God is big on kids. In Psalm 127:3 we are told, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward."
Two additional passages underscore the value God places on children:
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And 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).
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
In Genesis God commands parents to "be fruitful and multiply" and says that children are a blessing, a privilege, and a responsibility.
I think it's time for a heart-check about children in the Christian community. Do we truly have God's heart for children? Do we really believe children are a blessing? Or have we ever so slightly and slowly began to adopt the world's view of children?
During the past few decades, for example, the size of families has steadily decreased because parents are choosing to have fewer children or, in a growing number of cases, no children at all. And if you have more than two or three kids, someone will undoubtedly express great concern: "Don't you know how much kids cost? Can you afford to send them to college?"
Have you stopped to consider what a strange statement of values this is—that you'd actually decide not to have additional children because you might not be able to afford their college expenses?
Do we really believe that children are a gift from God? A blessing?
I'm not referring, of course, to those who desire children but suffer from infertility. And I realize each couple makes decisions about the number of children in their family. My challenge to couples is to evaluate our personal beliefs according to the truth of Scripture—God places a heavenly value on children.
Many of us also adopt the world's view in how we raise our kids. We believe that responsible parenting means making sure our kids go to the best schools, wear the best clothes, participate in numerous outside activities … so they'll grow into successful adults with well-paying jobs. We know we want to build character, but we don't know how to do it. So we mix the world's values in with those from Scripture. We don't want our kids to make the types of mistakes we did as teenagers, but we fail to teach them how to resist temptation and make good choices.
In short, we lack a true, biblical vision for children and parenting. In Deuteronomy 6 God reveals why He commands parents to be fruitful—not just to have children, but godly children who will pass a godly legacy by connecting one generation to the next. The home is the best place for a child to learn about God. In a culture of weakening character and ethics, our best hope for renewal lies in the restoration of godly homes. God created the family circle to be the supreme conductor of Christianity to children and to the next generation.
Although it's sobering to bring children into a decadent society, in God's timing, our children will become His agents in advancing the Kingdom of God.
In other words, your children may be your greatest legacy.
We need to recapture the biblical imperative that parenting is a sacred calling and that children are worth the effort! God has selected parents for a work the angels must envy--the stewardship of a child's soul.
A call to radical selflessness
I mistakenly thought, early on, that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could help them grow up. Now I believe God gave us children to help us finish the process of growing up! We have found that it's impossible to raise our children to become godly adults and be selfish at the same time. The lessons I continue to learn remind me of the bumper sticker:
MY CHILDREN SAVED ME FROM TOXIC SELF-ABSORPTION!
The need to be selfless ought to challenge fathers who spend too much time climbing the career ladder, pursuing hobbies and sports, or other personal interests—at the expense of their kids. It ought to challenge those mothers who place their young children in daycare so they can work—not out of necessity, but for self-fulfillment or a higher standard of living.
If Christians are going to have children, then we must raise them.
I know a couple who say they wish the wife and mother could stay home with her preschool children. Yet a quick look at this family's lifestyle raises questions about their real family values. The family lives in a new home, drives new cars, and vacations each year in San Francisco.
I fear many Christian families have bought into the "Big Lie" of this age: YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL
But you and I can't.
Serious questions are emerging about the wisdom of trying "to have it all": Can Christians justify choices that have been proven to be harmful to children and destructive to families? Will it be said that we sacrificed our children on the altar of materialism, greed, and self fulfillment? Are we raising our children to be missionaries or a mission field?
Perhaps it's time we asked one another some thorny questions.
About three years ago, I called a friend and asked to have lunch with him. In our time together I expressed that I was very concerned about how much he was working—80 hours a week. His wife has a pressure-packed, prestigious job, too. I told him I loved him, and that I wanted to challenge him to consider what his real values and responsibilities were to a wife and three children.
Our meeting ended on a cordial note, but there was a look in his eyes that made me wonder if he heard me. Maybe he did hear me and has chosen not to value his career over his wife and children. Time will tell.
It's time that Christian families make some radical commitments to our children. It's time for every Christian parent to prayerfully ask: Am I dying to self so that I can be the parent God wants me to be in raising the next generation?
Excerpted from Dennis Rainey's book One Home at a Time, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 1997, Dennis Rainey. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.