Think about it. When we send out a missionary, do we bid him farewell with the words, “Now be careful not to get too many converts. If you start a church, limit its membership. Have only a few families . . . .”?
We could, you know, with plausible-sounding arguments, have only a few members, and you can instruct them more fully in doctrine. There will be less disagreement, more unity. If the few members are sound in faith, heresy will be less likely to creep in . . .
Or, how about with already established churches? If other professing Christians profess to believe as we do and desire to join our churches, shouldn’t we nonetheless limit acceptance of new members to a set number, say one or two new families per church per year?
Even the thought must evaporate when spoken. God gives faith and God converts the sinner: If God sends new members into our midst, either via missions or established churches, who are we to attempt to hinder God’s work by limiting the number of new members?
And so, we wouldn’t think or speak those words.
But how differently today we approach a family! Family planning, family limiting, is okay, all because of problems which may occur with a family. Have several children? But . . . the cost! But . . . the woman’s health! But . . . the education! But . . . our emotional instability! But . . . But . . .
Oh yes, this is true amongst us! Of course it’s true in our world, which is feministic and finds every conceivable rationale for self-centered living. But it’s also true amongst us as Christians. Recently in a Bible class in our local Christian high school, the class was asked to name in writing how many children each student would like to have when he had a family someday. All but one said they only wanted two children . . . and that lone exception only wanted four!
Why is this? Why don’t Christians want families anymore? Remembering that a century ago most Christians considered large families a blessing, why don’t we want children today?
A very interesting-and in many ways worthwhile – book has entered the 1985 market, entitled THE WAY HOME by Mary Pride. The key thrust of this book is that the essence of femininity lies in motherhood and that the modern woman in destroying that love of motherhood is destroying the Biblical woman. She stressed that the Bible calls child-bearing a blessing and then addresses the question we have just asked. “Why don’t Christian women want children anymore?” Her answer is that our world has made us afraid of having children and she names several fears we have.
#1 The fear of beggary. Each child will cost us $200,000 in eighteen years, say the experts. One child consumes 40% of an average income, two takes 60% of it. This means four children would take an entire income, right? Nothing left for the parents! We can’t do it; children cost too much.
#2. Fear of bondage. Having children will tie us down too much, preventing self-development, limiting our other involvements, causing us to lose our freedom.
#3. Medical fears. We are warned of so many dangers with giving birth. We are told that multiple births result in poor health for the mother and for the children. Giving birth after age 30 results in birth defects and after age 35 results in dangers for the mother’s health and life. On and on . . . .
#4. Fear of overpopulation . . . an unfounded myth.
#5. Fear of “rabbithood”. Uncontrolled, most families would have twenty to thirty kids!
#6. Fear of persecution. Today’s anti-family attitude results in hostile social attitudes if we have over two children. Besides, overt attempts are being made legally to prevent large families by penalizing those who have them. It’s both an embarrassment and a danger to have many children.
Mrs. Pride then points out that the one fear absent in this list is the fear of God. But, in her words, “The Lord is the only one worth fearing. . . . Not snide neighbors. Not anti-baby feminists. And definitely not babies. . . . “ (67)
Rather, we as Christians are called to conceive children and we as Christian women are called to be mothers in Zion. God gives us that calling as the way of blessing for us. We should always keep in mind His calling. Some passages of His Word that we should never forget are these:
Genesis 1:28. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” This is a Creation mandate and as such endures until the end of the world. But note well: God gives the command as a blessing!
Psalm 127. “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. . . . Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”
Psalm 128. “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD . . . thy children (shall be) like olive plants round about thy table . . . !
I Timothy 2:15. The woman “shall be saved in childbearing” (in obedience to God’s calling for her life, is the idea).
I Timothy 5:14. “I will therefore that the younger women marry, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
Titus 2:4-5. “teach the young women to be (wise), to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
If a poll were taken in one of our schools, how would we come out? How many of our young people would like a large family? How many take God at His Word, trust Him to provide our needs, and call children a blessing? If you were asked how many children you wanted, how would you answer?
Ho! What a host of objections promptly arise! What often amazes me is that I hear these objections from mature women in the church who ought to know better, who ought to be instructed in godliness already in their youth. And this impresses on me the need for our youth to be ready with answers before they are in the situation and before their responses are only emotional. We must train our emotions by God’s Word, too!
Some objections that always arise are these.
Objection 1. Then you are belittling women with no children?
Answer. Definitely not. Martha Bruinsma in the August-September 1985 had exactly the proper attitude of a barren mother, the desire for children to train for God yet a submissive spirit that accepted God’s will in her life. God has a feminine role for every woman and where He withholds children He will also allow the submissive woman to channel her motherhood in another direction, such as teaching children or helping others in the church. But, to use an analogy of Mrs. Pride, it’s quite different to have a tree which doesn’t bear fruit than to go around pinching off the blossoms on a tree which would normally bear a good harvest!
Objection 2. Then a home with many children is more blessed than a home with few children?
Answer. God’s blessing rests on faith shown in obedience, never on circumstances alone. Where God gives few or no children, but obedient faith still sees the giving of children as a blessing, there God blesses the home. Where many children are present but esteemed a burden and nuisance, God’s blessing is absent. God’s blessing is not on numbers of children but on faithful obedience in our attitude towards them.
Objection 3. So, no birth control? Doesn’t God give us a mind to use, too?
Answer. I trust – I HOPE -none among us would use abortion to get rid of an unwanted baby. But, in principle. beyond the fact that abortion is murder, how does birth control differ in its real principle? Also in birth control, aren’t we saying that a child is unwanted? Also in birth control, aren’t we rebelling against God’s plan for the natural result of intercourse? The real issue is whether we are willing to trust God!
This is not to deny the very rare situation in which it is clear that having children will jeopardize a woman’s life. This is so rare that I have encountered it only once, possibly twice, in my forty years of life so far. That’s a whole different issue.
Objection 4. What if I’m not capable of handling a large family? Emotionally, I can’t take it! Or physically, I’m too weak. Or mentally, I’m slow and won’t train them well . . ?
Answer. God gives us both our abilities and our responsibilities. Let Him determine also our capabilities.
Emotionally, are you weak? I’ve seen godly women with repeated emotional breakdowns whose children all matured to Christian leadership.
Physically weak? I am personally learning that God still provides often in mysterious ways and that these weaknesses actually are an aid in motivating our children to help more willingly.
Mentally weak? As long as we lead our children to the Word and instruct them daily and faithfully as well as God enables us, our children will learn what counts, to love God! A parent need not be a scholar but must obey God and God will then bless. Many leaders have arisen from uneducated homes.
Objection 5. But what if I just don’t want many children? Isn’t this in the area of Christian liberty?
Answer. Yes. This is usually the real issue. The world says, “Be yourself and do your own thing.” But God says, “Obey Me in love and be blessed.” To want (or not want) anything contrary to God’s Word is to sin. God’s blessing rests only on obedience.
And, yes, the conception of children is an issue that lies in the area of Christian liberty. “Only use not liberty as an occasion to the flesh . . . .” (Galatians 5: 13). Christian liberty never implies disobedience to God but rather the new obedience that arises in Christ out of thankful hearts, because we are not through works earning salvation, but rather living the life implanted by Christ of salvation already earned by Him. Can we express our thankfulness through disobedience?
Let’s humble ourselves before God. Let’s acknowledge God as God, also in this area of the conception of children. Let’s believe what He says that “Children are the heritage of the LORD and fruit of the womb is His reward.” Let’s view covenant children as a blessing and love them!