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.