Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Children: Blessing or Burden?

The other night, in our family devotions, after discussing various other subjects, we arrived on the subject of children. We were originally talking about how easily unbiblical and ungodly ideas and standards infiltrate the church, many times without it being readily apparent.

After my parents were married, they waited five years to have children. Their reasons?

1. They wanted to wait until they were financially stable.
2. They wanted to have some time with just the two of them before children entered the scene.

These both seemed to them - at the time - to be fairly valid reasons. However, my mother doubted at times whether this was right or not, and for years sought counsel from different Christian women in various churches. The response was always the same. "That is entirely up to you and your husband; it is a personal choice."

Today, society's idea that "too many" children - or even any children at all! - are a burden has become increasingly prevalent in the church. Walk into many of today's churches, and you will notice that most of the families are representative of the "perfect American family": two parents, two or three children.

It was not until about four years ago that my parents realized that the subject of children is directly dealt with in the Bible; God has specific things to say about childbearing. I'd like to look at exactly what God has to say about children. Are they a burden or a blessing? Is the number of children we have left up to us, or is this something that God wants to have control over?

It all started at the beginning. God gave a command to the first man and the first woman:
"...Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [fill to overflowing] the earth..." (Genesis 1:28)
It is interesting to note that this command was repeated to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1) and also to Jacob (Genesis 35:11). We have a clear command from God to multiply, to raise up godly generations of people to serve and follow Him. The advantages of following this commandment are numerous. Not only does God promise to bless those who keep His commandments, but "being fruitful and multiplying" also creates a lasting legacy of godly men and women to advance God's kingdom. Both Catholics and Mormons seem to understand well the advantages of having many children to carry on their faiths. Imagine if every Christian family followed God's commandment to be fruitful and multiply! A family with two children is only replacing the parents. According to statistics, families with three and four children replace the parents and make up for those people who never marry and couples who never have children. Only if a family has five children is it increasing the population. If non-Christian families stick to their two- and three-child policies, and Christian families follow God's command to be fruitful and multiply, then Christians would eventually outnumber the non-Christians. Think what could be accomplished!

Children are also a great blessing, and are referred to as such throughout the Bible.
When God blessed people, He almost always included as part of the blessing the promise of many children. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Ishmael, the Israelites, and many more Biblical characters, were promised the blessing of many children. God says that children are a blessing! We have it straight from the Bible. If God says that something is a blessing, shouldn't we desire it earnestly? Shouldn't we be open to God bestowing it upon us?

Psalm 127:3-5 ~ Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
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.
Children are our heritage and reward. Who gives us this heritage and reward? The Lord does! Who are we to limit the heritage that God wants to give us? Who are we to limit our great reward from the Lord?

Yet, today, children are often viewed as a burden and constraint. This is because men and women are not following God's plan for their lives. They don't see that one of the highest callings of God is to raise up children for Him. Yes, it is a great responsibility, one which we cannot do on our own. But, with the Lord's help and guidance - by teaching God's Word diligently to our children, talking of God and His ways when we sit in our houses, when we walk by the way, in the evening and the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7) - God promises that when our children are old, they will not depart from "the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

When a woman is not committed first to her family, children well may be a burden. When a woman has plans and goals which are contrary to God's great calling, children may well be an unwelcome interruption to her life. However, if a woman is following God's calling for her life, striving to provide for her household and raise up - alongside her husband - a generation glorifying to God, children are the greatest blessing that God could bestow!

Society today has strayed so far from God's plan for mankind! Francis Schaeffer once said,
"Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now."
And this is just what is happening! The church is following just about seven steps behind the world. It is gradually embracing almost everything that the world says and does. It is becoming "conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2) - in virtually every area of life. We are called to be transformed by renewing our minds. This means renewing our minds in every area of life ... rethinking every sphere of life by examining what God has to say about it.

God is the Giver of life. How is it within our power to thwart God's perfect work by preventing a life ... a little character ... a tiny personality ... from coming into existence?

In the past several years, my parents have come to realize that God is the One who gives children. He bestows them as His little blessings as He sees fit. The result of this change of mind and heart is a new little baby brother or sister (playfully and temporarily christened "Bob" in order to avoid the insensitive pronoun "it") coming in February! We look forward to this little blessing's arrival, and pray daily that he or she would become a godly servant of Jesus Christ. As the fifth child, this one will be the one to add to the population. With just us four, we barely broke even!


John Moore said...

It is much as the saying goes, 'Biblically speaking, Children are a Blessing, while Debt is a Curse. It is saddening to realize that our nation has drifted so far as to believe that we should eliminate our blessings while making curses ever more convenient and accessible.'

What a brilliant statement. I have no idea who the original author was, but I've heard it said by Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, Richard Bacon, and my Dad.


At any rate, good post. It's great to see people keep up the good work.

I do think it's interesting how biblically, marriages took place at a much younger age (17-18 for men, in most cases, sometimes much younger) which would naturally be geared toward having many children. Today, we live in a society where we get out of high-school at 18, continue on to college for five years, wracking up enough debt that we can't pay it off for another four years, and the end result is that we're 27, and still don't have any money. And that's a good scenario.

I know guys who are over thirty years old, still paying back for their bad decisions regarding education and finances years ago.

Alas, we few shall have to set the world aright, amen?

Soli Deo Gloria!

~ In Christ, John.

Lauren said...

Hello John!
It's nice to meet you! My mom and I met your dad at the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp in San Antonio last month. We enjoyed the little bit of time we were able to speak with him.

Thank you for sharing that quote! I know I've heard it from Doug Phillips in one of his talks ... I don't remember which one.

Marriages at 17-18 for men! ... I wonder what made these Biblical characters so much more mature than modern-day men. The culture definitely had a lot to do with it, I believe. Young people were held up to a higher standard. Also, I think that a greater emphasis was put on preparing people for life, not on spending one's entire first quarter-of-a-century in a formal "educational" system. Today, so many parents leave the entire upbringing of their children to the schools and churches. They neglect their greatest responsibility of preparing their daughters and sons to be godly, industrious women and men, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands.

What I think is amazing is that many people spend five or six years - and two or three changes of their major - working towards getting a college degree; then once they've gotten it, they end up working as a waiter or waitress for the next few years. Many times, they never even ultimately end up with a job that has anything to do with their major in college!

I think that this is due in a large part to the lack of practicality and level-headedness in young people today. They don't look ahead and see the big picture, and they don't have a plan. We're all guilty at times though, aren't we? Young people in general don't like to think through things, and they especially (horror of horrors!) don't like to think "outside of the box." It's so much easier to just follow the beaten track and be another senselessly steriotypical figure!

This "degree-at-all-costs-no-matter-what-the-practical-benefits-might-possibly-be" mentality is the norm today. I'm not saying in any way that there is anything wrong with a degree. It is important, though, for someone to be sure that he really needs that degree before he invests the time and money into it.

There are ways out there now that allow you to get a degree without allowing it to eat up several years of your life and hundreds of thousands of your dollars. Programs like "CollegePlus!" also encourage real-life, practical experience in your desired area of expertise. This gives much better preparation for later life!

Just a few ramblings.