The fruitful womb: "Test me in this," says the Lord of Hosts...

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. (Psalm 128:3,4)

Dad used to say, "God is no man's debtor." We give ourselves to Him; we take up our cross; we sacrifice for His Kingdom; we obey His Word: It's never wasted--absolutely never.

God's people were being unfaithful in their tithing and He sent them this message:

"You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes," says the LORD of hosts. All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land," says the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:9-12)

We're to run the numbers, aren't we? God Himself demands, "Test Me now in this."

Some of us have taken the challenge. We've brought the whole tithe to the Lord, we've run the numbers, and we've found--what?

That God is no man's debtor. Whatever we give to Him He gives back in spades. Unbelievable blessings pressed down and running over.

I'm guessing this truth (and likely even this text) have been preached in your church in the past year or two. It's a perennial favorite with pastors working to meet the budget. We're thankful for Malachi's crispness and clarity when we approach the financial needs of our congregations but we seem blind to its application elsewhere.

If God blesses those who honor Him with their money, won't He also bless those who honor Him with other treasures He's placed under their stewardship? Do we honor God with our land? Our home? Our cars? What about our academic degree or administrative ability? Our children? Does God receive His rightful portion of everything He's given us, or are we penurious, tight-fisted, stingy, and sterile?

Take sex.

How faith-full are we with that gift? Do we use it to worship and glorify God or do we use it only for our own selfish purposes?

Right here I could make an application that would be safe and lead you, good reader, to nod your head and say "He's right. I need to work on that." But let's go beyond the obvious to our real blind spots and see where Scripture calls us to stand in the gap.

Does worshipping God with our sexuality mean only that we shouldn't masturbate, fornicate, or commit adultery? If we applied the parable of the talents to this treasure of sexuality, where would it take us? Why did God create sex and what does He claim from it?

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:27,28)

God said it wasn't good for man to be alone, so He created woman. She was made to be Adam's helpmate, the one with whom Adam shared his life. But as soon as God created Eve, he made clear that He had not created Eve so Adam could have a best friend and the two of them could live alone, in harmony and love.

Rather, He demanded that Adam and Eve live in fruitful love. They were to fill the earth with other men and women bearing His image. When He commanded Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply," He wasn't talking about their orchard or garden, but Eve's womb. Adam and Eve were to be intimate with each other in such a way as to make Eve pregnant with little ones. Adam and Eve's relationship was not to be focused inward, but outward. They were to make love and give birth and fill God's good earth with His image bearers.

But man's perverse inclination is to worship the creation rather than the Creator. Rarely is this more obvious than with sex.

God creates man's sex organ to penetrate and deposit sperm where it can fertilize an egg, but man covers his organ with rubber and refuses to make the deposit. God creates woman's sex organs to receive man's deposit and provide a safe environment for that sperm to fertilize one of her eggs, but woman uses a pill, a plastic obstruction, or a chemical poison to stop the sperm and egg from uniting and becoming a living child. God creates breasts to feed babies but both woman and man turn them into erotica. The beauty of the breast is its fruitfulness, but women avoid pregnancy so their breasts won't stretch and sag under the weight of their newborn's milk and lose their erotic appeal.

Again, the principle: Man refuses to use the gifts God has given us to worship Him, and instead we take and use them for our own selfish purposes. We spend the money He gave us but refuse to tithe. We make love with the woman He provided as our helpmate but refuse to allow that love to be fruitful.

I can hear the objections: "'Be fruitful and multiply' doesn't mean being irresponsible with the gift. My wife and I shouldn't spend her womb into penury. Where are we commanded to have as many babies as possible? The earth is filled already--are you suggesting we live in bondage to this command? If we allow our lovemaking to be fruitful without limits, our bed will become bondage and we'll end up doing less for the Kingdom of God. We believe each child should be given a certain amount of attention and training in order to grow up whole. How can we provide for our children's spiritual and emotion health when we're frazzled trying to keep up with the most basic duties of caring for a family of ten or fifteen?"

Our basic orientation is clear: Lovemaking is mostly about mutual gratification and only occasionally about being fruitful and multiplying. We have no pangs of conscience separating what God commanded be joined together--the unitive and procreative purposes of sexual union.

Remember the parable of the talents? When the master returned and found that one of his three servants had dug a hole and buried his talent there, he rebuked the servant. The servant explained his faithlessness by placing the blame on the master rather than owning it himself. As Jesus told the story,

And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours."

But his master answered and said to him, "You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents." (Matthew 25:24-28)

What a perfect picture of Christians' stewardship of the womb today. Walking by faith is risky and it's clear that God will hold us accountable for the instruction and discipline of our children. So out of fear we block the womb, sheath the rod, and claim we've done it all for our Master.

The ironic thing is that no people across history have been blessed with the wealth God has poured out on us, but no generation of the Church has been more stingy in its use of that wealth for fruitfulness and multiplication. Twenty-five hundred square foot homes that are heated and cooled; food in the dumpsters behind our supermarkets that would make our ancestors shake their heads in disbelief; automatic washers and driers; stoves, refrigerators, and freezers; educational opportunities unheard of across history; disposable diapers, high chairs, and car seats; what more do we need?

But we look at prior generations of Christians and shake our heads in disbelief. "Susannah Wesley had fifteen children. Can you believe it? The poor woman."

Poor woman nothing. God blessed her with children and those children were her glory, each of them being a gift from God. We stand gazing at her with our own children holding their soccer trophies and SAT scores in their grubby hands, and we dare to claim we have been fruitful, too? We have helped in the multiplication and filling of the earth?

No, we have hidden our lights under a bushel; we've buried our talents in the ground. Instead of asking God to pour out His blessings on us, we've asked Him to overlook our stinginess, to spare us from stretch marks, to deliver us from the evil of a fruitful womb.

Our wives plead with us for more children but we're the boss and we know the meaning of responsibility and good stewardship. "That's it honey, we're done. No more rewards. No more blessings and fruitfulness. We're going to do something for ourselves. Finally we'll be able to get ahead and save for our retirement. I'm tired of messy diapers and kids crying at night. Our last will be in all-day kindergarten soon. You'll be able to get a job and help out with setting up their college funds. Call the doctor and set up an appointment for me to have a vasectomy, would you? Won't it be nice to make love without worrying about an accident?"

God made her a woman and dignified her sex with His statement, "Woman shall be saved through childbearing" (1Timothy 2:15). But you're a practical man, aren't you?

When the Master returns, though, what exactly will you say to Him to explain the fact that during by far the largest portion of your lovemaking through the years, your sword was sheathed, scrupulously kept from your lover's womb?

There is another way. All of us could test Him in this, and see if He won't open the windows of Heaven to pour out on us blessings from Heaven that we can't number--more than the sands of the beach and the stars of the heavens.

I write this as a meditation on the announcement of James and Annie Hogue that, thirteen months after marriage, a couple months after the birth of their first blessing, Julia, and a week after Julia's baptism, God has placed another little one under their care. Lord willing, they will meet him May 31, 2007.

And by the way, as we reckon things like this today, Jim and Annie are poor as church mice. But they worship the Lord of Hosts Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

As our Lord was in the habit of say, "If any man has ears to hear, let him hear."

Comments

Now that was a great post!

When God said he'd provide, he never said "unless you have too many children."

I have no desire to boost your ego with flattering words, but this post was powerful for me. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

I'm still waiting for the opportunity to be blessed in such a way. Hopefully that opportunity will come soon.

Pastor Bayly,

Fantastic!! I wish every pulpit would produce words like that...

Fantastic essay! I hope many Christians take heed. I would direct you and your readers to a phenominal address given by Pastor Voddie Baucham to the Texas Baptist Evanglism Conference a couple of years ago. Apparently he was not supposed to be the speaker, but the primary speaker had to cancel at the last minute and Pastor Baucham was nominated! So he spoke on the subject that was closest to his heart: the family and children. It is 32 minutes of riviting and convicting preaching...

http://fccm.net/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=72"

Charley

Ooh... this is a good topic, Tim. And very timely for us. We've come under conviction about this in the last 18 months. In that time, we've had 2 miscarriages and had a beautiful, healthy daughter (our 3rd child) 4 months ago. I have to admit it's harder to walk in this conviction 6 weeks after a new baby than it was with a one year old son. BUT God IS faithful. We have had all our needs provided for and then some. I do wonder how God will see fit to bless us in the future-- how often, how many times, and how my attitude will hold up.

But I find some amazing things happen with each additional child in our home:
1) The love in our home multiplies-- it's not just like adding in just one more love unit. It multiplies, because that little new baby has a special relationship with EACH family member.
2) We each have to become less selfish. I have to be more willing to get up in the night to feed the baby (this is the hardest one for me-- I'm a HEAVY sleeper), Doug has to be more willing to corral the older ones while I get adjusted to having the new one and learning to prioritize the needs of the new one in with the other children. The children have to be less selfish because now their needs (and especially their wants) may not be met right away.
3) I love it more and more. I'm still amazed at the way God takes two people in this brilliantly special time of intimacy and creates a new little one: complete with tiny little toes, eyes that light up at the sight of mom & dad, and a not-yet-developed heart that will come to know and love Him. This is incredible, and it doesn't hesitate to amaze me each and every time.

We'll see how long He waits until we get blessed again.

Praise God for Jim and Annie's blessing!

Congratulations to Jim and Annie! What a great example of trusting faith.

Thank you for your continued teaching on this matter, Tim. But for it I have no doubt that we would not have the precious little one we have now. We thank you, and Thomas thanks you as well.

Luke 11:27, 28

27As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you."

28He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

Speaking of hearing God's Word and obeying it, Malachi 2:14-15 points out that God gave marriage in part because He wanted Godly offspring.

What is your belief on natural family planning/abstinence?

the comparison is godly versus ungodly offspring. Not that the reason God gave us marriage was primarily more people. That is a natural result of sex, not a required result.

Martin, that's not true. The context of Malachi 2:14-16 is divorce, so the alternative is not godly vs. ungodly offspring, but offspring vs. no offspring. Should we not assume it likely that the offspring of those who fear God in conceiving children would then turn out to fear God?

Again, the Scripture asks "And why one?", with the answer that "He seeks Godly offspring." So the intent of including the sexual act in marriage is at least, in part, babies.

yes, I know the main thrust is about divorce. which is why I thought of godly versus ungodly, as children of divorce. ?? but you have a good point. Nevertheless, this still does not make offspring a requirement. It is still a natural result of sex. And I've yet to find anywhere where numbers are specified.

All children are blessings whether a few or a bunch. :)

Well said, Martin--though I would have to suggest that the Creator had some very specific intentions when he designed Adam and Eve. That sex results in babies is not just a natural result, but part of the design.

How many? A slight diversion, probably, but if about 1/3 of women remain childless, those who do have children need to have about 3 to "break even", and a consistent pattern of more than three children will multiply at least slowly.

Dear BC,

Whenever I teach or preach on Scripture's doctrine of fruitfulness, I'm questioned concerning birth control: Is it ever right; does every single act of intimacy have to be open to procreation; what about natural family planning; and so on.

My response is that individual decisions on these matters are rightfully lodged in the marriage--not the church. Some believe natural family planning is different, morally, from other more artificial methods of birth control. Some see it the same. Each couple needs to do what they believe honors God in this matter.

Similarly, the question as to whether there are occasions when artificial birth control is the right thing to do is an individual matter. For myself, I believe there are such cases--although rare. But this is for the couple to take before the Lord and decide.

However, until couples embrace by faith the biblical teaching on the purposes of marriage (that God makes the Christian man and his wife one not only for companionship and a godly sexual outlet, but also "for the propagation of a godly seed" as we are told in Malachi); and also embrace the biblical teaching concerning the fruitfulness of the womb (that God continues to command that man and woman united in marriage be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth as we are taught in Genesis); until all these biblical doctrines are again embraced by a Christian couple without fears, qualms, or hesitations, it's impossible for that couple to approach decisions with the wisdom that comes from above.

I often feel about the question of birth control as I've felt about men that have come to me to ask about whether they have to tithe on their farm's net or gross. My response?

If you're asking that question, it's likely that your whole orientation in giving is wrong. Why are you asking me what you "have" to do? God loves a cheerful giver. I'm not going to answer the question--it's between you and the Lord.

Whether we're talking about money or the fruit of the womb, God loves a cheerful giver. And a corollary of this is that those who give out of compulsion and a sense of duty are robbing themselves.

Finally, although I believe fully in God's plan for husbands serving their wives through being the final authority in the home--what is variously called "father-rule," "complementarity," or "patriarchy," there are few decisions that I would more intensely counsel husbands not to make unilateral decisions concerning than the bearing of children. What pain and suffering it involves for our precious wives and mothers! The loving husband ought never to ride roughshod over his wife in any matter, but this above all others.

And I would emphasize this counsel in both directions, whether his wife wants fewer or more children than he does. He still holds the authority, but he should be perfectly attuned to her heart.

This is one of the most obvious applications of God's command to husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way.

Dear BC,

Let me take a stab at your question since I've often had the same conversation with my Catholic friends who advocate natural family planning. Let's call it NFP for short.

Every time I find someone who agrees with my position on marriage, sex, and procreation, we have a good old time celebrating many of the excellent points Tim spelled out above. Then, at some point this friend will say something like, "And that's why I believe in NFP."

Huh? Call it missing the forest for the trees. Call it following the letter of the law but not the spirit. Whatever you want to call that statement, it does not reflect obedience to the truths above. The thrust of the arguments above is not that birth control is unnatural; it's that it is unfruitful, stingy, and self-centered. NFP may result in more births than other means of birth control, but what if it works perfectly and every baby is planned "naturally"? Has the couple succeeded in filling the earth, in investing their talents, in bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse? Has that marriage bed truly led to a wife who is like a "fruitful vine"?

Sure NFP may be "natural" in the sense that it doesn't involve chemicals or physical barriers, but since when does "natural" = "good" in a fallen world? My son frequently and naturally wants to hit my daughter, but I certainly don't allow it. The only time we can automatically equate natural with good, without coming dangerously close to worshipping the creation rather than the creator, is when we can point to something that still exists as it did before the fall, such as men tending the earth and intimacy in marriage producing children.

Furthermore, is NFP all that natural? I fail to see anything natural about sticking thermometers in various places and checking the calendar to see if it's a good day for being intimate with my wife. In fact, the Bible clearly says that the only reason to not be intimate is so that husband and wife can devote themselves to prayer and fasting (and arguably if a woman is in the middle of her menstrual cycle). If a couple conveniently decides to pray and fast every 28 days, you have to start wondering what's actually motivating these fasts.

In summary, natural family planning is an attempt to control birth and maintain a feeling of piety in that, even if we're not walking by faith, at least we're "natural."

Yours truly,

BC,

I posted my response before I read Tim's. After reading Tim's, I want to agree with him and clarify that I don't hold the position that "all birth control is always bad." I simply wanted to hone in on whether any fundamental difference exists between NFP and other forms of birth control. I hope I explored that question in a way that is helpful to you and the other readers.

I should also clarify that I do not see birth control as a universal indicator of impiety. A number of my most devout and zealous friends use birth control. My convictions are strong, but not as strong as the love I have for these friends. Without question, this debate calls for Christian liberty and charity.

The real issue is not the specific applications; those indeed are up to each couple and their consciences before the Lord. The bigger issue, as Tim pointed out, is our general way of understanding God's gifts, including marriage and sex. That said, once I know a couple agrees with me on the general points, I'm often aggressive about trying to persuade them according to my own convictions on the specifics. I suspect this comes from the fact that several years ago I had to decide what I would do if a couple asked me -- their physician -- to either sterilize them or give them birth control. For that reason, I have to get involved in some small way in what will be in addition to what ought to be. Also, in my work, taking a stand on the specifics often gives me an open door to bear witness to the general.

Sincerely,

I cried my way through this essay. My husband and I would dearly love to have more children (we have three right now). Tim's essay doesn't mention, though his response to BC does bring it out, that there are other reasons for birth control. My three pregnancies were awful. I have suffered each time with excessive morning sickness for the first five months losing so much weight that by the time I deliver I've only gained a pound or two over my pre-pregnancy weight and diabetes which is really just a nuisance. This is then followed by post-partum depression. I become useless to my family for most of the nine months of pregnancy and then for another nine months or so afterward. We are praying about more children and hope to have at least one more and we have been discussing the topic of adoption which would do away with our pregnancy and depression problems.

Dear MH,

I'm so sorry about your suffering, dear sister. May God give you and your husband wisdom for the future, but joy in the three He's already blessed you with.

Our eldest and her husband just adopted from Ethiopia. If you'd like to talk to her, just send me an E-mail. Interestingly, less than a year after the adoption, she's now pregnant with their fourth (third biological).

Your brother,

Tim Bayly

>

I'd like, as a woman, to comment on this:

"until all these biblical doctrines are again embraced by a Christian couple without fears, qualms, or hesitations, it's impossible for that couple to approach decisions with the wisdom that comes from above."

Thank God that I don't believe this to be true. I do not know one sensible woman who does not have, at the least, qualms and hesitations when it comes to being open to having children. Often, for the sake of our husbands, we keep those fears and concerns to ourselves or confide in a few women friends. We don't want to burden him with the full knowledge of how heavy the load of motherhood can be at times. Will we be able to raise a lively little crowd of children in godliness? How will we handle our toddler and older children while we are puking our guts out with wrenching all-day-long sickness, going from couch to toilet only to have our husbands arrive home cheerfully at the end of the day, astonished that there is no dinner on the table? Will this labor and birth be as difficult as the last? Are the concerns and alarms being raised by our doctor really some combination of strange male hysteria and old doctors' tales? What if he is right about half of the things he is warning will happen if another child is conceived? When our husbands make comments about hoping that this time we will lose "all that weight much sooner", to say we have qualms is an understatement, especially when he comments every Sunday about how fit and healthy Susie Q looks after six children --- and couldn't we ask her for her secret? (I've been on both sides of this one, by the way!) How will the current "baby" adapt to the new one? How can we possibly handle another child when we already feel so overwhelmed with the physical work of managing our household, to say nothing of the mental and emotional work of teaching, training, nurturing, etc.?

We should have qualms and hesitations, even if ours are the easiest of pregnancies and births, the most compliant and passive of children, and the most understanding and servant-like of husbands. We are undertaking a serious thing when we raise children. We cannot count on all things going smoothly, even if they have thus far. I have always thought it prudent and godly to count the cost, to confront the fears and misgivings, and to step forward in obedience despite how I might tremble. God doesn't need me to have some sort of detached, stoic attitude in order for me to reap the blessings of His wisdom and guidance.

Now --- for men this statement may very well be entirely true! I know a number of husbands who do not have a single qualm or hesitation about having more and more children (whether or not they can actually provide for the children they already have) and who cannot comprehend why their wives are not as unconcerned as them.

>I have always thought it prudent and godly to count the cost, to confront the fears and misgivings, and to step forward in obedience despite how I might tremble. God doesn't need me to have some sort of detached, stoic attitude in order for me to reap the blessings of His wisdom and guidance.

Embracing biblical doctrines without fear or hesitation does not, I believe, mean that one does not have fear or hesitation when living out our lives.

I loved this post and I read it while nursing my four-month-old. I'm forty-three and she is our eighth child. The phrase "the goodness of the Lord!" comes welling up in my mind many times each day when I look at her. I'm crazy about my children and I'm awed when I think of the privilege of being involved in the creation of another eternal soul. It's hard work to faithfully raised a large family, but what else should I pour myself into? Much of what I do everyday is vaporous and quickly undone but everything I put into my children has eternal consequences. I'm not saying it's not hard, but God is faithful and he refreshes us and provides for us in ways we could never foresee. Step out in faith and you will see that He is good!!! (Our first grandchild is due in March--a whole new shower of blessings is just beginning for us! He is good!)

It is possible to make an idol of fruitfulness. I was raised Catholic, in a predominantly Catholic community, and I saw many homes where the children did in fact go hungry, without shoes, and, in the words of my college roomate (the oldest of 11), "never enough love or attention to go around." To say that "God will provide," to families like these is patronizing and does them no practical good.

I have Christian neighbors who have embraced the quiverfull doctrine, and unfortunately their witness is a poor one. The home has been visited multiple times by the health department and social services for neglect of the home and children. The mother suffers multiple health issues, complicated by each subsequent pregnancies and preventing her from caring for her family. Despite ongoing assistance from neighbors and their church, they are still dependent upon government programs because the father is chronically underemployed. It's very easy to say they must be "doing something wrong" so as not to receive God's blessing and provision on their family, but they are sincere, loving, people who are simply ill equipped to parent and provide for 8 children, yet who feel condemned by some teachings to prevent conception of more children.

There is no one right answer for every family. Families who prayerfully limit the size of their family are not walking in disobedience.

Thank you, Light, for a little ray of sense. I find the wording of this post...well just astounding. A husband is to steward his wife's womb? Does anyone have any problem with referring to a penis with the metaphor "sword?" Does anyone actually know a woman who did not become a mother or did not nurse JUST because she wanted to have perky breasts? (Let's leave out Hollywood types.) I am very glad that my beloved spouse and I have wiser counsel than this kind of twisted thinking. And we wonder why the church is losing it's platform?

Light,

You say that you've seen "many" families with a large number of children go without food, shoes, and love and attention. Did you spend a summer in a third world country?? Does "many," perhaps, mean maybe "two or three"?

You say that your college roommate was the oldest of eleven, and that there was not enough love and attention to go around. Light, there was probably plenty of it to be had, but it wasn't actually distributed. My husband and I have the pleasure of knowing SEVERAL families with six or more children with plenty of love and attention (and shoes and food, no less!)to go around. Each of these families have a lovely system that even worked for my family (of five children) as well. Much love, attention, discipline and eventually, responsibility is given and taught to the oldest two or three. When more blessings come along, the older lavish much love and attention (and sometimes even guardianship) on the younger ones. (My mom has always said that having five was easier than just two!) That is not to say, of course, that the parents abdicate their responsibilities to the older children. At least for my family, I can say that the younger ones got their fair share of hugs and kisses, instruction and appropriate spankings.

You say that the family with eight children has the following problems: medical issue laden mother and underemployed father.

As far as the mother goes, I'm wondering what constitues "medical issue." Does she have a major problem with any organs/bones that prevent her from walking/sleeping/eating? Or is she sleep-deprived, overworked and underpayed, giving way to depression? I'm not making light of either of these examples, but there are common-sense (and many times, non-medical) solutions to those problems.

You say that the father is "underemployed." Yep. Him and probably over half of the other fathers across the country. My father had assumed various jobs such as carpenter and insurance agent. From 1974 (the year I was born) to the early 1990's, our household income never exceeded 25K. In fact, I am certain that all through my elementary school years, we were considered to be below the state poverty level. My father learned to manage his money well. (Notice I said LEARNED. He didn't come out of the womb with this knowledge, and it can be learned by anyone.) We always had food to eat and shoes to wear. In fact, every summer, we went on vacation. During my childhood, I went everywhere from Canada to the Florida Keys and as far out west as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. How did my parents do all of that with five kids and a below state poverty line income? We never received gov't assistance. They disciplined themselves to live within their means. That meant that we rarely, if ever, ate out. There weren't even the spontaneous runs through the drive-thru at McDonald's. My mom shopped at K-Mart and sometimes, the Thrift Store. The younger children often wore hand-me-downs that were still in good shape from the older children. We didn't have Nintendos or X boxes. We had imaginations and my mom made us play outside. On our vacations, we didn't fly or stay in hotels. We drove, camped, and sometimes stayed with friends or relatives.
Now, when you say that this family is not able to make it because of the number of children it has, it makes me wonder, especially if they are receiving help from friends and church. eAre the parents trying to live within their means? Are they budgeting? Is the father working a full 40+ hour week? Are they getting financial counseling? Are they throwing the money that they do have to frivolous things?

Also- the health dept. and social services had to visit? You said it yourself, Light. It was for NEGLECT. The solution to their problem is not rocket science. They are not taking responsibility for what God has given them- children, money and otherwise.

I think the problem here is not number of children, for this family or any family. This issue is what the parents are doing with their time and money after the children are born. Just because they are disobedient in one area, doesn't make it right to be disobedient in another.

Rebecca: You say that you've seen "many" families with a large number of children go without food, shoes, and love and attention. ... Does "many," perhaps, mean maybe "two or three"?

Light: I can count at least 12. I'd say that's pretty many.

Rebecca: You say that your college roommate was the oldest of eleven, and that there was not enough love and attention to go around. Light, there was probably plenty of it to be had, but it wasn't actually distributed.

Light: These people out of obedience and love for the Lord followed the Catholic church's doctrine against contraception, and for whatever reason, were unable to meet the challenge of making their children feel loved. I doubt they sat around eating bon bons and resting on their laurels.

Rebecca: My husband and I have the pleasure of knowing SEVERAL families with six or more children with plenty of love and attention (and shoes and food, no less!)to go around.

Light: I do, too. My brother in law is the 7th of 12, and it's a very happy family. I am one of four, and I myself have 4 children (which is considered large today). I know many others as well with 5, 6 and more kids. But just because one set of parents can manage 6,8, or 12 kids so well does NOT mean all parents are capable of it, nor called to it.

Rebecca: As far as the mother goes, I'm wondering what constitues "medical issue." Does she have a major problem with any organs/bones that prevent her from walking/sleeping/eating?

Light: Yes. She does have major problems with organs (lungs and kidneys) and bones. Severe asthma, kidney disease and osteoarthritis, which indeed affects her mobility, sleep, and gives her chronic pain. She is hospitalized several times a year, and I know of three times in the past few years she has almost died from pneumonia. Her health conditions were diagnosed after child #3, and continued to worsen after the stress of continued pregnancies. But hey, she should just lump it and suffer, right? After all, her womb is the most important thing she has to offer, right? She's in a no-win situation. If she had opted to have fewer children, according to people who believe in the quiverful doctrine, she would be rebelling against God. But since she follows this doctrine, despite severe health limitations, she is accused of neglecting her children, not loving them enough or not parenting them properly - when it's a matter of not being equipped physically to do so.

Rebecca: You say that the father is "underemployed." Yep. Him and probably over half of the other fathers across the country.

Light: Most fathers do not have 10 people to support, in one of the highest cost living areas of the country. The median price for a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath home is over $400,000. Rent for same is at least $2000/month.

Rebecca: How did my parents do all of that with five kids and a below state poverty line income? ... We rarely, if ever, ate out.

Light: Neither does this family.

Rebecca: The younger children often wore hand-me-downs that were still in good shape from the older children.

Light: So does this family.

Rebecca: We didn't have Nintendos or X boxes.

Light: Neither does this family. Nor do they have cable television, a landline telephone, or two vehicles.

Rebecca: Now, when you say that this family is not able to make it because of the number of children it has, it makes me wonder, especially if they are receiving help from friends and church. Are the parents trying to live within their means?

Light: See above.

Rebecca: Are they budgeting? Is the father working a full 40+ hour week? Are they getting financial counseling? Are they throwing the money that they do have to frivolous things?

Light: The father is working several part time jobs that amount to more than 40+ hours a week, often lacking health insurance.

Rebecca: Also- the health dept. and social services had to visit? You said it yourself, Light. It was for NEGLECT. The solution to their problem is not rocket science. They are not taking responsibility for what God has given them- children, money and otherwise.

Light: No, Rebecca, you're right, it isn't rocket science. What is the CAUSE of that neglect? It certainly isn't a neglectful attitude on their part. Despite their desire to please God by having as many children as possible, they are not EQUIPPED to care sufficiently for this many children. Lack of job skills on the father's part, severe health issues on the mother's part. I have visited with this family, entertained their children for hours on end, and prayed with them. They are devoted to God, though clearly misguided in this area of abstaining from conceiving children.

Rebecca: I think the problem here is not number of children, for this family or any family.

Light: With all due respect, I think you are living in a fantasy world. Children die of starvation every day in this world, and it has nothing to do with how much their parents love them.

Rebecca: This issue is what the parents are doing with their time and money after the children are born.

Light: Rebecca, I hope that someday you are never in need of the grace that you fail to extend to this family.

I have served as a deacon in my church (yes, shocker, a woman deacon in the PCA!) and been privy to a number of families who have difficulty making ends meet and meeting the needs of their children. And you know what? Life is hard. Most people are doing the best they can, with what they have, in the best way they know how to. In my experience, most people aren't being selfish and don't fret over getting flabby breasts after childbearing or not having enough money to go on a cruise if they have another child. No,they are more concerned with being the best parents they can be to the children they already have, and loving those children enough to know when their parenting will become compromised by the demands of too many children.

>I have served as a deacon in my church (yes, shocker, a woman deacon in the PCA!)

We only wish that was shocking...

I found this post to be an incredible encouragement--and to be an "amen" to what we have experienced in our own lives. We had a son and a daughter early in our marriage and then denied God's further blessing for eight years. We absolutely, positively were done having children. However, my husband and I came under strong conviction through the effective and faithful preaching of God's Word in these matters. We began trusting Him to determine the size of our family and began believing that children truly are a blessing and a reward. This decision was not made without fear and trembling. Since then, we have been blessed with Isaac (4), Calvin (almost 2), and are expecting another baby in March. I cannot express how thankful I am that the Lord enabled us to take this step in faith. The blessings we have received far, far outnumber the trials we have encountered--the blessings of future generations of believers, the blessings of material abundance as God has showered us beyond our needs as we trust Him, the blessings gained by our older two children as they learn to love and care for younger siblings, the blessings of new children to love. As Christians, we say God is "in control"--but if we don't trust Him to give us more children in His time, then we are in control, not Him.
Adrienne

Light said: >>>>>>>>>>>In my experience, most people aren't being selfish and don't fret over getting flabby breasts after childbearing or not having enough money to go on a cruise if they have another child. No,they are more concerned with being the best parents they can be to the children they already have, and loving those children enough to know when their parenting will become compromised by the demands of too many children.

Light--if you read Tim's comment to BC then you saw that he thought there were some cases (though very rare) where birth control is the right choice. Given that, most of your comments are wide of the mark and really just make you look like you're badgering him. If a women has a condition that will make her unable to care for her other children during pregnancy (say, something which requires her to go on bed-rest for 7 months), then that is the sort of situation where birth control starts coming into the picture.

Regarding the underemployed father: I'm not an expert in financial matters, but if I ever have 10 kids and am not able to hold down a full-time job then one of the first things I'm going to do is move out of the area with expensive living conditions. But, we're just sparring over minutia at this point.

I'd also echo Jessica's most recent comments. Just add "ability to send child to a good college" to the list of reasons why people don't have more children and think of the impact that has. There's definitely a "a quality of life without a good 4-year college degree is not one I want to subject my children to" mentality held by many people, particularly those I run accross in the university.

Dan G.-- Actually, it's straight talk like this that is the church's best chance at regaining a platform.

Light,

I do wish that you would display a less subversive and disruptive spirit on this blog and would refrain from always trying to undercut the authority from which these posts are made. Again, as has been said multiple times before, you are seeking to lead astray.

The point was made by the author of this post that he is not willing to say that birth control is wrong in every circumstance. He, in fact, made no value judgment as to birth control whatsoever. The ENTIRE POINT of the post was simply that the world today tends not to see children as a blessing and is not faithfully applying these passages to their lives. It has NOTHING to do with birth control at all except as a corollary to the main point.

How many people do we know that limit the number of children that they have for any number of reasons other than that they feel that the Lord has told them that they are not to have more? The point was that our entire Christian culture sees this as our decision and our decision alone. God can just live with what we decide. When children would force us to give up things that we like, we quit having them without any thought at all to the will of the Lord.

Your response angers me because it is the same pattern that you have shown so often on this blog. You take a biblical teaching and then throw out an example that is designed by its very nature to distract people from the main teaching. You very carefully pick your situations so that you can get close enough to what is being talked about that it appears similar and distract those that are reading from what Scripture says.

"Well, Light is right. Not everyone can support that size of family, so I suppose that Tim is wrong about what the Bible is teaching."

No.

The point was NOT that everyone should have huge families. The point was NOT that birth control is a sin. And the point was most DEFINITELY NOT that this particular family should continue to have children. The point WAS that we are called to walk by faith in this area of our lives as well as many others. The point WAS that American Christians tend to see children as something that is totally a matter of personal preference and not as one of the primary purposes of marriage and an item of obedience in some cases. The point WAS that God's ways are not our ways and we need to seriously reconsider the view that we have of children in light of what Scripture has to say. This is where the majority of Christians are. To say otherwise is to stick your head in the sand.

I am sure that you will come up with something else to try to turn the focus back away from the teaching of Scripture to "what makes sense." After all, everything that God teaches us in Scripture must make sense in order for us to do it, right?

Light,

If it is indeed true what you describe of this family of eight, than I'm sorry if I came across as condemning them. I do believe that the example you gave is one of exception, though.

Also, I don't think truly wanting to believe what God says is true and right is "living in a fantasy world." And yes, I do know that life is hard. All the more reason we need to trust God and not our own brilliant reasoning.

Light provides "Real Life" discussion of her neighbor's family. Not everything for everybody is by the one book. One shoe does not fit all feet. Jesus often spoke in parables to enlighten his audience.

Light,

Your premise that this family neglects their children because they have 8 of them falls apart. Neglect of children can, and does, occur in much smaller families. You cannot say that if she had quit with two that her children would be any better cared for or loved. Furthermore, poverty does not equal neglect.

Also, I'm glad you were given the opportunity to be a deacon in your church but flaunting that fact here probably lowers your creditability even more than your words have.

I'd like to add one more thing: we need to SERIOUSLY examine the reasoning behind our decisions in this area, because of the explicit commands to be fruitful and multiply, and the obvious built-in purposes of sexual life.

Reasoning like:
- it's HARD (which may come out in materialism, the "lack of love to go around" argument, or others)
- it's EXPENSIVE (which is actually true if you have one girl and one boy... the *average* amount you'll spend getting those 2 dudded up will far exceed the amount spent on clothes by a family with say, 3 girls and 2 boys, when clothes can be passed down and re-used)
- it's PHYSICALLY DRAINING (which should be looked at in light of the kind of physically-exhausting work of people in biblical times, when life REALLY would have been physically draining--working outside, sleeping on the hard ground, working just to have fresh water, etc.-- or even just 100 years ago! I think we need to appropriately judge what "difficult" really is.)
- And I'm sure there are other excuses that are less than a clear word from the Lord.

While all these things can be true of having children, even if they were true in a particular person's situation, I don't think "easy, cheap, and a cakewalk" would be the description of a life that honors Christ.

We should remember history too- just because we HAVE a choice, does that require us to exercise it? Now that we CAN watch porn on pay-per-view, does that mean we SHOULD? Or could our time be better spent? Similarly, could our families be MORE useful for the cause of Christ by letting HIM determine the size rather than making those determinations ourselves? (Even if it's hard, more expensive, and exhausting at times)

Roger,
A small correction, but I think a significant one: (1) real-life examples are not the same as parables (2) you'll find with some careful reading of the Gospels, that the main purpose of Jesus' use of parables was not to "enlighten", but rather confuse his audience (see Matt. 13).

Isn't this hard for us to come to terms with? It doesn't seem to gel with the "Jesus" we'd like Him to be.

What are your thoughts on this Roger?

Jody,

You took the words right out of my mouth. Great points.

Your brother,

Jody,
I'll keep this simple.
You are free to believe what you choose to believe, likewise, I am free to believe what I choose to believe. As citizens of this country, our consitution allows this. Seems most people on this blog are so eager to attack anyone for slight differences of opinion.

That is indeed pretty simple Roger.

There is an old proverb that says, "Children bring their own food." There is another more theological point as well in that a truly Sovereign God works His purpose in our obedience, and despite our disobedience. The difference will be His pleasure with us and our pleasure IN Him through obedience.

Rogerwdc wrote:

***Jody, I'll keep this simple. You are free to believe what you choose to believe, likewise, I am free to believe what I choose to believe. As citizens of this country, our consitution allows this. Seems most people on this blog are so eager to attack anyone for slight differences of opinion.***

What on earth are you talking about--"I am free to believe what I want to believe, this is a free country," and all that? For the life of me, I can't figure out what your responding to? Certainly not what Jodie said. He asks your thoughts on a matter of some biblical importance and you respond with the equivalent of "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," or "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to," or "It's your thing, do what you wanna do; I can't tell you, gonna sock it to."

Nothing anyone's saying here has anything to do with our civil liberties, but rather with the Christian's obedience of the Word of God and the blessings God pours out on those who obey Him--particularly in the area of sex and fruitfulness. No one's proposing the federal government expand its powers further than it already has by reinstating the Comstock laws.

We speak only to conscience--the Christian conscience empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand and obey Scripture.

Finally, please don't whine about people disagreeing with you. To the degree that you feel like you're not being taken seriously, it's likely to change if you argue reasonably and to the point. As Chesterton put it, people quarrel today because they've lost the ability to argue.

A while back Light said,

"Despite their desire to please God by having as many children as possible, they are not EQUIPPED to care sufficiently for this many children. Lack of job skills on the father's part, severe health issues on the mother's part. I have visited with this family, entertained their children for hours on end, and prayed with them. They are devoted to God, though clearly misguided in this area of abstaining from conceiving children."

Then Roger said (a bit later),

Light provides "Real Life" discussion of her neighbor's family. Not everything for everybody is by the one book. One shoe does not fit all feet. Jesus often spoke in parables to enlighten his audience"

But God said,

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you were able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."

Paul was not speaking loftily, making room for the exception to slip through the cracks below. This truth about the Father's love and power is without exception. Some parents cannot handle the amount of blessings of God gives to others, but God never overburdens those who put their trust in him. I think it's interesting that Roger said that "Not everything for everybody is by the one book." I think he meant to capitalize Book.

Look to the Scripture Mr. Bayly (Tim) used as the title: "Test me in this," says the Lord of Hosts.

JC, 4 of 11

Roger wrote:

*** You are free to believe what you choose to believe, likewise, I am free to believe what I choose to believe. As citizens of this country, our consitution allows this. Seems most people on this blog are so eager to attack anyone for slight differences of opinion.***

Roger;
Its possible you just reacted emotionally and threw that out there because you felt "attacked?"
I think you are very wrong about that, as Jody just asked a question. However, I am trying to understand such a reaction and the empty content therein. I also want to comment on the content a bit, as it is a red flag that waves all too often.
This freedom to believe, of which you write, seems a freedom that is very much tuned to the postmodernist ethos of the spirit of this age, which assumes there is no central "truth" other than what each one "believes." If this seems incompatible with the God of the bible- you bet it is. Inherent in that midset, that infects the church in the west, is that there is no accountability in what one believes. There is also the very abhorence of authority; especially, the absolute authority of a sovereign God.
Well, truth is not an act of the will of man and does not originate with man, nor this country's constitution. If you are a believer, this should be meat and drink to you.

For example; what if we just decided we did not want to believe that "There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory."-W.S.C.
Are you really free to not believe this? Is this just "opinion"?
What if we just said, "this is a hard saying, who can accept it?"

The fact is, we are not free to believe whatever we want. We are very much bound to God and his word and to believe what he has revealed.
You seem to hold this sort of responsibility and privilege with a flippancy that shows no fear of God? I truly pray this not be the case and you fear God and put yourself under God's word and its teaching and allow it to judge us, our hearts, our minds, as well as the age we live. You do yourself no justice at all by wrapping yourself in the flag and treating biblical discussions on a mighty, holy, and trancendent God and his word like an opinion poll in tomorrow's USA Today.

Adrienne,

How much Tim and I appreciate your godly example and testimony in this. Would that all would give your words a true hearing.

Your brother in Christ,

David Bayly

[[[Absolutely, Adrienne! I was very encouraged by what you wrote--even before I noted who the authoress (or is it "author," now?) was. -Tim]]]

What I like about God, is that all the details of his moral commands make so much material sense. Did you know that birth control destroys marriages? Yup, scientists have found that there are chemicals transmitted in sex that have affects on the brain. And blocking the brain receptors for those chemicals, at least in some prairie dog species found out West, converted the prairie dogs from monogamous to polygamous.
Just thought you might want to know that.

What a wonderful post (and interesting debate following!)

We have found God to be utterly faithful in providing for the children he blesses us with. I know only 1 woman who has quit having children specifically for health reasons--she had 5, and they just bought a 15 passenger van because they are open to as many more as God will give them by adoption. Everyone else that I know is more than willing to admit that they don't want more children because "it's hard", they don't feel patient enough, they want their body back, they want to be free from children in the home at 45, they don't want to drive an older car and live in a smaller house....it goes on and on. One couple we know openly says "We chose money over children. We know it was selfish, but that is what we chose. We wanted the house and the cars and the things"--there is a certain regret when they say that, because they are now past childbearing and realizing how lacking in value those material things really are.

Sadly, in our church, I'm getting the "You're nuts" looks and comments and I am only pregnant with our third child.

Whenever I start to worry about God's care and provision, I look at my husband's family. His father was a native evangelist in Ethiopia, and raised 9 children on a pitiful stipend from the church. Because he was an evangelist, he lost his land when the Communist government "redistributed" land and he was elsewhere. In a country where most people survive on what they grow on their farms, that loss was a big one. My husband's parents didn't have 9 children to have more bodies to work a farm. They had them because they believed children are more precious than gold, and they trusted God to provide. They did go without food, shoes, and what we would consider decent housing, and they really suffered during Ethiopias wars and famines. BUT--now that the children are growing up, my husband's parents are reaping the fruits of their labor and suffering. 9 children serving the Lord is better than a brand new car and a 2,000 sq foot house any day, in their minds. Because of the material lack, when my husband was a young man, he sought a way to Biblically refute his father's belief that Christians should be having children, and many of them. He searched and searched, but couldn't find the rejection of children anywhere supported or promoted in God's word.

If anyone has a reason to "stop at two" and treasure comfort and success and financial gain, it's my husband. I thank God my husband is willing to lay his fears and worries at the feet of the Lord and accept every child given to us with rejoicing!

Thanks again for a great meditation!

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