I don’t know a diplomatic way to say this so I’ll just say it. 21st century western Christian men are scaredy cats. Guess what they’re sacred of?
You know, those newly minted bearers of God’s image. The fruit in God’s first words to humanity, the command to “Be fruitful and multiply.” The “arrows in the hand of a warrior” who contend with “foes at the city gate” described in Psalm 127. The “godly offspring” God seeks according to Malachi. Those pesky little urchins the disciples wanted to shoo away from Jesus. Those things.
What’s so scary about kids?
It’s not hard to understand why our unchurched contemporaries are afraid to let the familial ranks swell to unmanageable proportions. Children are people, after all and people are expensive, messy and uncontrollable. The more people you’re connected to the more variables are introduced into your calculations for a neat, controllable life. Given today’s unquestioned ethic of me über alles it’s just common sense to limit risk and liability and pre-empt the inevitable annoyance the little rug rats are bound to inflict.
Silly self-centered unbelievers! Christians know better than to float on the stream of contemporary culture as it flows down to the sea of destruction, right?
We pride ourselves on being awesomely counter-cultural when it comes to the really vital things like pop music and TV shows but when it comes to the mundane details like children, careers, roles in the home and definitions of success we’re perfectly happy to be unquestioning followers of the cultural orthodoxy. We strain at gnats and swallow camels.
A concept that frequently comes up in extremely rare, usually nervous and uncomfortable discussions about family size is “responsibility,” as in, “We can’t afford more than 2.3 children. It would be irresponsible to bring more kids into the world than we can pay for.” Obviously not a direct quote but you get the idea. The thing is, this concern for responsibility is often expressed by men who regularly encourage us to do all kinds of things “in faith.” Men who like to quote Joshua 1:7. “Be strong and very courageous.” Men who like to remind us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. “ These same men speak quite eloquently about trusting God to supply all our needs while rightly exhorting us to tithe and give sacrificially.
Brothers, when you say you can’t “afford” children do you actually mean to accuse your Heavenly Father of negligence? Do you actually believe that He will bless you with children then sit back, counting those cattle on a thousand hills like a miser and not provide for your family? And just what is it you’re afraid He won’t provide? Food? Clothing? Shelter? All those things the unbelievers chase after? Do you really mean to sing songs on Sunday declaring that every breath you take is supplied by His divine providence but you must have school loans paid off, the house paid for, careers humming along and enough left over for vacations and a college fund before you can find room in your home?
Are you really that afraid of scarcity? Are you really that stingy as you presume to represent the God of abundance?
Don’t you trust Him?
Speaking of our deep concern for responsibility; let’s get this one out of the way. You did not decide to limit the size of your family because of overpopulation. You did not look into the eyes of your beautiful bride-to-be and say, “Darling, we know how much God loves children. We know they are among his greatest blessings and, gosh, we’d both love to have a bunch. But Dr. Ehrlich says we better not.” That conversation did not take place so, even if you have hooked concern about overpopulation onto your evolving list of justifications for your life plan it was not a foundational issue.
I’ll let you in on a little secret and it’s one that can play havoc with my manly pride when I let it. I have no idea what our rapidly approaching retirement years will bring. I’m doing my best to whittle away at substantial debt and save what I can but the financial strain of being the provider for a large family is more than I can conquer. I am not up to the task. I won’t bore you with our history but very often the breaks have been against us. We are in the position feared by those who place their trust in math and preached against by Christian financial ministries. To the best of our ability we have sought God’s priorities and placed our material well-being in His hands. He has not made us rich. In fact, I would say He has called our bluff, if such language isn’t too irreverent. In my faithless moments I am afraid.
I have a lot of nerve.
God has never failed to provide for us. That history I don’t want to bore you with includes close scrapes and miracles. It does not include God’s failure to honor His promises. It’s easy to see all the things we don’t have but one extra moment of thought reminds me that we live better than the royalty of most of human history. God provides and blesses in spite of our shortcomings, not because of our strengths. It is His good pleasure to do so and He will give us as much money, poverty, opportunity, success or disaster as will glorify Him. He is to be praised in all things!
I’ll tell you something else. People come with risk. Lots of it. No matter how hard you try you will never control any of your kids into the life you know would be best for them. That free will you exercised when you turned your life over to Christ belongs to them as well. When God commands us to “Be fruitful and multiply” He doesn’t add “and I’ll guarantee that your children will follow me faithfully and be successful in all they do.” But as we learn from the parable of the talents we have no right to bury that which our Master intends for us to invest at risk. When your children break your heart, as even the most faithful among them will do in this fallen world, remember how each of us breaks God’s heart. Remember what an uncontrollable mess we are. God does not put us in this world to tidy up, chisel plans in stone and keep order. He puts us here to glorify Him.
All day long there is somebody yelling at us to get out of our “comfort zone,” which really means “you should do what I think you should do.” Funny how few of the invaders of comfort zones want us to get uncomfortable and build up the church by accepting God’s gift of people and discipling them in our homes. We men go to extraordinary lengths to sabotage nature as we turn our noses up at God’s gifts and then complain about shrinking congregations and the advance of godlessness in our society (remember those “foes in the city gate?”) Christ tells us to make disciples. God has given us the ability to literally make disciples and commands us to multiply. He has given us churches to fill with godly offspring and supplied plenty of work for the laborers in His fields. Is the connection really that hard to see?
Stop letting the world disarm you. Stop behaving like the fearful, self-centered unbelievers. Stop calling God’s character into question. Stop failing to lead. Stop trusting in imaginary material security instead of God’s promised provision. Stop looking at the temporary comforts of this world as if they count for more than Heaven.
It’s time to stop participating in the rebellion against God and His created order.
It’s time to act like men.