"One and Done," Lauren Sandler's Time cover story this week, offers a series of reasons why many parents in the West are choosing to have only one child. First, the economic strain: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the average child in the U.S. costs his or her parents about $286,050—before college," reports Sandler. There's also the happiness and freedom that apparently come to parents with only one child. Sandler says the vast majority of married couples understand marriage as primarily about happiness and fulfillment, rather than an institution designed to facilitate the "bearing and raising of children." And if marriage is about personal happiness, as one sociologist writes, "You should say that you'll stop at one child to maximize your subjective well-being." And, on a related note, "Parents who intend to have only one say they can manage the drudgery with an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel."

Sandler also addresses some of the reasons parents traditionally have chosen to have two or more children. There's the concern that only children will grow up to be selfish and spoiled. But current research suggests that even if only children are "highly indulged and highly protected," they also tend to "score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement" than children from larger families. There's also the concern that only children face an untenable burden in caring for aging parents, and will be lonely.

As the mother of two children with a third on the way, I found myself bristling at Sandler's reporting. Her data about academic achievement seem insignificant. I want to value our children not for what they can produce but for who they are becoming. Furthermore, the data suggest that only children's achievements are the same as first-born children and people who have only one sibling—which is to say, the majority of children in the U.S. And the concerns about aging parents and loneliness outweigh, in my mind, the economic and social freedom parents experience with only one child.

But it doesn't really matter what I think. For Christians who are considering starting a family, what matters is what God thinks. And, on this and many other related matters, it isn't always easy to figure God's perspective out. Sandler herself writes, "As much as family size is a deeply personal issue, for many people it is also a spiritual one." God's word on families comes early on in the Scriptures: "Be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 1:28). The biblical writers generally assume that children are a gift from God desired, in large numbers, by every married couple.

Yet it's not hard to look at current population statistics (the global population has more than doubled in the past 50 years) and conclude that we've fulfilled the Genesis mandate. Also, as stewards of the earth's resources, might there be a Christian argument for limiting family size? Even if we weren't concerned about the global population, there's also the question of personal stewardship. Biblical writers counsel wisdom in economic concerns, and family size certainly impacts family economics. If having another child means it will be hard to put food on the table, perhaps the wisest choice for some families is to have one child. Finally, there are personal health concerns. Some women's lives will be endangered by having more children. Again, perhaps the responsible, godly choice is to accept those physical limitations and keep the family small.

The Bible is not our only resource when we face these types of questions; it's too easy to find the Scripture passage that supports whatever position we already have. For questions like these, accountability relationships and Christian community play a crucial role.

For a long time after marrying, my husband and I considered never having kids. We could justify our desires according to our Christian beliefs. We worked with students as full-time Christian ministers. For us, having a family seemed to detract from our ability to spread the Good News. It may well be the case that there are Christian missionaries called to limit their family size for the sake of the gospel. But in our case, those arguments were a fafamp;sect;ade, covering up the fear and ambivalence we had about limiting our lives by the presence of children. It took the gentle questions and witness of other Christians to convince us that we were using Christian-sounding arguments to cover up a selfish and fearful motive.

Now, every other Thursday morning, my husband talks on the phone with his friend Jon. They've given each other permission to ask the hard questions: "How are you treating your wife? How's it going with your kids?" They admit their weaknesses—impatience, pride, self-centeredness. And they challenge each other, with love, to address those weaknesses with the strength that comes from a relationship with Jesus.

We need to consult the Bible whenever we face a major life decision. We need to pray on our own. But we also need to be in relationships with other believers who will challenge us and help us to see the ways we deceive ourselves, even with Christian arguments.

One, two, three children or more, we need one another to help us do all we do to the glory of God.