Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ten Ways Not to Look at Children

Wisdom is a narrow path. Folly, on the other hand, is a wide, gaping desert. Our conversations in the church about children tend to be contentious and emotional. Few things touch closer to home. Which is why we need all the more to develop a careful, thoughtful and sober understanding of the Bible’s wisdom on this issue. Below are ten common ways we err in our thinking. May He give us grace to fill our quivers with blessings, and our hearts with wisdom.

10. Children are a hassle to be avoided. What has become conventional wisdom in the world is now conventional wisdom in the church. We quip about longing for school to start, about dreading when they outgrow children’s church. We make the same stupid jokes- Do you know what causes that?, flaunting our folly. We are so biblically illiterate in the church we have no idea we are calling God a liar, who tells us children are a blessing from His hand (Psalm 127). We are so historically illiterate we don’t know that every denomination in Christendom condemned practices designed to avoid blessings from the beginning of the church until little more than fifty years ago.

9. Children are more precious than rubies and must be attained at any cost. On the other side of the above spectrum are those who see having children as the only blessing, and their purpose on the planet to conceive as many babies as humanly possible. The truth is that wisdom is more precious than rubies. God, however, is the one with all wisdom, and so is best equipped to plan our families. Seeking to pry babies out of His gracious hand, employing sundry technologies and timings, ironically, like the above problem, separates the blessing of the marital act from the blessing of children. What is to be a joy, on both counts, becomes a duty on both counts.

8. Children can be ordered like new flatware from the Pottery Barn. The Bible reminds us that God is the one who opens the womb, and the one who closes the womb (Genesis 16). To suggest that you can have children of this sex or that this far apart or that is hubris of the highest magnitude. If you want children, God may bless you, or He may not. If you don’t want children, God may bless you or He may not. In the meantime you look pretty silly sitting in your baby car seat turning your toy steering wheel, thinking you are driving.

7. Their lack of children is a sign of God’s peculiar disfavor. I’d like you to meet your friend Job. To affirm that children are blessing from God does not mean that those who have not been so blessed are not God’s friends. God has many kinds of blessings and He gives them, in His grace, as He sees fit. You can no more measure a man’s piety by the size of his quiver than you can by the level of his suffering. Neither is someone’s family size proof of any error in their thinking on children. You can’t rightly assume that those with small families are guilty of error #10.

6. My abundance of children is a sign of God’s peculiar favor. The flipside of #5, only here the pride is slightly easier to see, and yet equally ridiculous. Children are a gracious gift, not a paycheck.

5. Children are an unalloyed blessing. That the blessing is alloyed doesn’t mean it’s not a blessing. It does mean that children, even the ones in large families, sin, wake up in the middle of the night, throw up and break things, sometimes even our hearts.

4. Children are God’s version of the “Hitler Youth.” Our children fill our quivers in the battle against the seed of the serpent. We are drill sergeants, raising them for battle. And they are soldiers right now. But the Bible doesn’t call us to do this only for the sake of battle. Instead the Bible says children are a blessing, a joy. If you are not enjoying them, you’re doing it wrong. If you think the kingdom comes by breeding, you are missing the point. The kingdom comes by joy, and joy comes from many places, including the blessing of children.

3. Children are given for our glory, or our comfort. It is true, and a blessing that godly children bring honor to their parents. But that honor comes to us not as they live for us, but as they live for Him. My children do not exist to spread my fame, but to manifest the glory of the reign of Jesus Christ. There is a thin line between letting your light shine before men and praying on street corners like the Pharisees. You will only know which side you are on by humbly and honestly examining your heart.

2. Children are no longer needed; the world is overcrowded. There are plenty of thoughtful arguments to gainsay this folly, filled with statistics and sound economic theory. The simplest one is this- God said to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. We’ll know we’re done when He tells us we’re done.

1.We have to have more children before the west is overrun. Though the west has been profoundly blessed by the impact of the gospel, it is the gospel, not the west that matters. We don’t need more white children; we need more covenant children. We don’t need more Americans; we need more Christians. We don’t need more Republicans; we need more citizens of the kingdom of God.

These mistakes, of course, come from all sides. Large families can make some, small families others, and some both sides can make. We would go a long way to combat all of them, however, if we believed this simple truth- children are a gracious gift from God who opens and closes the womb, for His glory and for His kingdom. We might go even farther, however, in combating these errors this way, by being certain to hug and bless the children He has given us.


Dennis said...

The book of Proverbs also states a myriad of verses on child discipline, but in this touchy feeley generation we somehow never can find that part of God's word!

Gombojav Tribe said...

Thought provoking! I'm going to link to you soon on my blog--as soon as I find time between making PB&J sandwiches for my six children! LOL!

Thank you for this thoughtful post!

Margaret said...

Thanks for this post, RC. There are errors on all sides, and you aptly demolished them. :)

This really speaks to me as a wife of an immigrant, mother of distinctly brown children, mother of *only* 3 children, and yet someone who clings very tightly to God's sovreign planning of our family and his goodness in doing so.

Tara said...

i agree. I haven't always. I am grateful for the freedom that we can have in surrendering this area, too, to our Sovereign Father and King.
Trust Him isn't always easy...but with a little experience now - I agree it is worth it.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Sproul,
Some very good thoughts-thank you!

Just a thought-for my part, while I'm not married yet, being only sixteen years old, if you gave me a choice between children and rubies...I think I'd take children. I'm just sayin'

At any rate, I am anticipating your lectures at the Family Economics Conference!

Stand Fast,

Andrew Romanowitz

R.C. said...

Good point Andrew, and you are absolutely right that children are far more precious than rubies. The point I was trying to argue against is that they must be attained at any cost. But the way I phrased it it sounds like I'm saying rubies are more valuable than children, which is nonsense. Good catch, and sorry for my error there. Look forward to seeing you next month, God willing.

Anonymous said...

Point well understood. I figured there was an error.

Stand Fast,

Andrew R.

Aubrey said...

I realize that this is an old post, but I was poking around on this blog when I was reading some of the very beautiful and moving posts you wrote after your wife died. They were a great encouragement to me.

I have been ruminating about your #9 for a while. While I would agree that having biological children is not the ultimate goal, I disagree that seeking any kind of fertility treatment is somehow "prying children our of God's hand". Infertility is a result of the fall just like cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. I certainly believe that God can open a womb that has previously been closed just like I believe he can heal someone of their diabetes or cancer. But that doesn't mean that I would advise that people suffering any of these other conditions avoid seeking treatment and only to pray for healing. Taking insulin is not "prying a normal blood sugar out of God's hand." It is wisely treating a serious medical condition. Now infertility will not kill you (which I know from personal experience), but neither do seasonal allergies and no one has ever told me I shouldn't take my Claritin.

I am thankful for my infertility. I can say that now. It taught me a lot. It continues to teach me a lot. But I am also thankful for the therapy that allowed my husband and I to hAve our son. We prayed and sought God's guidance and prayed some more for a child. And then God used some medication and a very good doctor to bless us with him. The blessing of the marital act and the blessing of children did not, in any way, become a duty.

I think that Christians need to be wise and think deeply about the ethical issues that arise from fertility treatments. My husband And I decided ahead of time things that we would not do. But infertility is a medical problem and discouraging people from seeking treatment for it seems to me like telling people to pray their cholesterol lower or not to worry about their very high blood pressure.

R.C. said...


You are most wise. It seems in my zeal to speak against the most desperate measures some would take I seemed to suggest that any measures taken is not so good. I don't pretend to know where the line is, (though I know, and I suspect you agree, that freezing/discarding little babies is way over that line) but I don't in the least agree with you. My chief concern that I was seeking to address are those who see every month's non-pregnancy as some great failure, or who do cross the line. I'm not in the least opposed to careful, patient, trusting attempts to heal what is broken. Thank you for pointing out how I had here overstated my case.

Aubrey said...

Thanks for your excellent response. Although I have known some Christians who have gone down the IVF path, for me it is hard to reconcile the ethical realities of that - especially the freezing/discarding embryos - with what the bible says about how we should respect life.

i will say, at times, in the midst of our hardest struggles with infertility, every month's non-pregnancy did feel like a failure. Not that is should have, or that it was a Godly response to our sufferings, but that's how it was.

All that said, I do wish more believers would think about some of these issues before just blatantly going along with whatever the doctor recommends.

Emil Bandy said...

Pastor Sproul,

As much as I enjoyed reading the post - I enjoyed reading your comments afterward even more....

Thank you for showing me a spirit of humbleness in your comments. It was a lesson I needed to hear today. It's easy to act like you are right - It's much harder to stand for the truth while loving your brother and sister in Christ.

God Bless