Bringing Up Children in the Lord (Part 1): The Gift of Children

Bringing Up Children in the Lord - Lesson 1: The Gift of Children

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5).

Children are a Gift from God

Christians, more than anyone else in the world, need to see children as a blessing. This perspective is going to be different than many in the world who see children as being a burden, a hindrance, or expendable. Yet the Scriptures are clear – children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5).

When David ran into trouble trying to transport the ark in an unauthorized manner, he stored the ark at the house of Obed-edom. Because he kept the ark safely, “the Lord blessed the family of Obed-edom” (1 Chronicles 13:14). How did God bless this man? It is possible that He blessed him in many ways, but the Scriptures specify one way in which he was blessed.

Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sacar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh and Peullethai the eighth; God had indeed blessed him” (1 Chronicles 26:4-5).

This man had eight sons. The Scriptures clearly indicate that these eight sons came as a result of God blessing Obed-edom. We need to recognize children as being such a blessing as well.

Besides being a blessing, children are also an example of God’s enduring providence. In the beginning when the first child was born, Eve acknowledged God in the birth of her son.

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord’” (Genesis 4:1).

Since that time, women have continued to bear children as Eve did – not through some direct miraculous action by God, but through the natural process of childbirth that God providentially gave since the beginning. From now until the end of time, “women will be preserved through the bearing of children” (1 Timothy 2:15). This process will not change or be taken away by God.

While we understand that children are gifts from God, we must also realize that not all will be blessed with children. Notice the conversation that is recorded between Jacob and Rachel after Leah gave birth to her fourth son (Genesis 29:31-35):

Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’” (Genesis 30:1-2).

The fact that Rachel had no children to this point was not her fault, nor was it Jacob’s fault. She had simply not been blessed with children (at least not to this point). There are two lessons we should learn from this. First, those who are childless need to have patience and contentment. They should not become jealous of others as Rachel had become of her sister. Second, we all should have compassion and respect for those who are childless – not as Hannah’s rival who would “provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:6). We should practice the “golden rule” and “treat people the same way [we] want them to treat [us]” (Matthew 7:12).

In all of this, it is important to remember that children are a blessing. However, no one is guaranteed to have this blessing from the Lord. Therefore, we must recognize children as the gift that the word of God describes them to be.

Many in the World Have a Contrary View

Sadly, many do not see children as being a gift from God. Instead, they think of children as being a burden. Certainly there are important responsibilities that come with raising children. Parents must be willing to sacrifice self, money, time, etc. However, the joy that comes by being blessed with children should outweigh any hardships that come from our sacrifices.

The example of Jesus provides us with a parallel to our study of parenting. The Hebrew writer said, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life “for the joy set before Him.” What was this joy? It was the salvation of man. Or, as the Hebrew writer described it earlier, “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). As Jesus was willing to sacrifice for our sakes, parents ought to sacrifice willingly for the welfare of their children. Yet too many focus on the burden. Let us notice two extreme examples to illustrate this mentality.

And the king said to her, ‘What is the matter with you?’ And she answered, ‘This woman said to men, “Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.” So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, “Give your son, that we may eat him”; but she has hidden her son’” (2 Kings 6:28-29).

When Samaria was under siege, the people became desperate. This woman made an agreement with another woman to kill and eat her son in order to survive the famine. While we often hear that desperate times call for desperate measures, this is a line that no parent should cross. It indicates that one lacks “natural affection” (Romans 1:31, KJV) that all people – even those who have not been taught the word of God – should have. While cannibalism is not common today, the mentality of the mother in this passage is. She was willing to sacrifice her child for her own welfare. Parenting ought to lead one to do the opposite – sacrifice self for the welfare of the child.

They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35).

These people were guilty of what was almost unthinkable – sacrificing their children as burnt offerings for a false god. It is easy to draw a parallel between this and the practice of abortion (which we will address in a moment), yet I want us to consider the broader application of this text. An idol is not necessarily a graven image like we often see described in the Bible. Instead, an idol is anything that rivals or replaces God for our allegiance and devotion. Paul said that greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Today, people have made idols of money, their career, a desired lifestyle, etc. Many parents are willing to sacrifice their children for the sake of their idol (pursuing their earthly goals). Children are seen by many as a hindrance or an obstacle to one’s personal fulfillment.

Furthermore, the view of many people that children are not a gift of God is a consequence of evolutionary thought. The Scriptures tell us that man is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). But if this were not true, then man is no different than the animals. Notice what the wise man wrote:

For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21).

Those who ignore spiritual things and the fact that there is life after death for us will see the fate of men and animals as being the same – both die and return to the dust. However, the wise man noted that “the breath of man ascends upward” to God (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7) and “the breath of the beast descends downward.” Man has life after death. Animals do not. But the evolutionist believes that humans are essentially no different than the animals. If man does not have a soul, then a child is soulless, expendable, and unimportant. This is contrary to what the Scriptures teach.

We cannot leave this section without mentioning the plague of abortion. Since the legalization of abortion in this country, tens of millions of babies have been killed in the womb. Why have they been aborted? In many cases, the financial burden seemed too great. In other cases, the parents simply did not want the responsibility of raising a child. Often abortions were performed to save a young mother and/or her family from the embarrassment of an out-of-wedlock birth. Whatever excuse is given, ultimately, the reason why babies are aborted comes down to this: people do not recognize the great gift that children are.

Abortion does not just terminate a clump of cells; it kills one who was made in the image of God. Notice the following passages:

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:4-5).

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139:13-16).

These passages remind us that the unborn are known by God, formed by God, and that their lives are useful to God. We need to recognize this as well. We must never allow the world to shape our thinking when it comes to children.

How to Treat Children as a Gift

Understanding what the Scriptures teach about children being a gift from God, we need to know how to treat children as a gift.

First, we must be thankful for them. Hannah prayed to God that she might be blessed with a child (1 Samuel 1:10-11). The Lord granted her request. “It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked him of the Lord’” (1 Samuel 1:20). She then offered a prayer of praise to God, thanking Him for her son (1 Samuel 2:1-2, 5). We are to be thankful to God for all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) – the blessing of children is no exception. We must not take them for granted or be ungrateful for the gift God has given us.

Second, we must value them. In speaking of God’s judgment against Ephraim, the prophet said, “Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up, they will bear no fruit. Even though they bear children, I will slay the precious ones of their womb” (Hosea 9:16). Though this passage speaks of God’s punishment for disobedience, note that the children were described as “precious ones.” Though the people rebelled against God, they still recognized the value of children. Each child is made in the image of God and is therefore valuable and special.

Third, we must deal with them appropriately. We often consider how to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us. In a sense, we are to be good stewards of the children with which God blesses us. We are not to neglect our parental responsibilities, but are to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This will be discussed more later in the series.

Conclusion

Our view of children must be shaped by the Bible, not by society. Of course, this is true for everything. Paul said, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Children are a gift from God. While there are responsibilities that come with parenting – and these must be taken seriously – children should not be seen as a burden, but as a blessing.


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