Most of our family last summer
The Wall Street Journal has been running a series of articles under the title “2050: Demographic Destiny.” The team writing these articles—looking at the facts—has concluded that world economies are in trouble. But, contrary to what we have been conditioned to believe, our economic woes are not due to overpopulation. In fact, just the opposite: the authors point out that our problems stem from the reality that the number of working-age people in developed nations is shrinking. At the same time, due to lengthening of lifespans, the number of people over 65 is skyrocketing, adding to society the burden of increased medical expenditures for this age group.
So why are the number of working-age people shrinking in our world? Because of what demographers call “low fertility rates.” Translation: women are not having enough babies. It takes 2.1 babies for each female during her lifetime to achieve zero population growth in any given nation: one baby to replace her, one to replace her mate and .1 babies for those who don’t ever reproduce in the future. The average number of children born to women in a nation is called the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of that country.
So where has America been on the scale of Total Fertility Rates? From 1940 through1969, the TFR in the U.S. exceeded 2.1. In fact, from 1945 through 1964 the TFR was more than 3 children per female in America. But, starting in 1970, we have been below 2.1 children per woman. Most recently, the TFR is at 1.86.
Looking at demographics from another perspective is the median age of our population. That is the age where 50 percent of the population is on either side of this number. In 1970, the median age of the U.S. was 28. It is now close to 38! In marked contrast, the median age in the U.S. in 1850 was 18.9. In Muslim lands like Afghanistan, the median age today is about 18. In dying Japan, the median age is 46! Europe is similar. In demographers’ eyes, these cultures are dying off.
But the U.S. is not far behind. In the last two years in America, in the white population group, deaths have outnumbered births because of insufficient numbers of children born.
So what does this have to do with us? Quite a bit, it turns out.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” We know—at least in theory—that man apart from God and His Word, inevitably shoots himself in the foot, producing more evil than good. Much truth from God is counter-intuitive: we obey because He is our Lord, not because we totally understand the why. But later on, He often shows us the reason for our obedience.
We need to ask: if the world around us is not bearing and raising children, what about us? Are we listening more to God or to our culture in this important area of life? Does God have anything to say about this area of life? How do we view children? Are they a blessing, or a burden; a privilege to bear and raise, or a pain?
God’s perspective on this issue is clear. One of the first commands to Adam and Eve was for them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with people. He repeated this to Noah after the flood. God has never cancelled this command. Based on what we say above, we can no longer use the excuse that our world is already full and God would have us be “prudent” by minimizing the number of children we have. Psalm 127 makes it clear that children are an unmitigated blessing and that a man is blessed whose quiver is full of them.
Is not Jesus to be Lord of every area of life? Are not our childbearing abilities incredible gifts from Him that, as we yield them to Him, He (not impersonal biology) through us can create a new child made in His image that has the ability to grow up and impact our world for Christ and live eternally? Why do we feel we need to make these important decisions based solely on our projected financial condition, personal preferences, and our perceived ability to manage a large number of children? Is not God’s call His enablement?
Bottom line, brothers and sisters, should not we as Christian married couples be open to God for the children He wishes to bless us and the world with unless, of course, there are significant medical or other issues that make such clearly unwise and thereby wrong?
A brief, personal story. Marcia and I had three lovely daughters and were ready to call our family “done.” Then, somewhat “accidently,” #4 came along—another sweet daughter. In our minds, that really was plenty of children! I was absolutely sure we couldn’t afford any more, nor would more fit into our car or our house.
But then God began to mess with Marcia and me. In her heart, Marcia began to desire another baby. So she prayed that God would either change her heart or mine. As a result of her prayers, God began to show me the many scriptures that describe how God sovereignly opens and closes the womb and how children are an unmitigated blessing. I eventually came to the very challenging conclusion that He would have us go “cold turkey” on birth preventative methods. Yes, we would obey Him. But, at the same time, I was comforted with the knowledge that an all-wise and all-merciful God could see what was obvious to me: we couldn’t handle any more kids!
So, when a couple of months later, Marcia patted her tummy and—with a smile—said that she didn’t feel so well, I was distraught. What had we done? I am now ashamed of my ungodly response. Because that little child in her womb was our first son David who is now a university professor impacting hundreds of students and others with his life. And then came along Suzie, John, Scott, Laurie, Daniel, Angela and Nathan. (Not to mention the 26 grandkids!) Each of which is an incredible person and, in his or her own way, pursuing Jesus and impacting their worlds for Him.
And, yes, God did provide a bigger house, a 15 passenger van, and even college tuition for each of our children! Matthew 6:33 is still in the Bible!
Was it easy? Are you kidding me? But where do we read in scripture that this life is supposed to be about my ease and comfort? And imagine the impact God will produce through these children that He created for His glory. As someone said, children are messages we send to a time we ourselves will never see. They are missionaries to the future.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)