Marriage in Scripture – Part 12: What Do The Scriptures Say About Family Planning?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

What Do The Scriptures Say About Family Planning?

Study Aired May 25, 2014

I had no intention of speaking further on the subject of marriage and the family this week, but this question is something that needs desperately to be a part of this series, and by popular demand I am going to address this question in today’s study.

The question that provoked this study was more specifically “…what [do] the Scriptures say about permanent family planning methods… we don’t want to be surprised… by another pregnancy.”

This is definitely a question we need to address in this series of studies on the marriage union and the family. The answer to the specific question of “what the scriptures [have] to say about permanent family planning” in the sense of men getting vasectomies, or women getting tubal ligations is absolutely nothing. The emphasis throughout scripture is on having large families, not on limiting the size of one’s family.

Having said that, and always being very careful never to “think above what is written”, I must acknowledge that our last study, where I emphasized:

Gen 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

It could and would be taken as admonishing every one to have at least four children. It could and no doubt will be misconstrued to condemning anyone who does not have a large family.

Then immediately after emphasizing that the word in this verse is “multiply”, not just replace, and then going on to reveal the lie that there is no such thing as over-population, and that all we are suffering from is over-concentration, that Biblical statement will be abused and made to appear as if it is condemning anyone who does not at least multiply themselves by a factor of two.

Well, that is the physical commandment and again, there is nothing in the scripture which even hints at attempting to seek to have small families. I read all the verses last week which glorify large families and represent a barren womb as a curse from the Lord Himself.

Psa 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Psa 127:4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Psa 127:5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Gen 20:18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.

Nevertheless, I did point out that Sandi and I had planned to have four children before we were married, and we did so on the basis of Christ’s admonition to us to say concerning our own plans:

Jas 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Jas 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Jas 4:15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

So there is a verse of scripture which tells us that “[we] ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that”.

Our Lord Himself tells us:

Luk 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Luk 14:29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
Luk 14:30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Luk 14:31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

So mankind’s plans are given to Him of God whether mankind knows it or not:

Pro 16:9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

Proverbs 16:9 is true whether you are Joseph’s brothers selling Joseph into slavery, or if it is Joseph explaining God’s ways to His brothers:

Gen 45:4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Gen 45:5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
Gen 45:6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
Gen 45:7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Gen 45:8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Gen 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

These verses all reveal that all that mankind does, both the good and the evil, are really nothing less than a work of God, via the agency of the Waster or the agency of benevolent spirits. This is the truth of the Word of God concerning all that mankind does:

Dan 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

These verses of scripture are just as applicable to our plans to have either large or small families, as they are to Joseph’s brother’s actions against him. In the end, whether a couple are given to plan the size of their family, or whether they decide to just let nature take its course and have as many children as it is possible to have, both are a work of the Lord based upon the measure of faith given to any particular couple. This is a commandment which we need to apply to this subject of planning the size of our families, whether in a permanent way, such as tubal ligation or vasectomy, or the use of a condom or the natural method of coitus interruptus.

Rom 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

If I think more highly of my self than I ought to think, then I could very well think that the scriptures, or even the principles revealed in scripture, condemn the use of invasive surgeries to make conception impossible, or I could very well think that the scriptures which glorify large families are proof that God wants all families to be large families, and I could end up looking down on a physically poorer brother or sister whose children are not provided for as I think they should.

Three points of view

There are three ways of looking at the subject of human reproduction which we will consider today. Abortion is murder and not worthy of mention.

1) It is a sin to do anything that interferes with the natural means of conception.

2) You may limit your family to a size you can care for adequately, but it is best to do this only by natural means.

3) You may limit your family to a size you can care for adequately, and you can use any means short of abortion to do so.

We will consider each of these doctrines in light of the scriptures:

1) It is a sin to do anything that interferes with the natural means of conception.
Many who subscribe to this first doctrine use the story of Onan and Tamar to make this point.

Gen 38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
Gen 38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
Gen 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Family planning had nothing to do with Onan’s decision to ‘spill his seed on the ground”. The Lord slew him because He refused to do what he had been told he was to do. Onan was selfish, stubborn and disobedient, “wherefore [the Lord] slew him”.

So once again we are right back to the fact that the scriptures actually say nothing specific about the size of a family. To make the word “multiply” to mean ‘four or more’ is the same as using the fact that the Bible says “you shall have sheep’s milk” to mean that it is a sin to drink cow’s milk. I have never ever had such a thought, and I see nothing in the scriptures which concerns itself with whether we can drink cow’s milk.

2) You may limit your family to a size you can care for adequately, but it is best to do this only by natural means.

I make no apologies for coming down on this side of planning the size of your family using of the natural method of self control and coitus interruptus.

Not being willing to “think above what is written” (1Co 4:6), the scriptures do speak of a woman’s “menstruous” period and being separated from having sex during this period:

Isa 30:22 Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.

Lam 1:17 Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the LORD hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries should be round about him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them.

Eze 18:6 And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman,

Any woman who is aware of her own body generally knows when she is ovulating, and there certainly is no Biblical prohibition against refraining from sex during that time.

The Hebrew word for ‘menstruous’ is ‘niddah’ and it appears 29 times in 24 verses of the Old Testament. 14 of those 29 times it is translated as ‘separation’.

There is nothing unbiblical about staying separated during this time if you do not want another child. The world will ridicule those who use this method and will call the children born under this method ‘mistakes’, but condoms and other methods are also faulty, and some of them can be dangerous to the health of the woman. The pill has many hormonal side effects. Pregnancies have been known to occur in women who have had tubal ligation and when that happens a woman’s health really is at stake.

If a couple is capable of self control, enough to wait till there is not chance of becoming pregnant or if they practice coitus interruptus, then they can safely and naturally avoid all the problems associated with vasectomies and tubal ligations.

3) You may limit your family to a size you can care for adequately, and you can use any means short of abortion to do so.

Since there is nothing in the scriptures concerning this consideration, some have concluded that our first doctrine is the correct Biblical doctrine concerning the subject of family planning. But we cannot use the fact that surgical operations are nowhere mentioned in scripture to condemn people who have a ruptured appendix sugically removed to protect their lives. Neither can we take it upon ourselves to condemn a person who can use the verses of scripture concerning men being given the illusion of free choice, for choosing to have a vasectomy or a tubal ligation. The question we are dealing with is “What do the scriptures say about permanent family planning methods?” Again, the answer is nothing at all.

So when a couple simply cannot bring themselves to take a chance on having a child, and they decide to have a vasectomy or tubal ligation, then we need to leave such matters up to the couple involved. Their decision to get a vasectomy or a tubal ligation, if it is done according to the measure of their faith, is just as right for them, as my decision to go the natural route, according to the measure of faith I have been given:

Rom 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

This verse of scripture is in accord with what Paul tells us two chapters later:

Rom 14:22 Hast thou faith? [in any of these doctrines concerning whether and how we should limit our families] have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
Rom 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.


Since we are discussing a subject which is not even mentioned in the scriptures, and since we are told that God deals to every man a measure of faith, we must conclude that such private matters are very personal and must be made “according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith”.

These words are just as applicable to the believers of any of these schools of thought as they are to the others. If you are comfortable with a large family, what Biblical right do I have to tell you what should be the size of your family. If, on the other hand, you are comfortable in using a vasectomy or tubal ligation to limit the size of your family, where are the scriptures that authorize me to expect you to see this subject as I see it?

I pray we will all be given to accept each other with the measure of faith we have been granted by God, and to never be found guilty of judging a brother or sister based upon the size of their family.

Other related posts