Learning to Multiply
By Tim Cantrell
Did you know that some countries will now pay you to have another child? Countries like France, South Korea, Canada, and Singapore offer a third-child bonus to families. That’s because more and more countries are beginning to fear extinction rather than overpopulation.
The evidence speaks for itself: global fertility rates have fallen by half since 1972. Not a single industrialized nation today has a high enough fertility rate to replace itself. Two of the most graphic examples are Japan and Italy, where the United Nations estimates that by 2050, 42 percent of their population will be age 60 or older. When a third of your population is in a nursing home, it tends to affect public life. You can imagine how this shrinks a country’s labor force and expands its welfare and healthcare demands for the aging. (Go here to see sources on this trend.)
In our consumer-oriented world, childbearing is regarded as a costly obstacle to personal fulfillment. Pets are far more affordable and convenient. A recent study showed that in the city of Seattle there are 45 percent more dogs being raised than children! Other trends that contribute to collapsing fertility rates could also be examined, such as people getting married later in life, and the rise in gay marriages.
MIMICKING THE WORLD?
But that is the world, so Christians should not be shocked. We expect the world to reject the Creator’s good design and replace it with selfish pursuits. We expect the world to go against the grain of God’s universe and to ignore the laws that He has built in, at least until the consequences are unbearable.
What should disturb us most is not when the world acts like the world, but when the church acts like the world. This was God’s constant warning to Israel—to not become like the nations around them. And this is no less God’s concern in the New Testament—that his people would “not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (). Yet in vital areas, such as our views on the family, the church often appears no different from the world.
My wife, Michelle, and I are blessed with two boys and two girls between the ages of two and eight. Whenever we meet new people, whether Christians or non-Christians, they usually say, “Boy, you are brave,” or, “Haven’t you figured out what’s causing this yet?” My wife notices that at baby showers the comments usually revolve around how much sleep a mother will lose and how many nappies she’ll change. But what is the dominant note sounded in Scripture—that children are a burden or a blessing?
The other day, we asked our eight-year old, Evan, what he read that morning in Deuteronomy. He said he read about God’s blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (7:13). Then he added, “God would bless the fruit of their womb and their animals and their crops.” We probed, “What is the fruit of their womb?” “Their babies!” he cheerfully replied.
We can only have God’s perspective on children when we are saturated more with God’s mindset in Scripture than with society’s mindset. For the record, I do not believe the Bible teaches you must have as many children as physically possible. Nor do I believe the Bible forbid all forms of contraception. And surely the number of children any family has falls into the realm of Christian liberty (). But my wife and I are convinced that, amidst the challenges of raising four young children, having children is far more about blessing than bravery!
Pastors, teach your churches that they too can share more of God’s joyful perspective on children, no matter how many children they have. So let’s take a jet tour of what the Bible says about the blessings of multiplication.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)
Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (ESV)