A Heritage from the Lord1
This week, I came across a fascinating article entitled, “The U.S. Birthrate Has Dropped Again. The Pandemic May Be Accelerating the Decline.” There are a variety of reasons why it’s significant that the birth rate continues to drop. Practically speaking, it will have drastic economic and sociological effects in years to come. But as a pastor, I am especially interested in what this article says about the changing values of our society and about how Christians should respond to these changes. Since Mother’s Day is this weekend, it’s an especially appropriate time to consider these issues.
I must say up front that my intent is not to make sweeping judgments about the makeup of individual families. There may be a variety of reasons why families choose when to have kids and how many to have. As well, medical factors, etc., often make our choices for us, regardless of our desires. Therefore, be cautious about making unfounded assumptions regarding why a particular family is large or small.
That being said, this article discusses several shifts in how Americans think and what they value that merit biblical critique. For example, many families delay having children or choose not to have them at all for economic reasons. Others prioritize career ambitions over having a family. I found it particularly interesting that many people in their 20s don’t feel mature enough to raise children. It all points back to the basic conclusion that having children is not a central priority for many people. At best, they may get around to having a family if everything else falls into place.
There are a variety of practical reasons why this shift is shortsighted and will have negative consequences both for individuals and society as a whole, but the biggest problem is that it disregards God’s design for human flourishing and the priorities that he established in Scripture. Consider the fact that the 1st commandment God gave Adam and Eve was, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). God doesn’t view childbearing as a nice option if it doesn’t interfere with my other goals; rather, family should be a central ambition of life. As well, Scripture doesn’t view family as a drag on my joy or as a necessary evil. Psalm 127:3–5 state, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” When we embrace God’s design, family brings great joy. Not only that, it is one God's means of spiritual protection. 1 Timothy 5:14–15 states, “Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan." Paul’s point is that when a young lady (and all of us for that matter) abandons godly pursuits, she is more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. We don’t have to look far to see that this is so. Family is a powerful, stabilizing force that encourages maturity, responsibility, and discipline, all of which are vital to spiritual growth and the contentment that it brings.
The Bible is clear that the cultural changes articulated in this article are moves away from biblical priorities. Christians must not be swept up in the shifting tides of our culture; instead, they must trust that God’s design is best. Here are a couple practical ways that Christian young people in particular should resist the culture’s pull. First, when you are choosing a career path, don’t follow the culture’s lead by simply going after what you think will make you happy. Pursue a future that will be conducive to a healthy family life. Second, resist the world’s counsel to delay childbearing until you you’ve had all your fun, feel like a grown up, and have your finances perfectly in order. Yes, it may be wise to establish your marriage and home before having children, but trust the Lord to equip you for the task and to meet your needs. As well, seek your joy in God’s design, not in the passing pleasures of this world. Yes, children are expensive and exhausting, but in the long run, the joy they bring far outweighs the cost.
As we observe Mother’s Day this weekend, let’s give thanks for mothers who made us a central ambition of their lives. We are better for it. Then, let’s commit to making family a central ambition in the days that God gives us.