The Blessings of Children

Reproduced with Permission
One More Soul

Having a baby is a wonderful thing. Children are great. No matter what the circumstances are, no matter who the mother or the father is, no matter how they were conceived, a child is a gift from God, and an occasion for celebration. In fact, the more children you have, the better. Do any of these statements seem odd, deranged maybe, or just a little weird to you? Can rational people really believe that every birth is a sign of God's favor? Of course we can. Why? Because we believe in God, and our God thinks that children are the coolest thing around.

So what God is this that wants lots and lots of children? Hasn't He ever heard of over-population? Doesn't he know that it is now all decent people's duty to limit their progeny to two? What kind of God is this anyway? It's the God of the Bible. Come with me, and I'll show Him to you.

From the very beginning, God made it pretty clear that he wants children, and lots of them. In Genesis he told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28) What is even more striking is that every time God speaks a blessing, children are in it. Noah was told, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Genesis 9:1). In Genesis 17:5-6 Abram was promised, "For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you." When Rebecca left home to marry Isaac, her brother blessed her saying, "May you, our sister, become thousands of ten thousands, and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them" (Genesis 24:60). When Isaac blessed Jacob he said, "And may God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of people" (Genesis 28:3). This expressed wish of God for human procreation found its way into the Psalms too. In Psalm 127 we read, "Behold, sons are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward."

So children are a blessing, God's gifts to the people he loves and, like the patriarchs of the Old Testament, has great plans for. What is it about children that makes them so good for marriages and societies that God finds them an indispensable part of his plan? What makes children and large families so special?

Children help keep marriages together. Marriages are hard work, and after a couple is married, there are a lot of tough issues and trouble spots they still have to work through. Most marriages that end in divorce do so within the first two years. It's very easy to just give up, just walk out on the whole situation. Once you've walked out on someone, it takes a lot of courage to go back and make things right. No matter how much you love your spouse, sometimes it just doesn't seem worth it. A child can give a couple the extra incentive they need to work through the rough spots, to keep on trying when nothing seems to work. No matter how much her mother is driving you nuts, there's still a little girl whose smile you can't bear to miss. No matter how much you want to kill his father, there's still a little boy who can't go to sleep unless you tuck him in each night. I know that there are some marriages, especially those in which one partner is abusive, that can't be saved, but for many couples a child can mean the difference between a deeper, stronger love they both fought for, or divorce court.

Children make their parents better people. Suddenly there is this little person who needs everything. He can't feed himself or go to the bathroom by himself. If she's cold she doesn't know what to do to get warm. If he's in pain he can't do anything about it. New parents quickly learn the art of unselfishness. People who just months before had rarely if ever thought about anyone before themselves now spend every moment thinking about this child who needs so much. New parents also quickly begin to reevaluate their values and standards. The first time you hear your four year old repeat a cuss word he learned from you it's quite a wake up call. Trying to explain to your five year old why it's wrong to tell a lie makes you pay a lot more attention to your own honesty. It all adds up, and before you know it, you're a different, and much better person. Parents also quickly learn that they just can't do it all. If you spend two hours playing with your toddler, laundry doesn't get done. If you spend hours gardening so you'll have fresh vegetables for your family, dinner doesn't get done on time, and the house is a wreck. It's a constant trade off. To preserve their sanity, parents learn what is really important. They learn to do what they can and leave the rest to God.

Children benefit the economy. It costs a lot to raise a family. Everybody knows that. The secular media is constantly issuing new bulletins about how much it costs to raise a child until they're eighteen, how the cost of a college education is constantly rising, etc. ad nauseam. It's pretty much all true. There isn't a couple alive who will tell you that their standard of living is higher because they chose to have a large family. A father more often than not works longer hours, and is a more stable and reliable worker, because he needs that paycheck to feed his family. The family buys large amounts of shoes, clothing, food, electricity, and hosts of other products, stimulating the economy. At the same time the family is often quite concerned about saving money, which provides venture capital for new businesses, which employ more people, which stimulates the economy. Large families provide the next generation of workers. Someone is going to have to be working to support the parents as they grow older. Already our society is feeling the crunch of smaller and smaller families. Without enough young people in the work force, and growing numbers of people reaching retirement age and expecting to draw Social Security benefits, there will be less and less money to assist the elderly.

Anytime you find a family with a wide range of ages between the children, you will find one simple phenomenon. The older children take care of the younger ones. Teenagers and pre-teens change diapers, baby-sit, cook meals, do laundry, clean, and take turns reading the endless stream of story books toddlers demand. Children in elementary school help do dishes, run errands, and make the countless trips upstairs and down for that one thing Mommy forgot. As soon as a kid can walk, he or she can start helping. Often older children start teaching the younger siblings the skills necessary for life, like tying your own shoe laces, and drinking out of a cup. They also pass on moral lessons like honesty or the finer points of the definition of sacrament. Fights between younger siblings get mediated by the older children, and any undesirable behavior on the part of one individual tends to be very quickly quashed by his or her brothers or sisters.

Children make people settle down and become productive members of society. While single people can be wonder workers, it is families that are the building blocks of society. Children are the great motivators for a lot of the good works performed in our world. Parents work hard to build a strong economy, to clean up the environment, to make sure that our work places are safe, to get rid of poverty and hunger because they don't want their children to go cold and hungry, to get hurt on the job, or to be poisoned by pollution.. Parents fight to stamp out sexual crimes against women because they don't want their daughter to be raped or sexually harassed. Parents fight crime because they don't want their son to get mugged. They want to leave their children a better world than the one they have today. Much of the progress that has been made against the great social evils of our day has come about because of children.

There's no real point in having a lot of wealth if you don't have anyone to share it with. Even Daddy Warbucks knew that. Like the king and queen at the beginning of Snow White, when all the goods and services this world has to offer are at your fingertips, it is no good unless there is someone to share it with. Most of the fortunes of the great wealthy families of our world were made by one man who wanted to leave something for his children and grandchildren. This also is a Biblical concept. A man who died without children, or whose children died before he did, was described as laboring in vain (Isaiah 65:23). In the book of Job, even after Satan has destroyed all of Job's worldly goods Job does not complain. It is only after all of his children are suddenly killed that he shows any kind of grief (Job 1:20-21). One of the saddest figures in literature is Scrooge, the old miser, who almost died without children - all alone. His redemption, and ours, comes only after he and we learn to share our wealth.

Children are highly entertaining. Anyone who has watched a toddler trying earnestly to climb up on a chair, or push a button through its hole knows this. Little children are hilarious. Children see the whole world as something fresh, new, and incredibly exciting. Being privy to their highly original observations is one of the greatest pleasures available. They also live without the prejudices and preconceptions that have become part of us. Seeing something like a four year old trying to teach the cat to sit can keep you chuckling for months. In a large family, the best entertainment in the world is waiting for you every time you turn around. You should try it sometime.