Borrowed Pots

When you step out in faith, you will be rewarded.

It’s Mother’s Day, and I, like every other mom, was blessed with some flowers and gifts, and lots of hugs and love to commemorate my having done…well, nothing all that extraordinary, really. Naturally, in receiving these gifts, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I’ve been blessed with the children themselves. They are the gift. The flowers are going to fade, and I’ll probably lose or break the gifts eventually. But the souls I’ve been blessed to nurture are forever. To God be the glory!

On Mother’s Day, especially, people are extremely complimentary about my largish family. Of course they are! They’re kinda forced to be, aren’t they? I get to hear all day what good kids these are; what a blessing to be able to have so many; how happy I must be; how busy I must be; how patient. (Lord, have mercy. Ask my kids about that sometime.)

It is both pleasant and difficult to receive the compliments and comments about my offspring, whether on Mother’s Day, or any other day. It is pleasant because I agree fully: I am extremely blessed! You won’t find a happier mother than me anywhere! It is difficult because I want to give God all the glory, and not take it for myself. I might be tempted to think I’d really done something here, when in fact God gives the life and the increase. I’m just along for the ride.

There’s another reason it’s difficult, though, and it is because the assumptions behind some of the compliments are quite distressing to me. The assumption is often that I had all of these children because I’m just some kind of mothering machine, better and more suited to that task than most women. That “just Mommy” is all I ever wanted to be. (OK, that one is true and I love it.) Or that I am some kind of idiot who just couldn’t figure out how to shut the machinery down. Sadly, Christians make these assumptions nearly as often as everybody else.

Now, not everyone makes these assumptions, and I want to take care that readers understand that nobody in my own church seemed to be saying these things to me today. I’m speaking of the wider culture now, my past experiences, but nobody in particular today.

In our Sunday School lesson this morning, we were talking about Elisha and the widow whose husband had left her in a great deal of debt. From 2 Kings 4:1-7:

 

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

I wonder, when the widow went to borrow pots to store something that she clearly did not have, did her neighbors think she was crazy? Did she feel silly asking for empty pots that she knew she didn’t have the wherewithal to fill for herself? She only had a little oil left in the house, and no prospect of getting any more. What could she possibly do with all those pots? Did she tell her neighbors that she expected God to fill them? Did she even know herself what the prophet planned to do?

All I know for sure is that she did as she was told, and her faith in so doing was rewarded.

Now, what in the world does that have to do with Mother’s Day and having a bunch of kids? Much! First of all, it shows that the sons left to the mother were a blessing to her in the absence of her husband. Provided that the creditor didn’t take them from her to pay her husband’s debts, they would be a blessing to her for the rest of her life. Children, even in extreme poverty, are a blessing in and of themselves!

But, more importantly to my point today, it shows what value there is in being blindly obedient. Even when we can’t see for ourselves, and our neighbors certainly can’t see, what God is planning to do, we must take the action we’ve been told to take.

I could so easily have missed out on my eight greatest blessings if I had thought of children the way everyone else does: As expenses. As time-sucks. As troubles and trials. As part of a lifestyle that requires a special kind of person to maintain. All I had to do was be “wise” and “responsible”, and I would be short some number of wonderful people in my life.

I’m sure I looked crazy to my friends and relatives as I birthed eight children (let’s call them my little pots now) in the space of thirteen years. I’m sure they had no idea what I could possibly do with all those empty pots, seeing that I myself have just one small vessel, and barely enough oil (energy, money, time, patience) to take care of even myself. I’m sure they thought we were innumerate, irresponsible, and just plain incompetent to make our own decisions as we kept adding children every 18-20 months.

And I am very sure that I had no idea what God was going to do with those little pots. But I was told to gather them (“be fruitful and multiply”), and so I did.

And I have seen with my own eyes over these years the miracle that is promised to those who believe and obey. After collecting these eight pots, closing the doors, and sitting down and endlessly pouring oil from my own vessel–much more oil than my vessel can even hold!–into those little pots that He gave me, I can say with confidence that there is reward for faith. I’m still pouring, and the oil has never run out yet!

Every pot that I borrowed is perpetually being filled. I borrowed as many pots as I could. Some will be able to borrow more, some less. But all must exercise faith by gathering the pots. And of course, I say “I” because the widow’s story is a story about a mother, and it’s Mother’s Day, so it just flows better to speak as if I were the mother in the story. But my husband also has his little vessel, and equal faith to pour his oil out. We’ll do his part of the story on Father’s Day, ok?  I have not done all this without him!

Now, I’m no Elisha, but I feel the need to prophesy to the young couples:

Borrow as many pots as you can, right away. 

Three times this week, I’ve heard young couples say that they were worried about being able to afford children, or being able to afford them right now. These couples are Christians. As readers well know by now, I am ever amazed that believers think that what they can afford has anything at all to do with what God wants for them.

The widow did not wait to go and ask her neighbors for their pots. She didn’t worry about the timing, or what people would think, or even what Elisha wanted pots for. The widow was not slow to act when she was told to gather the pots. And she was not sorry she’d asked for so many once she saw what was to be done with them.

Close the door on the World.

The World, and (God forgive us!) even the Church, have told these young people to be responsible. Make some money first. Make sure you have your degree and a good job first. Make sure you have life experience first. Above all, make sure you have some fun first! The World is sure to be whispering about what you’re up to behind those closed doors, but you will have excluded them from the conversation. This is between your family and God.

Close the door to all this worldly thinking. Close the door to worry and doubt about your own abilities. You are not able! It’s true! You do not possess the oil–the love, the experience, the wisdom, the patience, or the holiness–that you will need to be parents. You will never have those things if you don’t first gather the pots to put them in.

Just keep pouring.

As a parent, you will inevitably be called upon to give to your children many things that you do not have. But God in his generosity will give you all of the holiness, the patience, the faith, and the wisdom you need if you will just trust Him to do so. And if He will give you those things, do you think He won’t take care of the easy stuff? The food and the clothing and the doctor bills? The money, the energy, and the time? That stuff is easy for God. Just tip your one small vessel over and see how freely all of the oil you require pours out!

God does not say any of the things that the World says about children. Do not listen to those who say to you that you are responsible for filling up your pots. You, future mothers and fathers, are responsible only for first receiving the pots, then closing your doors to the World, which can’t understand what you are doing at all, and just pouring.

I put together an ebook from several blog posts I wrote over the years on this topic. It’s a little bit old now, and written by somebody who obviously wasn’t as far down the motherhood road as I am now. But it’s still good, and I wouldn’t change very much at all, except to be even more sure of myself and my Jesus. He is faithful. Taste and see!

Click on the cover to read it, spread it around if you find it useful:

 

 

Poor People Should Not Have Children

And other stupid things smart people think.

Got into a little bit of a discussion with “the smartest man in the world” on Gab, whose childhood was miserable, he thinks, because he was poor. He wishes poor people wouldn’t even have children.

Of course, since I’m a Christian, I have a different take on it: Blessed are the poor.

Since I don’t have a lot of time to write a new post, and I already addressed this more than a decade ago, I thought I’d just drop a chapter from my book, ConDeceived, which was really just a collection of blog posts on the same topic, to do the rest of my arguing for me. Self-plagiarism FTW! Here you go:

Lie: Children are too Expensive

Those darn kids sure are expensive, aren’t they? Too expensive to have!

This comic from xkcd just happened to come to my attention the day after I found out I was carrying our fifth child, who at the time was about the size of a sesame seed, and for whose prenatal care and delivery costs we appeared to be woefully short. How that shortfall came to be is a long story. Suffice it to say that we were not feeling flush.

After rearranging some priorities, working to earn a little extra money, and eating a few more meals of beans and rice to bulk up our savings against the day of delivery, we found that God didn’t even need our help. The money was there, and then some! If we’d made a “decision” based on whether our bank account looked flush, we’d be short one very energetic bundle of hazel-eyed joy. And we’d probably still have less money, because we wouldn’t have gone into emergency mode to cover the looming (imaginary) financial difficulty.

The financial burden that children impose upon their parents is a lie our culture continually tells, and even Christians fall for it, hook, line, and sinker. I’m not going to pretend that it costs nothing to feed our children, but I will say that the financial costs aren’t anywhere near what “experts” tell us. In fact, chances are that you’re going to end up about as wealthy as you were going to be whether you add kids into the mix or not. Wealth, especially in a country like ours, has less to do with how many mouths you’re feeding and more to do with your willingness to work, your skill-set, and your ability to save rather than spend. In fact, a quick search of the web reveals several studies that have shown that men tend to earn more once they’ve added children to the home. Nothing lights a fire under a man’s behind like having to feed a houseful of people. I can add from personal experience that stay-at-home motherhood can be quite a spur to frugality, as well. 

Practically everybody is familiar with the Duggars—Jim Bob and Michelle, and their 19 kids—through their reality television show “19 Kids and Counting.” I’ve only watched a few episodes, so I don’t know very much about them. But you know what? They don’t look poor to me. Of the large Christian families that I know personally, some are wealthy, and some are decidedly not. They are all, however, fed, clothed, and lacking nothing essential. Maybe they don’t have anything fancy, or their shoes are a bit scuffed, but they are taken care of. I also know families with two kids, or none, who are in dire financial straits.

Financial peace in the home has more to do with a couple’s relationship with money than it does with the number of people requiring new shoes at any given moment. Knowing this, and having lived it, I really don’t see how we can blame our children for our financial situations. Family size has very little to do with the long-term wealth of a family.

But what if it did?

Let’s stipulate that having children does, in fact, mean you’re going to be less wealthy. Pretend that every child you add to your family really does remove hundreds of thousands of dollars from your future purse. Does that mean preventing them from even coming into existence is the best way to secure your future?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (and, I might add, where the Fed does not inflate away–ed.). For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21 

Christians, these are the only treasures you can take with you!

Our culture sets parents against children, and present children against future ones, telling us that they’re a money-suck, and the only thing standing between us and a comfortable retirement. (And isn’t comfort the real purpose of living?) Even in the church, financially strapped parents are led to believe that their money troubles are partly due to the existence of their children and advised against having more…unless the money is there.

Is this how God thinks of children? Does He think of them as consumer goods, to be “bought” only if we can afford to “pay for” them?

In God’s economy, children are wealth! Look at just a few of the things the Bible has to say about children:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

—Psalm 127:3-5 

You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock.. —Deuteronomy 7:14

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

    who walks in his ways!

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;

    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

    within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

    around your table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed

    who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion!

    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem

    all the days of your life!

May you see your children’s children!

    Peace be upon Israel!

 —Psalm 128:1-6

And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”

—Genesis 33:5 

Children are not consumer goods. They are people made in the image of God, and a heritage from the Lord. 

We Christians should allow the World to go ahead and worry about how much it “costs” to have kids. What they have on this Earth is all they’ll ever have, so it’s natural for them to plan accordingly. We who know better ought to look forward to rejoicing in the fruits of our labor when we are old—a living legacy of Godly children.

At the end of my life, if God wills that I should live to old age (which, given my driving abilities, seems like a longshot), I will probably die in somewhat less well-appointed circumstances than I would have if I’d focused more on storing up treasures here on earth. That could be in part because of the amount of money I’ve “wasted” raising my children–people whose existence I could have prevented with just a quick visit to the doctor.

It is vaguely possible that the cost of my kids’ education, clothing, and healthcare would have been put into a savings account if those little people just didn’t exist. But those people will be there when I’m old, and when I die they’ll be sorry I’m gone. I doubt whatever is left of my retirement fund will feel so strongly about my passing.

Who is your provider?

Of course, we do have to pay for things like food, shelter, and clothing for all these new bodies we keep adding to the census every 20 months or so, don’t we? Have you ever worried about how you’re going to feed your next baby? Or maybe it’s your neighbor whose family size has you worried. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days. 

An older lady—the greeter at Walmart, actually—once stopped me and asked me how “all these young mothers” thought they were going to pay for “all these” kids. (I’d have borne the insult gracefully if I’d thought she meant I looked too young to know what I was getting into. Alas, she didn’t seem to be including me in her definition of “young mothers.”)

If it were just one lady whose age appeared not to have fostered wisdom, I probably wouldn’t bother writing about it. But it’s not just her. Daily, internet searchers come to my website wondering why Christian families are having children they can’t afford, along with Christians who are wondering how they’re going to afford the blessings God is sending their way. Strangers on the street tell me that they don’t understand how I can afford my kids. My own grandmother wants me to stop having kids because they cost too much! (And they have never cost her a dime!)

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.–Proverbs 15:17

What these questioners overlook is the fact that we’re talking about Christian families.

Christianity is the key. Searchers who ask why Christian families think they can afford so many children answer their own question. I propose that the reason that they can afford the large family lifestyle is because they are Christians.

Stay with me for a moment. I am not saying that Christians are wealthier, smarter, or somehow less expensive to feed and clothe than non-Christians. We come from all walks of life, after all. However, the Bible does provide a great deal of financial wisdom for those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to take advantage of it. The rest of the world kinda-sorta knows these things, as the large number of secular personal finance blogs indicates, but Christians often literally take their faith to the bank.

People who take God’s word seriously concerning family structure and His love for their offspring are equally likely to believe biblical truths about earning, spending, borrowing, giving, and saving. Believing these things, they are more likely to live by them, however imperfectly, than those who haven’t heard the word of God. Not every large family has the best grasp on these principles, it’s true, but it has been my experience that larger Christian families are much more likely to be debt-free and financially independent than even most smaller Christian families or childless couples.

In fact, what looks like scarcity to our credit-driven culture is often just a different set of values. My shoes aren’t always in the best condition, we live in a less well-appointed home than many would think acceptable, and our cars are never new, but we’re debt free and building our savings. And yet, our neighbors seem to think we must be broke!

Some of my large-family friends are (by my lights, anyway) filthy rich, and others are struggling to keep the lights on, but none of them show any bitterness toward their children when the bills come due. This is because they know that the mere presence of children hasn’t done anything to change their financial situation. Even if their children’s needs were breaking the bank, they don’t measure people in dollars and cents.

God provides. For all Christian families, whether large or small, it always comes down to this: God provides for His children.

My father often used to talk in his sermons about a time when his daughters had no shoes, and he had no work boots. He cried out to God for help, and what do you know? My grandmother dropped by with shoes for both kids (note that our family was a “manageable” size, and yet we were poor), and he found by the side of the road a new, unworn pair of boots that were the size he needed. My father was working as hard as he could, but it was a bad economy, and he came from a poor family himself. He was doing his part in trying to provide, and it still wasn’t enough for our family’s needs at the time.

But God had enough for us!

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.—Psalm 37:25

So how are we doing it? How can we hope to keep this up, baby after baby, in an uncertain world? God certainly does provide, and He gives us the ability to do many things to help ourselves.

As I said before, despite the frightening numbers that “experts” in the media are constantly pushing on an ever more gullible public, children are not expensive. It’s lifestyle and material expectations that cost so much. In this wealthy nation, many of the things that we deem essential to a happy and productive existence are really just icing on the cake. 

Our cake has less icing.

We can afford to raise our kids, but there are a lot of other things we can’t afford:

  • A housing-bubble priced house. Our family has been priced out of buying our first home for the last ten years, thanks to all the geniuses buying and selling houses as if they were some of those new-fangled tulip flowers. We never felt comfortable with the prices, so we just didn’t bother. Thanks to that big POP! you heard a while back when reality hit the real estate market, we’ll be able to buy a modest home soon. We hope. In the meantime, we rent.
  • A room for each child. Our kids share bedrooms. Small ones. This is unthinkable in a society where everybody has not only his own bedroom, but his own TV to keep him in it. I grew up that way, my dad grew up that way, and I don’t see any reason my kids shouldn’t grow up that way. I find that my kids like each other more because of the close proximity.
  • Nice, new cars. A beat up 2006 mini-van and the little Kia to get Jesse to work will do just fine. We’ll need a bigger family vehicle soon, but we’ll still be buying used and, most likely, ugly.
  • Expensive clothing, food, etc. I do most of the shopping, and I have to admit, I’m not the best bargain shopper. I usually miss the best deals, forget something on my list, or pay too much for something. I minimize the impact of my inability to shop well by shopping as little as possible, eating plain food, and buying the good-enough-for-the-likes-of-us brands instead of name brands.
  • Cable television. Honestly, we wouldn’t pay for that anyway. We have the internet and Netflix. That’s plenty.
  • Dates, live entertainment, eating out. For fun, we look for free and cheap things to do. Mostly, though, we just hang out at home and with our extended families. It’s OK. We like each other. I budget for a couple of nights of take-out a month, also, but that’s something we could do without if we had to.
  • Vacations We cheat a little bit on this one. My in-laws take us to the beach with them sometimes. If we had to do it for ourselves, we’d do without.
  • College funds. Judging from the comments I’ve seen about this elsewhere, not sending your child to college is tantamount to child abuse. If my children want to go to college, they’ll have to do it on their own dime. My plan is to pay for all of their living expenses as long as they need to in order to save enough money (starting with their jobs as teenagers) to attend college. It is my hope that they can do it debt free with community colleges, scholarships, and hard work. I don’t consider college to be necessary to happiness or success, though. There are lots of ways make an honest living. 
  • Debt. We absolutely cannot afford to pay banks or individuals for the use of their money.
  • The admiration of more materialistic people. No names (obviously), but there are people who have treated us rather poorly because we wear the wrong clothes, drive the wrong cars, and eat the wrong foods. Frankly, this makes me glad we don’t have much in the way of material goods. It weeds out the insincere. We can’t afford those kinds of friends.

It could be that if we didn’t have our children, we’d have more of these things I’ve listed. We might have a fatter savings account, less financial stress, fewer grey hairs. It is also possible that, lacking the frugal mindset our children give us, we’d be squandering our money on all of the above things and would look and feel wealthier, but our bank accounts would remain essentially the same.

It is my belief that children, in the long run, have a pretty small effect on a family’s finances. Our financial habits and earning potential seem to me to have a great deal more influence on our net worth than the number of mouths we have to feed.

While the math (not to mention my stress level) sometimes goes a little bit wonky, I’ve found that there is always a way to stretch the budget to feed one more—whether it’s one more child in our family, or one more family coming over for dinner. The One who provides for our family does so abundantly, even when the bank account doesn’t look so good.

My husband and I (before we had kids) spent some time in penury, so I’m not saying bad things can’t happen. I am saying that no matter how lean or fat the times are, it’s not my job to try to predict the cost of the children God places in our care. Nor is it my place to complain if our material circumstances aren’t precisely what I wished for. It is my place to work, pray, be realistic in my expectations, and trust God to provide.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

–Matthew 6:25-32 (NIV)

You Keep Using that Verse…

I do not think it means what you think it means.

Within the space of about a month, I’ve had three different people tell me that there is a Bible verse that not only justifies the use of birth control within a Christian marriage, but that actually seems to demand it in certain circumstances. That verse? 1 Timothy 5:8: 

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Since that verse has come up three times, through three different people, who appear to have three different agendas, a more superstitious person might take all those threes to mean that Triune God Himself is on the line, and trying to get through with a very important message. And I admit that I considered that possibility, albeit briefly.

The first two times I’d been read this verse in this way, it came from commenters on my blog, Get Along Home. The third time, it came from a preacher on the radio while I was on my way to Atlanta for a weekend retreat for Christian homeschooling moms. The preacher said, essentially “Yes, the Bible says that children are blessings, but it also says (1 Timothy 5:8), so we should consider that very carefully when making our reproductive choices.”

Well, I thought I had the answer all worked out, but here’s a real minister who says differently! I was perturbed. What if I’ve been steering people wrong with all my talk of the blessing of children? This certainly seems like a pretty strong sign, doesn’t it? Suddenly lacking the surety I thought I’d reached, I prayed for guidance, right there in my car. The answer I got was, as usual, silence. God doesn’t normally speak audibly, after all. 

After my initial panic, I remembered that the Holy Bible knows nothing of numerology and personal signs from Heaven for hillbilly mommy bloggers. Given that fact, I thought it might be more reasonable to take a look at the actual context of the verse than to attempt to intuit what God was trying to tell me while I was careening down the interstate, desperately searching for signs of an available restroom.

(Incidentally, bathroom calls are incredibly close together when you’re carrying a nearly full-term baby in your womb, and I-85 doesn’t seem to be built with the expectant mother’s bladder in mind. I really don’t recommend driving from Boone to Atlanta in this condition. Ever.)

Anyway, here’s what we read in 1 Timothy, chapter 5:

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. –1 Timothy 5:3-8

And it goes on to speak more of how widows should conduct themselves under different circumstances.

Would it be disrespectful of me to joke about hitting a preacher with a clue-bat? Yes? Well, I won’t do that, then. But I do have a hint for The Rt. Rev. Radioman:

Any time you find yourself using the Bible in a way that requires you to say “Yes, God said Abut He said B over here.” where B directly contradicts A, you need to check your premises. You’ve missed something.

The correct way to phrase it is: Yes, God said children are a blessing, and God said 1 Timothy 5.

In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul is instructing a young preacher (and the young Church) on how to order the Christian community. Concern for widows and orphans is writ large throughout not only this passage, but the entire Bible. This chapter in particular speaks to the responsibility of a man to provide for—wait for it–his widowed relatives. Why? Because if a widow has relations who should be taking care of her, the church’s resources are best spent on widows who are truly widows , i.e. elderly women who have no relatives who can take care of them, nor prospects for remarriage or self-sufficiency.

So who is worse than an unbeliever here? The man who doesn’t provide for his widowed relatives! This chapter says absolutely nothing about whether a financially shaky man should have children with his wife.

What it does say is that he should support not only his own offspring, but his grandmother, mother, and most likely any aunts or nieces who might come along to make a claim on his paycheck. Is that a hard thing to ask of a common man trying to eke out his living by the sweat of his brow? Oh, yes! If you don’t believe me, you can ask my parents, who are right now enduring the trial of caring for my grandmother in her last years, and who are making any number of financial and personal sacrifices to do so. God requires us to work to care for our family members.

Somehow we’ve gone from taking a plain reading of a very straightforward passage about caring for widows to condemning a man as worse than an unbeliever for being foolish enough to impregnate his wife without first having enough money–whatever “enough” means. That’s a pretty harsh judgment to pin on someone just for being numbered among the poor, don’t you think?

I can almost hear the objections now: OK, so this verse doesn’t actually say anything about making babies, but why can’t we use it this way, anyway? Obviously many do! But that isn’t how we use the Bible. Not if we’re interested in taking a faithful read of it, anyway. We need to measure scripture by scripture. Going now to 1 Corinthians 7, written by the very same apostle, and inspired by the very same Holy Spirit, we find this:

“For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” –1 Corinthians 7: 4-5

The only exception to continued marital relations that Paul admits is to allow for times of prayer, and then husband and wife are instructed to come together again and do the thing that makes babies. Abstinence being the only method of contraception at the time (as far as I know), this would seem to imply that the apostle expected married people to procreate without regard to how many gold coins they had hidden away under the rug to pay the midwife. If this weren’t so, you’d think that somewhere in this passage on marriage and family, Paul might have seized an opportunity to let us know that a man should stop sleeping with his wife if he felt too poor to provide for the likely result of their union.

With only a little further thought, we can reasonably conclude that 1 Timothy 5 affirms the opposite of the lesson that some are taking from it. 

I know what you’re thinking. Now who is reading things in that aren’t there? If the passage doesn’t state that a husband shouldn’t father children whom he may end up too poor to support–and which of us can say for a certainty that he will never come to desperate ends?–then it definitely doesn’t say anything about anybody needing to have kids!

But read again:

4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. –1 Timothy 5:4

Answer me this: How can we expect children who don’t exist to provide for us in our old age? It seems to me that the blessing of children is most needed in old age, when it’s too late to figure out whether they would have been a “good idea” or not.  While there is no literal command to procreate in this verse (though the Bible is chock full of them elsewhere), it is showing us a clear advantage in doing so.

In 1 Timothy 5, as elsewhere, the Bible is wonderfully consistent in speaking of children as an asset, not a liability. All this time we thought we were being presented with a dilemma, but God has handed us a solution instead! 

Often, especially in the Proverbs, the scriptures contain conditions for its principals. “Answer not a fool according to his folly,” but “answer a fool according to his folly.” How can we do both? It seems clear that there are times when we’re expected to discern which principle applies. Answer a fool? Don’t answer him? It depends! 

I’ve heard Christians say that we are expected to use our brains when “deciding” whether to have any more children, as if this were simply another situation where “it depends.” I never can get these same Christians to point out where this principle is outlined in the Bible, though. Instead, I notice that there are no times where God has provided a counterpoint to the idea that children are not only a natural, but a desirable consequence of the marriage bed. This passage in 1 Timothy is the closest thing that anyone can dig up, and it is provably incorrect, the widows’ children being the remedy for a dire financial situation, rather than the cause of it.

“Children are a heritage from the LORD.” has no opposing “Children are sometimes not a great idea.” In fact, childlessness is considered a curse for rich and poor alike, and large families are promised as a blessing to the faithful. 

While the Bible says all of these positive things about children, there is absolutely nothing to cancel those blessings out by providing a “balanced” look at the topic of family. The Bible not only assumes marital procreation for both rich and poor, but promotes it as a blessing. It doesn’t speak of babies as a lamentable side effect of sexual pleasure, but as the natural and beautiful result of the union of man and wife. Though there are many, many exhortations to raise our children well, and stern condemnation for parents who don’t raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, there are no instances where it is even hinted that it could be a better choice not to have them–even many of them–at all. 

 

Child-free and Loving It

In a recent post, I obliquely referred back to the following post, which I’ve rescued from the scrap-heap of GAH 1.0. This was written on March 1, 2013. I was allowed on the Twitter back then, and made a lot of Christians (especially the men) clutch their skirts. The most shocking thing about it is that I ate ramen noodles. At bedtime. Good grief, I was sick. Anyhow, it will be interesting to see the reactions now (if I even get any), when there are a great many more people who understand what I mean, and are raising their own families in full awareness of it.

Child-Free and Loving It

Not me. Them.

In my latest insomnia-fueled excursion around the internet I ran across the above-linked article at The Daily Beast. Go read it. I’ll wait here…

It’s quite a piece of work, isn’t it? It is, in case you were too smart to take the bait, an article cobbled together from reader comments that The Daily Beast had solicited in response to an earlier Newsweek piece about the birth dearth. The intentionally childless—er, childfree, they like to be called—don’t take too kindly to the idea that what they’re doing is foolish, but it is, and for a multitude of reasons.

When I read this article last night, I didn’t feel very strongly about it. In fact, I almost skipped right over it, because there’s nothing new here. Just a bunch of people doing what people have always done when given the opportunity: living for themselves, and seeing no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, Ayn Rand-like, they have managed to make a virtue out of selfishness. A few quotes from the article:

I don’t like it when people and the media imply that I’m not doing my job. I am far more than a baby factory.

 

I never wanted to put another human/soul/awareness through anything as miserable as what I was dealing with…

 

I just see it (having children) as a losing battle on the way to an eventual future straight out of the movie Idiocracy.
I read The Population Bomb at puberty, around the first Earth Day. I decided at 15 that I’d like to adopt one kid of every race, to have a rainbow house. When I grew up and realized humans were causing mass extinction, I got cats instead…

 

…I don’t want to be defined first and foremost as a mother…

 

I saw how much my mother hated the drudgery of caring for children on her own…

Yawn. Just the chatter of a self-absorbed, affluent culture that thinks children suck, mostly because their parents thought they sucked. Not my audience, though, and no need to address it, I thought. So I ate some ramen noodles and went to bed. (I’ll do penance for that indiscretion by doing low-carb next week. Pinky-swear.)

However, by the time I woke up this morning, I was feeling a little restless about it. There’s a lot of worldly reason here that just makes sense to the natural mind, but I get comments to this effect all the time from people who identify themselves as Christian! These people quoted above are correct, according to the logic of their own worldview.

Raising children is a very poor way to try to give life meaning. If you’re adding children to your life for the sake of finding purpose, you will most likely find yourself with nothing but a handful of trouble. Parenthood is just drudgery on the World’s terms. These (I’m guessing and hoping 100% non-Christian) non-parents believe that the purpose of their lives is to, as I once heard Voddie Baucham put it, “get all you can, can all you get, and then sit on the can”. Why in the world would anybody add more people to this miserable existence when they don’t particularly like kids?

Why carry on something as meaningless as human existence?

It makes sense to the World. Of course it does!

But Christians, who have changed hearts and transformed minds, ought to know better. The next generation does matter. We do need them to take up where we leave off. And our hearts ought to be softer than this toward those younger Christian brothers and sisters whom God has given us as offspring. In fact, our hearts, when they are in the right place, will turn to our children.

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

While this was a specific prophecy, and I don’t want to take it out of its Messianic context, it does show one of the benefits of repentance to a nation. Their hearts turn toward their children, and the children in turn incline their affections toward their fathers so that the generations benefit from mutual love and protection during the vulnerable years at both ends of life.  The hearts of men and women in this nation are so hardened toward their children that they don’t even care enough to bring them into existence. This is a form of self-hatred, as evidenced by those commenters who reveal that they believe the human race (to which they must surely realize that they, themselves, belong) is a scourge and shouldn’t be encouraged to continue.

There is a consequence—a curse–to this hard-heartedness.

The generational pyramid scheme always topples.

The European nations, Russia, and Japan (to name some recent examples history has to offer) have amply demonstrated the fact that when the burden of the economy suddenly shifts to a generation that is much smaller than the one before it, a nation’s resources begin to be used up at a rate that exceeds creation of new wealth. A nation can only be as healthy as its inventors, builders, thinkers, and fighters, after all.

I admit freely that the hole in my individual argument for allowing fertility to proceed naturally is that some people are indeed just fine, thank you, with no kids to take care of things for them. They cruise through to the very end of their lives with both enough money and enough health to set things up to their own liking, and no offspring need ever cramp their style. For many, that happy ending is a pipe dream, but it works out often enough that it still seems plausible to try.

However, even if it turns out well for some individuals, in the aggregate, it never turns out well. No amount of saving and planning will save any but the very lucky once the economy that their savings and investments rely on teeters over the edge of the generational cliff. As nations depopulate—whether voluntarily or not–poverty and discord follow.

Children really are an asset!
In addition to financial devastation, the responsibility for elder care becomes physically and emotionally too much for the few offspring left behind to do all the work. The bulk of their effort—mostly in the form of tax money, because the children are as hardened toward the parents as the parents were toward them–goes toward keeping up the last generation rather than raising the next, and so the next generation is further depleted. Further, the increasing frailty of the aging population makes it ripe for conquest via immigration. There’s simply no getting around the severe social and economic costs of a population implosion.

I can enjoy the results of other peoples’ child-rearing while I live MY best life unhindered by duty. Let the people who like kids (aka suckers) do that job for me:

Among the comments that really got my attention were the ones who are relying on their family and friends to provide un-wrinkled hands to hold in their old age.

I am fortunate to be very close to my nieces and nephews and to experience a form of grandparenting with their children. I have mentored dozens of my friends children through college frustrations and job searches.

I’ll be the cool, hip aunt to my sibling’s kids, or godmother to friends’ kids…

I don’t begrudge my childfree relatives that, because I want my children to care for the elderly. We have a duty to help the lonely and destitute wherever we find them, and no matter how they ended up in that condition.

However, there’s an attitude of entitlement here that shouldn’t go unrebuked: You do the unpleasant work. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

While these commenters confess that they are emotionally freeloading (I don’t know what else to call it when it’s on purpose), I doubt they’ve fully understood that they are financially freeloading as well. Economies aren’t built on dollars and gold. They are built on people.

But freeloading doesn’t bother this crowd much, because they’re happy little grasshoppers, and who cares whether there’s a next generation? After all, they’re not going to be around to see the world in a hundred years anyway!

This seems like a great place to show off my favorite Cryptofashion tee, doesn’t it?

I got a lot of outraged comments (and emails…oh, the emails.) on my post about the need to breed because of the strong wording I used. I make no apology for it. I meant it when I said “I truly hope you find the accommodations to your liking.”

I really do hope that, for those shortsighted individuals who intentionally have no children, things turn out better than they have historically proven to turn out for the childless. When people start to feel justified in their selfishness to such an extent that they’re proud to spend their entire lives without sacrifice to the f-word (family), what happens to the sick and infirm in the resulting culture is a fate not fit for any human being, whether they unwittingly asked for it or not. Naturally, I wasn’t speaking to those people who are for one reason or another unable to have children, though their end may, tragically, be the same. I will personally (whenever possible) be thrilled to hold their hands and listen to their stories about the good old days when they are in their dotage and need a neighborly ear.

When I see someone heading for trouble, and with a smile, that seems like a very bad time to use soothing and choice-affirming words, so comments about my “merciless” attitude fall on deaf ears. “Merciless” is the word I’d use to describe allowing people to continue in wrong beliefs just because we don’t like to ruffle their feathers. Choosing vivid words to wake people up (and yes, tick them off enough to keep them awake) might just be the most merciful thing I can do.

I am, at the very least, showing mercy to my own children. It is they who will suffer the most for the loss of their generation’s strength to the selfishness of the intentionally childless, and so I do have a vested interest in pointing this out. My passion in the matter is justified, because I love my children and want them to have a secure future.

These Daily Beast readers are right, though. They shouldn’t have children. They should repent of their sins, and God will add the blessings afterwards, as a gift, and a reward.

As always, we can discuss this on Gab, MeWe, or Social Galactic.