Little Ann Sucking Her Finger Embraced by Her Mother by Mary Cassatt

A dear family in my church is expecting their tenth child next month. Monday night we celebrated this joyous event with a baby shower. I was asked to give a devotional; below is what the Lord laid on my heart to share (with some minor editing for the sake of clarity and readability).

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What do the following people have in common?

  • Franz Schubert—the famous Austrian composer
  • Bedřich Smetana—the “Father of Czech Music” (He composed the opera The Bartered Bride, among others works.)
  • Modest Mussorgsky—a great Russian composer (Pictures at an Exhibition is one of his best known works)
  • Johann Christian Bach—the youngest surviving son of J.S. Bach and a great composer himself
  • Benjamin Franklin—one of America’s Founding Fathers
  • Benjamin West—famous painter (if you’ve ever been to BJU’s War Memorial Chapel, you have seen his work)
  • Sylvanus Crosby—grandfather of Fanny Crosby, the great hymn writer
  • Jonathan Edwards—theologian who played a huge part in the First Great Awakening
  • Susanna Wesley—the godly mother of 19 children, including John and Charles Wesley
  • John and Charles Wesley—Founders of Methodism and hymn writers

All of these people made significant contributions to the world—through their music, art, inventions, writing, teaching, preaching—and they were all from large families (in fact they were child number 10 or beyond in their families). [1] The newest C— Baby is in good company, I think.

The Bible says children are a blessing

Ps. 127:3 “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

We tend to agree that children are a blessing—as long as there are only two (especially one boy and one girl) or at the most three. However, the Bible doesn’t set a limit on how many children constitute a blessing. In fact many passages indicate that the more children you have, the more blessed you are.

Gen. 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it:”

Gen. 24:60 “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions…”

When the children of Israel were preparing to enter the promised land, Moses told them,

Deut. 1:10-11 “The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)”

Deut. 33:24 “And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children;

I Chron. 25:4-5 “Of Heman: the sons of Heman; Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamtiezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth: All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn [exalt, honor him]. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

I Chron. 26:4-5 “Moreover the sons of Obededom were, Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, and Sacar the fourth, and Nethaneel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peulthai the eighth: for God blessed him.

If God says that children are a blessing from Him—a reward, a heritage, a way in which He honors people—why do we as Christians not see it this way today?

There are many arguments against having more than just a few children. For time sake, we are going to focus on what is probably the most popular “Christian” argument against having many children:

The Stewardship Argument

It runs something like this:

“God has given us resources of time, energy, money, possessions, etc. We must be wise stewards of all the resources God has given us. Having more children when the economy is bad, or when dad doesn’t have a job, or when money is scarce and we barely have enough to feed, clothe, and house the children we do have would be foolish and very poor stewardship. Also having more children would cause us to be a bad stewards of the ones we already have. How can we possibly train more when our hands are already full with two?!”

Let’s examine this argument.

Bob Acres and His Servant by Edwin Austin Abbey

First, what is a steward? A steward is someone who takes care of another’s resources—whatever the master gives him, he takes care of it, uses it wisely, makes a profit. The steward of an estate, for example, takes care of the house, property, belongings, etc. of the estate owner.

The steward does not have the authority to say, “Master, you already have such a big estate! I’m already overworked as it is. Adding on another room to your house means more for me to clean. Buying another car means more maintenance for me to do each month. Adding another horse to your stable means another animal to care for, groom, and ride. Taking care of all your stuff is taking too much of my time and energy and it costs you so much! I don’t want to be a bad steward, so I’m not going to let you add anything else to your estate.”

Whose estate is it? The master’s. It is the steward’s job to take care of it all, wisely manage it. It is not his job to tell the master what he can and cannot add to the estate.

It is the same with us. God has entrusted us with life, health, money, things—it all belongs to Him and we are to use it for His glory and the furthering of His kingdom.

If God says to us, “You have done such a good job with what I have given you. I’m now going to give you more money to take care of (steward) for me.” We say, “Wow! Thank you, God! Yes, I’ll gladly accept more money and use it for you.”

If God says, “You have done a good job with that beat up little car. You’ve been using it for My glory. I’m going to give you a nice, new car to use for Me.” We say, “Thank you, God! Yes, a nice, new car will be so much easier. I’ll take good care of it and use it for You.”

But if God says, “You’re doing such a good job with those little children I’ve given you. You are raising them for My glory. I’m going to give you more children to raise for Me.” We say, “Oh, no, God! That’s too much! I’m having a hard enough time with the ones you’ve already given me. I would be such a bad steward of Your money and car and house and even of the time You’ve given me if I let You give me one more child! How can I serve You if I’m tied down at home with another baby? I don’t want to be a bad steward, so I’m going to have to tell You, ‘No, I won’t take any more children.’”

Do you see the faulty reasoning? Who is the Master and who is the steward? We are to steward whatever God in His wisdom and kindness chooses to entrust to our care. We are not wiser than God. [2]

We would do well to remind ourselves who creates life. Do parents create life? Many think that they do, that it is completely up to the mom and dad as to whether or not they have a baby.

The Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible tells us that it is God alone who gives children. Consider, for example, the account of Rachel and Leah. Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah. He didn’t really love her, he loved Rachel.

Gen. 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

God blessed Leah and gave her four sons. After the birth of her fourth son, “she left bearing” (v. 35).

She didn’t want to stop having children (that is clear from what she did in the next chapter—giving her maid to her husband so she could have more children by her), but God had decided four children was enough for the time being. (Later, God gave her three more children.)

Rachel also wanted children. However, years went by, and still she had no child. The Bible records a conversation she had with her husband:

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (Gen. 30:1-2).

Clearly, it wasn’t up to Jacob whether or not they had a child. Nor was it up to Rachel. God had chosen not to give them a child.

Several more years went by,

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son” (Gen. 30:22-24).

Just before she died, she gave birth to her second son, Benjamin.

Both women wanted children (and neither took measures to prevent them), but God was in control of how many they received. God gave Leah seven. After years of barrenness He gave Rachel two.

People say, “Well certainly people wanted children way back then, but nowadays children are expensive and times are hard. Surely God wants us to be careful and make sure we don’t add another mouth to feed when money is so tight.”

In the Bible, even when commodities were scarce and life was hard, God still blessed His people with children.

Consider the time before Moses was born. The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt and life was incredibly hard for them. Yet God kept giving them children.

Ex. 1:12 “But the more they [the Egyptians] afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”

In fact, they were having so many babies the king of Egypt was scared that in the case of war the Hebrews would side with the Egyptian’s enemies, fight against them and leave the land of Egypt. To keep this from happening he tried desperately to kill all the baby boys who were being born.

Yet, even in the face of their children being potentially murdered, God kept giving them babies. He wanted His people to have many children, even in this tremendously difficult time.

It was in the midst of all of this that Moses was born. If we had been there, we would have called Moses’ parents “bad stewards.”

“Don’t they know they are endangering the life of their child by bringing him into this awful world?! They should have prevented his birth. Now he’s going to be murdered!”

In our human reasoning we would have prevented God from sending the very one who was to deliver them from their bondage and lead them to the Promised Land.

Today there is a profusion of “Christian” advice to, “Be wise! Don’t have a baby unless you can afford one.” Or, “Don’t have any more children! You can barely afford the ones you have and, besides, you don’t have time to do anything else. God wants you to be a good steward.”

This is simply not Biblical. Nowhere does the Bible teach that parents have the authority or responsibility to decide whether or not God should give them another baby. Using our brains and the available technology to “play God” and try to control the timing and number of children is a very dangerous thing. It’s trying to be the master, not the steward.

Actually rejecting children, doing all we can to prevent ourselves from bearing children, is a sign that we are under the wrath and judgment of God. It is beyond the scope of this talk to fully study Romans 1:18-32, so I challenge you to take some time to prayerfully examine this passage on your own in the near future. In brief, this passage reveals a progression of rejecting God, turning to idols, and the judgment that follows.

One of the consequences listed here for turning away from God is that of God giving people up to “vile affections.”

Vile is defined as “wretchedly bad; repulsive, disgusting; morally debased, depraved, despicable; foul, filthy.” [3]

Two vile affections are then listed:

Rom. 1:26-27 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

First, women change the natural use for that which is against nature. I always assumed, because of what follows in verse 27, that this was talking about females engaging in the sin of sodomy. That could be the case. Sodomy is definitely against nature—unnatural and contrary to God’s design. However, generally speaking, in various cultures throughout history men tend to embrace this sin before women do. [4]

Could this then be referring to something else? What is the natural use of the woman? What did God design a woman to do that a man cannot do? The answer is evident from the features of a woman’s body: God designed her to bear and nurture children. [5] The Greek word used here for “women” (thelus, as opposed to the more commonly used gune) underscores this point. “Thelus comes from the root word thele, which means, ‘nipple, to suck, to nurse, to mother”[6]. Bearing and nurturing children is the natural use of the woman.

When women take either permanent or temporary measures to prevent themselves from bearing children, they are going against nature and, according to this verse, engaging in vile affections—sin before God and, in fact, a sign of His judgment.

The next verse makes it clear that when men separate the act of marriage from God’s design of bearing children, God is giving them up to a second “vile affection,” that of sodomy and the practice of unspeakable perversion.

At this point some of you are probably thinking, “Vida, are you actually suggesting that birth control is sin?? I can understand your reasoning that it is a rejection of God’s blessing and that it is a lack of trusting God (like a steward telling the Master he knows better than him), but now you’re saying practicing birth control is a vile affection—SIN—and a sign of God’s judgment?!”

I know this flies in the face of everything our culture – and even the church at large – says. Actually though, up until about the early 1930s, the church as a whole preached against birth control. They taught that it was indeed sin. It was primarily through the indefatigable work of that wicked woman [7] Margaret Sanger (the founder of what is now known as Planned Parenthood, the organization that has been instrumental in the murder of 1000s of unborn babies) that birth control became widely accessible and finally completely legalized (in 1965,[8]). Only now—within the past 50 years or so—is birth control culturally acceptable, normative, and even the “Christian” thing to do.

Allegorie des Lebens by Karl Geiger

I challenge you to study what the Bible actually says about this subject. Ask God to give you a clear understanding that is not muddled by cultural expectations. (Some books that you might find helpful in your study: Be Fruitful and Multiply by Nancy Campbell; The Way Home by Mary Pride; A Full Quiver by Rick and Jan Hess; and The Bible and Birth Control by Charles D. Provan.) I submit to you that if you truly search out what the Scriptures say, you will see that we must repent—of our vile affections, of our rejection of God’s blessings—turn from our sin, and even take measures to get things reversed if possible and open ourselves back up to the blessings of God.

Ps. 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

There are people who look at the C— family and say they already have a full quiver.

“Wasn’t 9 enough?? We don’t believe in abortion, but surely they should stop after the 10th is born. Surely that’s a full quiver!”

Only God knows if the quiver is actually full. For Abraham and Sarah, their quiver was full with the one arrow He gave them—Isaac. The same was true for Zacharias and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. But what if Mrs. Mary Annesley (the mother of 25 children, the last of whom was Susanna Wesley) had said, “10 is enough for me!” or “I’ll stop now that I’ve given birth 20 times,” or “Surely 24 is enough!”? No one would have blamed her or thought she was limiting God if she had prevented further childbearing. In fact, today people would be encouraging her to stop, “Don’t you know what causes that?!” If she had used her human reasoning to take control of the number of children she had, Susanna would not have been born. Yet the world would have never known what it was missing.

I’m so glad this woman allowed God to decide when their quiver was full! Her final arrow—Susanna—would go on to be the mother of a very full quiver herself (19 children, in spite of marital difficulties, financial straits, bereavement, and even a house fire). Two of her youngest children—John (child #15) and Charles (child #17)—went on to make humanly incalculable impact for Christ. There are probably people in this room who came to Christ because of the impact of these men. God knows best and we must trust Him!

Woe to us if we discourage, tease, or mock those who are obeying the Lord and trusting Him to decide when the quiver is full. Woe to us if we through our words—negative comments, snide remarks, or even reproachful sighs—encourage someone to prevent further blessings from God. And woe to us if we ourselves have cut off the blessings God wanted to send. Only God knows if we have been the cause of cutting off our generation’s equivalent of John and Charles Wesley.

Let us search our Bibles and our hearts, repent, and do all in our power to accept all the blessings God wants to give us and encourage others to do the same.

At Play by Dorothy Tennant

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1 This list comes, in part, from Rick and Jan Hess, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ (Brentwood: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1990), chapter 4, “Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner.”

2 A 2nd Generation of Homeschooling has an excellent article on this subject here: http://www.a2ndgenerationofhomeschooling.com/2010/07/having-many-children-is-poor.html (accessed: March 27, 2012).

3 vile. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vile (accessed: March 27, 2012).

4 Mary Pride, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1985), 27.

5 Charles D. Provan, The Bible and Birth Control (Monongahela: Zimmer Printing, 1989), 27-28.

6 Nancy Campbell, Be Fruitful and Multiply: What the Bible Says About Having Children (San Antonio: Vision Forum Ministries, 2003), 106.

7 Campbell, pp. 151-152, states, “Margaret Sanger [was] a woman who ferociously believed in Malthusian Eugenics and who practiced and promoted blatant sexual promiscuity. Margaret Sanger championed the cause of the elimination of inferior races. Her plan was to ‘create a race of thoroughbreds.’ She coined names for all those who were not of the superior Aryan race–‘morons, misfits, and the maladjusted’ and ‘defectives, delinquents, and dependents.’ She believed that the physically unfit, the materially poor, the racially inferior–including the Jews and the African Americans–must be restricted or eliminated. Contraception, sterilization, and abortion were the perfect methods for getting rid of these ‘human weeds.’ This is the origin of today’s birth control movement which the Christian church has ignorantly embraced.”

8 In my talk I mistakenly gave the date 1916 as the year abortion was legalized in the US. Actually 1916 was the year Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the US. The police shut down this illegally operating clinic 9 days after its opening and Sanger spent 30 days in prison.

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Addendum:

It was not my intention in giving this talk (or in publishing this article) to leave anyone feeling hopelessly condemned under the wrath of God. No matter how grave the sin, the blood of Christ can completely cleanse us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9. Praise be to God!

Also, lest my words be misconstrued, let me give further clarification to a point I made above. Merely looking at the number of children a couple has (be it many or few or even none) is not an indicator of their obedience or disobedience in this matter. I gave as examples Abraham and Sarah and Zacharias and Elisabeth, two couples whom, if we had known them personally yet had not talked with them or heard their hearts, we could have easily judged as being disobedient to the Lord in this matter because of sustained barrenness. We would have been wrong. God, in His perfect timing, gave to each of those couples only one “arrow.” Their quivers were full in His sight.

On the other hand, we could look at a couple with 24 children (the Annesleys before the birth of Susanna) and judge them to be completely obedient to the Lord in this matter. Yet, if they had decided to take control and prevented any further children, their quiver would not have been full. Likely (because people did not openly talk about their personal practices then as they do today) only God would have known that they had cut off His opportunity to bless them (and the world).

My point is that we cannot–must not–judge one another on the basis of how many children we have.

However, because birth control is now culturally acceptable (and expected) people often openly talk about their practices. Because the church has been largely silent on the Scripture’s teaching about this subject for the past 50+ years, most Christians are not even aware that God has an opinion on the matter. They honestly think the Scriptures are silent. That is why talks (and articles) like this are necessary. I do not present this information judgmentally or as one who is wanting to stir up discord among the brethren. Instead I write and speak these words with the earnest prayer that God will open our eyes to truly see this matter as He sees it and that He in His goodness will lead us to repentance.

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Courtship by Edmund Blair Leighton

 Next Sunday night I will be holding a drawing for the 4 CD set Biblical Courtship — Laying the Groundwork by Doug Wilson.  These excellent sermons clearly explain Biblical principles of courtship.  Topics include: Parental Authority, Preparing Sons, Preparing Daughters, and Culmination of Courtship.

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