to the home herself
While none of these money-saving strategies is necessarily wrong or bad, they mean that mom's burden of the responsibility to provide is gradually increasing while dad's may remain basically the same (for example, working his 9-5 job and helping in the evenings).
Even if Dad is willing to take on extra work, such as an additional part-time job, this means that he will be less available to help in the home, again limiting the resources mom has for rest and support.
Mom is Stretched Beyond Her Limit
Just as the family bank account is not an unlimited resource, neither is mom's energy. Potential consequences of continually increasing the strain on mom to provide might include ...
- Lack of sleep because of long work hours (rising early and staying up late to manage household duties)
- Lack of sleep due to being up at night with pregnancy discomfort or nursing baby
- Failing mental health, such as chronic stress, depression, and anxiety
- Failing physical health, such as chronic strain on thyroid and joints through multiple pregnancies
- Failing physical health due to lack of good nutrition (not enough protein, fresh produce, etc.)
- No money or time for medical or mental health care
- No money or time for mom to exercise or have time alone
Burdens Overflow to Children
Even if the family won't acknowledge mom's physical limitations, her body will. Mom is only one person and is not capable of doing unlimited work with unlimited energy.
If the family is unwilling to recognize the need for changes or outside help, it is likely the children will begin to be burdened beyond their age and ability with responsibilities that should rest on the parents. This might include ...
- Children who do not receive adequate parental care for their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs because mom has nothing extra to give
- Children who do not receive an adequate education due to mom's limited time spread between multiple children
- Teens (especially daughters) whose freedom and independence is significantly curtailed because her labor is needed to manage household tasks
- Teens who are expected to take on the responsibility of parenting and/or homeschooling younger children
While it is healthy for children to participate in the work of the household in age-appropriate ways, a family who has over-extended itself may slide into requiring adult-level responsibility of children who are still very much in need of being parented themselves.
Dangerous Teaching Increases Harm
In addition to the difficulties listed above, some false teachings that are popular in some homeschooling and large-family circles further limit a family's ability to adapt, address problems, and seek help.
- Depression and anxiety are due to lack of faith and contentment, not mental illness
- Taking medication for (supposed) mental illness is avoiding dealing with spiritual problems
- The Bible is sufficient to handle all spiritual problems; mental and spiritual health are the same thing
- It is inappropriate to see a therapist or a psychiatrist because that is "worldly wisdom" and ungodly "secular psychology"
- Suffering grows our holiness and therefore is a good thing and should not be avoided
- Mom should not work outside of the home (or perhaps even earn income from home)
- Dad shouldn't give his labor to a corporation, even if that provides steady income and other benefits like medical insurance, because he should be running his own family business
- Children should never go to public school under any circumstances
- Mom should be willing and available to provide sex to her husband at any time, even late at night
- It is a sin to use birth control
- Raising concerns about circumstances in the home is disrespectful and a lack of submission
- The family cannot borrow money because debt is unbiblical
- Government assistance is an example of unbiblical government overreach and should not be used
- The civil government (public school, police, social services) despises Christians and homeschoolers and should in no way be given information about a family
- Unbelievers (sometimes defined as anyone who doesn't have a similar lifestyle) are out to get us, their advice cannot be trusted, and their concerns are irrelevant because they don't care about obeying God
I hope you can see that the determination to have more children and always homeschool "no matter the cost" may result in that cost falling on your family in profoundly destructive ways.
I'm Not Demonizing Large Homeschool Families
I know I've thrown some pretty depressing ideas out here. You might get the idea that I'm anti-homeschooling and anti-big-family. I promise, that's not my angle.
I have eight children who have been homeschooled since day one. This website is called "Your Large Family Homeschool". It exists to support families homeschooling a crew.
Having a large family and homeschooling are hard work and they involve sacrifice. Doing hard things that involve sacrifice are not necessarily bad.
It is also reasonable in some ways to push back against our culture's estimation of what our children "need" and how much it costs to raise a child. You aren't disobeying God by failing to provide each child with her own room and a new car on her sixteenth birthday.
And it can be a wonderful blessing to work together as a family to make excellent use of a modest budget.
I'm not discouraging large families, homeschooling, or frugal living.
Instead, I want us to take a step back and recognize that "trusting God" is not compatible with making decisions that are counter-intuitive to using God-given wisdom and factoring in what we can clearly observe about our circumstances and resources.
"I don't see how we can afford this, but I'm going to 'trust God' and do something that is not commanded in Scripture but is likely to over-stretch our family in harmful ways,"
"I'm going to trust God and make a priority of providing well for my family because God has clearly commanded me to do that and to do otherwise would be to deny my faith and make a mockery of God before my family and others."
Our God is a God of Mercy
I want to add one final note before I close. Perhaps you're reading this article and grieving, or even crying.
Perhaps you, like many others, were persuaded by those who preached the message of "trust God and keep having more kids no matter what."
Perhaps you now find yourself in a place where there seems to be no way out of a difficult situation - trapped between the reality of your physical and financial limitations, and the ways in which your conscience has been bound by false and legalistic teaching.
Take it to the Lord. Our God loves to give grace to his people. He delights to comfort those who call on his name.
Even more important than recognizing your material limitations is recognizing your spiritual limitations.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
If you need to, confess your sins to your family. Apologize for failing to provide for them - physically, educationally, spiritually or in any other way. Confess the ways in which your lack of care for them has spoken falsely about their heavenly Father and his perfect love.
Ask for help from others. Receive it humbly. The eternal souls of your family are far more important than your reputation or pride.
Know that our God delights to rescue us even from our own failings and faults, to bring beauty out of ashes.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?