When the Bible praises children, it does not mean to say that children are essential in marriage. There are some who so emphasize children that they over-emphasize them. This view harms those in the church from whom God has withheld children. Apart from children, marriage is blessed, a reflection of the relation between Christ and His Church.
Even so, we must understand that children are the heritage of the Lord, the gift of the covenant God to His Church. Implied in Psalm 127 and 128, and in the rest of the Bible, is that God calls His people to bring forth children. These Psalms express that children - many children - are a blessing. Yet many are tempted not to bring forth children. That is not difficult to see. Even though far fewer infants die in our age, there are less children per family today than in the history of the world.
Why? Unbelievable pressures are being put on parents not to bear children. Socially, there are pressures. Children "tie a mother down", "interfere with a career", and "hinder fulfillment". Today in the grocery store, a mother with a few children in tow is not complimented, but criticized. Planned parenthood advertises and lobbies until it becomes a way of thinking that one or two children is ideal. "The fewer children, the better reared" is a philosophy the Chinese are reaping the bitter fruit of. Now we Americans are told the philosophy is true.
There are pressures from the government to limit the size of our families for world population control. Regularly Ann Landers reports the urgency of control.
Probably the greatest pressure God's people face is financial. Although our generation is better off than any other, this pressure is more real today than ever before - - in part, because our standard of living is so high. In addition, the high cost of Christian school tuition for Christians seems to skyrocket. The conclusion is, "We'll not have children", or, "We'll have one or two".
Christians must be careful not to be swayed by man's reasoning, which is purely self-centered. "What do I want? What's good for me?" Man's reasoning does not bring blessing.
For us, God's Word is decisive. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian perspective is seen vividly here. For unbelievers, the question begins and ends with self. For Christians, the question begins and ends with God. Our marriages and families exist not for our sakes, but for God's. We may not answer the hard questions about marriage (and the question of children is a hard question!) by considering how we feel at the moment, or by how much pressure the world puts on to conform to their standards. We look to God's Word.
God's Word says, "Bear children." "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28) is God's powerful Word of blessing that gave Adam and Eve the gift of sex, and is the command to bring forth children by it. This was God's will "from the beginning". The New Testament carries on the same thinking. I Timothy 2:15 says that after the fall, the normal path on which women find their salvation is the path of childbearing. Theirs is not the calling to take leadership positions in the church, but to serve the church in rearing the church's children at home. I Timothy 5:14 makes plain that God's will for younger women is that they "marry, bear children, guide the house, (and, in that way, BG), give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully."
We bear children, not only because we love children, but because God calls His people: "Bring forth my children." The couple that marries and says, "We don't want children," is a couple that lives in disobedience to God's will.
God motivates His people to obey this command by showing us that children are a blessing. Some consider children only nuisance, misery, and grief. They even appeal to Genesis 3:16. However, God's Word says children are a blessing. Genesis 3:16 does not teach that children are a curse, but that bringing them forth is chastisement for godly women: as a result of the fall, the pain of childbearing increased and (possibly) the frequency increased. The chastisement is not children, but the sorrows connected with childbearing. Besides, the entire Old Testament contradicts the teaching that children are a curse. Psalm 127 says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward. . . . . Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them."
Children are a blessing. Many children are a blessing. Every child is a blessing to believing parents. (This is certainly not to say that every child will be a Christian, but every child is a gift, a blessing of God.) The 8th child is a blessing. The deformed child is a blessing. The difficult child is a blessing. A burden? No doubt! Difficult? Oh, yes. Humanly impossible? Certainly! But a blessing of God, nevertheless.
Why are they a blessing? Again, not because they are all elect. This would be the height of presumption, to say nothing about contradicting Romans 9. But God is normally pleased to gather His children from the children of believing parents. This is why Psalm 127 says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward".
In addition, children are a blessing in that they are weapons in the armory of God to protect the spiritual heritage of the Christian family of faith. "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth." Reared to become straight arrows, they are shot out into the battle of faith, fit to do war with the enemy. Pray for this kind of children, who also sit and "speak with the enemies in the gate," giving account of their faith and the glory of their God.
Is it any wonder the devil hates the church's children (see Revelation 12) and is such an advocate of birth control? If he cannot prevent their conception, he will destroy them before they see the light of day. The devil knows that children, many children, are the strength of the church.
Even when the child is a rebellious child, the mercies of God transform that distressing, heart-rending trouble, to our benefit. That hard reality drives us to depend on the undeserved grace of God and not on ourselves as the source of all our salvation, and brings us to our knees to find comfort from the only source of comfort: our Savior God. When we come to Him in faith, He shows Himself to be a God of comfort.
Understanding this, the couple asking about birth control will be guided by these principles: (1) Children are a blessing of God: Psalm 127, 128, etc. (2) Many children are a blessing of God: Psalm 127:5. (3) Women are saved through childbearing: I Timothy 5:14. So, keeping in mind the spiritual, physical, and emotional capabilities of the husband and wife, they will have as many children as they can. Then their quiver will be full.
Many years ago in the Old Testament, children were slaughtered by their parents, sacrificed to Moloch to worship that idol. We shudder to think of it. Today, children are sacrificed to the idol-god "money" or the idol-god "time" or the idol-god "vacation" or the idol-god "career" or "fulfillment" or whatever his name may be. Let God's people hear His warning about these cruel idol-gods.
All this is not to say that there are not many sorrows in motherhood. There is the physical toil and pain of giving birth. There is the physical and psychological burden of rearing them. The sorrow is great according to Genesis 3:16. In a certain sense, the mother gives her life away for her children. God does not take away the burden.
What is the solution? Where is the joy that Psalm 127 speaks of? Is it to take off the yoke, unshoulder the burden? Or is it to seek grace for help in this time of need as Christian parents have done for 600 years? There it is! Faced with the sorrows, we are pointed by Scripture to the grace of Jesus Christ to bear the burden and perform the labor. Jesus Christ is a sympathetic High Priest whose own large family qualifies Him to understand.
Parents, be encouraged. God is pleased to build His church from our children. This is the joy that swallows up the sorrows, makes the pain and toils worthwhile. Children are "an heritage of the LORD."