KIDS ARE A BLESSING?
Written by Doug Ponder on October 27, 2013
Life with Kids
As you sit down for your lunch break on a local park bench, you notice a mother of three wrangling her kids. You can easily see the circles under her eyes even from where you sit. She has stains on her clothes matching foods from at least two separate meals. One of her children is throwing sand at random people passing by. One of her children is crying in the mud. The third child is making a beeline for the street nearby. She yells out in frustrated desperation just before she realizes that you’re there. When you make eye contact she manages to smile weakly, shrug her shoulders, and say, “Kids are a blessing!”
Why Kids Aren’t Always a Blessing
The truth is that even though we’ve been told ‘kids are a blessing,’ it very often doesn’t feel that way. So, what’s the problem? Why don’t we always experience children as a blessing as God intends?
There are several reasons. One of the problems is that we don’t understand what childhood is. That is, we are often wrong in our assumption about the nature of children. Similarly, many people are confused about their God-given role as a parent. For obvious reasons, it can be very hard to experience children as a blessing if you have no idea what it means to be a parent to them.
But the biggest reason why children often don’t feel like a blessing is because of the curse of Adam. We live in a world that is cursed by sin and evil. The effects can be seen everywhere. When it comes to human beings, for example, we are born with a corrupted nature into a polluted world. It’s like we are born with an appetite for toxicity in a world full of poisons that lead to death. That is why the Scriptures say things that we “go astray from the time of birth” (Ps. 58:3) and “even before birth you were called a rebel” (Isa. 48:8). We are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
More Like Scratched Up Chalkboards
The idea that we are not born as “blank slates” directly contradicts what many people think about human nature. Often we hear that children “don’t know any better” or “only do what they’re taught.” Yet just five minutes time with a baby is enough time to prove that children do understand quite a bit, and that they invent new ways of rebelling against authority even without being taught to do so.
That is why God says, “folly is bound up in the heart of a child” (Prov. 22:15). In other words, our sinful hearts are not something that we grow out of. Rather, they are something we keep growing into, unless they are corrected. That’s why God warns, “a child left to himself will bring shame to his mother” (Prov. 29:15).
Without correction, children actually grow to become a terrible curse to their families. “A foolish son is a grief to his mother and bitterness to his mother who bore him” (Prov. 17:25). “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother” (Prov. 10:1).
Hope for Parents (And Their Children)
What hope do we have? How can we raise our children to be the blessings that God calls them to be?
He was the blessed child and obedient son that we ought to have been. In his humanity he learned obedience through suffering, just as we do (Heb. 5:8). As a child he continually grew “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He was the child foretold from long ago, of whom it was said, “Unto us a child is born, unto to a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counseling, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isa. 9:6-7).
Jesus is the only person to have perfectly obeyed God the Father, obeying him even to the point of death on a cross. His resurrection vindicated him as the Son of God, and he is even now bringing to life the peace and righteousness of his rule on the earth. As we submit to him in faith, our hearts are changed by his Spirit and we are forgiven, cleansed, and renewed. In other words, children become blessings through the work of Jesus.
Does that mean that some children are blessings and others are not? Yes and no. All children are made in the image of God and all children are a blessing in the sense that they are a gift from God. But not all children are equally a blessing to God, to their families, and to the world. (Remember that God says foolish sons and daughters are a curse to their parents, cf. Prov. 22:15; 29:15.)
Becoming Good Parents in Jesus
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he contends with his enemies in the gate” (Ps. 127:1-5).
Sometimes these verses are cited by Christians to talk about the goodness of large families. This is true, but it misses what the real blessing is. The blessing of children is not the “pitter patter” of little feet around the house (although, of course, that is nice too). The psalm says that sons are like arrows to a man when he contends with his enemies at the gate. Thus the blessing referred to here is the blessing of grown children, well brought up and ready for battle. That kind of blessing is not automatic. It takes years—decades—of faithfully pouring into your children to this fruit. But it isn’t your effort that changes them. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
As you trust Jesus and do what he says, his Spirit changes you into the kind of parent that you need to be to help your children learn to do the same. Relationships with God’s people in the church can also help us as parents. The example of loving correction of other parents can reshape how we think about the way we live in the home, how we spend our money, our time, our effort, and how we think about things like education and family schedules. Finally, raising children to be a blessing involves genuine discipleship, that is, discipline and instruction (Deut. 6:1-9; Eph. 6:1-4). Together discipline and instruction teach our children to see how good it is for us to be loved and ruled by Jesus.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.