The somewhat cryptic title of this article summarizes the quandary which a recently married couple faced, as reported on the news. Should they get a dog or have a child? The choice was between ruining their furniture or ruining their careers? It is hoped that, with this thinking, they opted for a dog!
If I were starting over and beginning a family today, I would have genuine fears and concerns. With the secularization of society, the marginalizing of God, the gender confusion, and immorality that is drowning our culture, what Christian would not face uncertainty and fear? It is only reasonable that Christian couples would question the wisdom of bringing children into a world such as this.
But then, what of Amram and Jochebed and Egyptian society? There was the hatred of Pharaoh, the vigilante groups of Egyptians searching for and drowning all newborn boys, the Nile, and (if the child survived) the slavery of Egypt. The prospects were bleak at best. Yet faith in God triumphed and a Moses was brought onto the world stage to effect the second greatest redemption the world has ever seen.
And speaking of society, if one were merely concerned for its survival, marriages must produce children for a nation and society to survive. It is thought that each marriage must lead to 2.2 children for a nation to continue (please do not opine about the .2 child!). But we are not as interested in the survival of a nation as we are in the obedience to God’s Word.
And what of the Scriptures? Is there not some significance in the fact that the first commandment given by God to human beings was “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” (Gen 1:28)? This is repeated in the New Testament in 1 Timothy 5:14. It is God’s intention that married individuals should bear children and raise those children in a family setting. This is the very foundation of a society. There are couples to whom the Lord has not given children. In these instances, a couple must face the heartache, pain and reality of infertility. That is not by choice. But those cases aside, the tenor of Scripture is for married couples to “be fruitful and multiply.”
If we return to our modern-day secular couple referenced at the beginning of the article, an examination of their thinking is helpful. While Christian couples may hesitate and question having children due to the condition of the society into which they are born and the influence on the spiritual welfare of the children, the concern of our aforementioned couple is quite different. It has to do with self-interest and a life which is built around advancement, possessions and prosperity. Little or no thought is given to the welfare of the potential children. It is all about what those children might do to them and their lifestyles.
How did we arrive at this stage in history? Since the Fall in the garden, human beings have been self-centered; it is the result of sin. What has changed over the centuries, and with alarming speed in the last 50 years, is the appearance of “justified selfishness.” In the western world, self-fulfillment, self-actualization, and a host of other self-hyphenated philosophies have taken root and flourished. To fulfill your dreams, reach your full potential, follow your heart, and live your own life free of the expectations of society is now the norm. Anything which might pose an obstacle to these “lofty” goals is considered an unwanted intrusion. In many cases, marriage itself is viewed in that context: will it advance my life goals or be a hindrance? What societal expectations and norms were able to suppress for millennia has exploded to the surface with incredible force and led to the erection of an idolatrous altar to the worship of self!
Having a family and childrearing will entail sacrifice. While Scripture does not forbid a sister from having a career and a family, the raising of her family must be her primary concern. If she is able to multitask and manage a career simultaneously, she is to be commended. But countless godly women have sacrificed careers, opting instead to devote their undivided attention to the raising of their children. It is also a huge sacrifice of time and freedom. Any mother can tell you that she can no longer run to the store or accept a spur-of-the-moment invitation to lunch from a friend. Children come first and have to be thought of in every circumstance. From the newborn who is totally dependent on its mother for everything, to the toddler whose safety is a concern, all the way through teen years (which have their own issues to face), no longer is her time her own. She will also sacrifice the showcase house, where everything is in place, for a lived-in home.
Couples sacrifice together. There are expenses involved in having a family. These range from obvious expenses in feeding and clothing to vacation and college tuition in the future; then there are the extra expenses in doing things as a family (a restaurant bill for two is a lot easier than one for five). These scarcely begin to catalogue the sacrifices in time, freedom, finances and lifestyle that a couple makes in choosing to have a family.
What is the reward in obeying the Word of God and choosing to have a family? Obedience to God is its own reward. In obedience to His Word, we always find our greatest usefulness and blessing. And there are definite tangible here-and-now benefits to having a family. But first, a word of caution: your children will not rise up and call you blessed (Pro 31:28) for about the first 21 years of their lives. It may occur when they have their own families – so be content with delayed gratification. But you have the invaluable privilege of influencing lives for God and eternity (2Ti 3:15; Titus 2:4). In company with the Elect Lady of 2 John, you will find no greater joy than to see your children walking in the truth. Think of a Hannah who could give her son to the Lord for the recovery of the nation. What a blessing Samuel was to Israel and continues to be, even to us today!
An additional blessing of children is that they afford an insight into the heart of God. As you love them unconditionally, care for them, yearn over them, and always seek their best, you discover something of the depths of God’s heart toward yourself.