By Dennis Rainey
Did you know that the nation of Hungary needs more babies?
Concerned about the country’s declining birthrate and its dramatic impact on economic stability, Hungarian government officials have implemented some creative strategies to encourage women to have more children. It offers family support loans and improved social benefits to young married couples for each new child. According to Wikipedia, couples with three or more children pay virtually no taxes!
This is just one example of the efforts that officials in some countries are making to address one of their greatest problems … adults are choosing to have fewer children. Nations like Japan, Italy, Spain, South Korea, and in some parts of America are concerned about the economic impact of falling fertility rates. In Italy, the birthrate has fallen more than 25 percent in the last 10 years. In America, the number of births per 1000 people today is half the rate back in 1950.
For decades researchers have highlighted multiple causes for falling birthrates. Personally, I think the issue is pretty simple: We live in a world that just doesn’t value children as it once did.
In fact, if you have more than two or three kids, some people will undoubtedly express great concern: “Don’t you know how much kids cost? Can you afford to send them to college?”
Have you stopped to consider what a strange statement of values this is—that you’d actually decide not to have additional children because you might not be able to afford their college expenses?
God’s view of children
In Psalm 127:3 we are told, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Elsewhere in Scripture children are repeatedly described as a blessing.
The bottom line is that God is bullish on children.
The first chapter of the best-selling book of all time, the Bible, underscores the value God places on children:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27-28
Here God commands parents to “be fruitful and multiply” and He declares that children are a blessing, a privilege, and a responsibility.
What do we believe about children?
I think it’s time for a heart check about children in the Christian community.
Do we truly believe what God said about children?
Do we really believe that we ought to be fruitful and multiply?
Do we really believe children are a blessing?
Let me pause and make it clear I fully realize there are many who desire children but suffer from infertility. And I realize every couple must make their own decisions about the number of children in their family.
My challenge to couples is to evaluate our personal beliefs according to the truth of Scripture … and God places a heavenly value on children.
In the end it’s their decision, of course. But if we truly believe what the Bible says about children, then why not prayerfully challenge couples who can have children to consider having more than one or two? And why not consider adding to your family through adoption or foster care?
I fully realize that I may be the only person in your life who has asked you, “Should you have more children?” I don’t mind being the voice that challenges this generation to consider whether they are listening too much to the culture on one of the most important decisions of their lives.
Lacking a true, biblical vision
My fear is that many in the faith community are not only choosing to adopt the world’s view about whether to have children but also in how we how we raise our kids. Far too many parents today believe that responsible parenting means making sure our kids go to the best schools, wear the best clothes, participate in numerous outside activities … so they’ll grow into successful adults with well-paying jobs.
We know we want to build character, but we don’t know how to do it. So we mix the world’s values in with those from Scripture. We don’t want our kids to make the types of mistakes we did as teenagers, but we fail to teach them how to resist temptation and make good choices.
In short, we lack a true, biblical vision for children and parenting. But in Deuteronomy 6 God reveals why He commands parents to be fruitful:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
Do you see the vision here? God calls us not just to have children, but godly children who will pass a godly legacy on to the next generation.
The home is the best place for a child to learn about God. In a culture of weakening character and ethics, our best hope for renewal lies in the restoration of godly homes. God created the family circle to be the ultimate conduit of Christianity to children and to the next generation.
Although it’s sobering to bring children into a decadent society, in God’s timing our children will become His agents in advancing the kingdom of God.
In other words, your children may be your greatest legacy.
Consider for a moment what Rose Kennedy, mother of President John F. Kennedy, said of children:
“Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him, but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity—a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.”
Now that’s a woman who had a vision for children!
A call to radical selflessness
We need to recapture the biblical imperative that parenting is a sacred calling and that children are worth the effort (and all the costs)! God has selected parents for a work the angels must envy–the stewardship of a child’s soul.
If Christians are going to have children, then we must raise them well. And that requires radical selflessness, a commitment to walking humbly with God and to raising kids according to biblical values.
Early on, I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could help them grow up. Now I believe God gave us children to help us finish the process of growing up!
We have found that it’s impossible to raise our children to become godly adults and be selfish at the same time. The lessons I continue to learn remind me of the bumper sticker:
MY CHILDREN SAVED ME FROM TOXIC SELF-ABSORPTION!
The need to be selfless ought to challenge fathers who spend too much time climbing the career ladder, pursuing hobbies and sports, or other personal interests—at the expense of their kids. It ought to challenge those mothers who place their young children in daycare so they can work—not out of necessity, but for self-fulfillment or a higher standard of living.
I know a couple who say they wish the wife and mother could stay home with her preschool children. Yet a quick look at this family’s lifestyle raises questions about their real family values. The family lives in a new home, drives new cars, and vacations each year in San Francisco.
I fear many Christian families have bought into the big lie that “You can have it all.”
But you and I can’t have it all.
I once called a friend and asked to have lunch with him. In our time together I expressed that I was very concerned about how much he was working—more than 80 hours a week. His wife had a pressure-packed, prestigious job, too. I told him I loved him, and that I wanted to challenge him to consider what his real values and responsibilities were to a wife and three children.
Our meeting ended on a cordial note, but there was a look in his eyes that made me wonder if he heard me. Maybe he did hear me and has chosen not to value his career over his wife and children. Time will tell.
Perhaps it’s time we asked one another some thorny questions.
Can Christians justify choices that have been proven to be harmful to children and destructive to families? Will it be said of us that we sacrificed our children on the altar of materialism, greed, and self-fulfillment? Are we raising our children to be missionaries or a mission field?
It’s time that Christian families make some radical assessments of our beliefs and our commitments to our children. It’s time for every Christian parent to prayerfully ask: Am I embracing God’s view of children, and am I dying to self so that I can be the parent God wants me to be in valuing and raising the next generation?
Selections of this post are adapted from Dennis Rainey’s book, One Home at a Time, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © Dennis Rainey. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
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