“Children are a heritage from 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. Happy are those whose quiver is full; they shall not be ashamed, but will speak with their enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5
Much is made over homosexual marriage as the eventual end of humanity obviously because homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce. Such a narrow vision overlooks this certain reality: we are entirely too self-absorbed in our own lives, our own comforts, our own recreation, and our own futures so much so that children are being looked upon as an undue, unnecessary, and completely avoidable burden. Birth control and abortion have over time come to be represented and embraced as “rights”, and even in some Protestant denominations it is considered responsible to limit by chemical or mechanical means the number of children we produce.
What sort of message does this convey to the children we do have, especially in a very challenging economic environment in which it is said that part-time jobs are becoming the new norm? And when we struggle to make ends meet as many are, coupled with the screaming headlines that children are expensive, how do young children process this information especially in their formative years?
The headlines are glaring: “The cost of raising a child is $241,080.00”. This is only taking the child up to the eighteenth year, which obviously does not factor in the extraordinary cost of a college education. Broken down, this comes to $13,393.00 dollars per year, $1,116.00 per month. For the working family and for those just beginning their lives together as a newly married couple, these figures can be daunting and downright intimidating.
This latest information comes from the US Department of Agriculture and is based on a child born in 2012. There are variants according to the region in which the child is born and can even vary according to the two-parent couple’s economic status and whether both parents are working which factors in a roughly $1000.00 average monthly childcare bill. Breaking down the cost per region, however, does not speak to the overall message conveyed when even our government, a government which is now endorsing (if not outright underwriting) birth control and abortion as legitimate means, gets involved in warning us that parenthood may be a burden strictly reserved for higher-than-middle-income persons.
Of course if we put a pencil to the figures, it is easy for even the most religiously conservative person to suggest that if one cannot afford children, one should not reproduce. In our society there are no truer words spoken. It is like buying a new car when an older, used car is actually more affordable but buying the new car through creative financing that makes the monthly payments easier to reach. All these things and much more come from a dominant secular culture that is not so concerned with a “heritage” at all, let alone one from the Lord, and is certainly not concerned with the future of the community, the Church, or the nation. It is much more concerned with keeping up with the Jones’ and living the way our society thinks we should live in the here-and-now, and claiming “rights” we really do not have; according to standards that are not really standards but are rather cultural markers that shift with the tide or the direction of the wind.
Of course raising a child is expensive. So is insurance. So is eating out once or twice a week. So are luxury cars or big, four-wheel drive trucks for those who don’t even hunt. So are annual vacations to Disney World or beach condos. It is all a matter of perspective and priority, but we should not be led to believe children are the primary problem nor should we allow ourselves to be convinced that children are burdens. It is not children, per se, that are expensive; it is what we choose to do with these children and whether we will take the responsibility to raise them ourselves or put that onus on someone else. It is whether we will interact with our children and teach them vital social skills, or if we will hand them big-screen TV’s, Xboxes, iPhones, laptops, and other expensive, big-ticket items in their private bedrooms and leave them to entertain themselves. It is a matter of whether we will send our children to public schools or private schools. It is a matter of whether no-name denim jeans will do, or if they will “just die” if they lack designer jeans and fourteen pairs of “cute” shoes. It is about whether we teach them “values” by our own examples, or if we show them what is of true “value” by the choices we make.
Slice it any way you like, but children are not themselves the problem. The problem with children is that they are honest and direct. They notice everything, they see things much more clearly, and they ask a lot of questions. They are naive, but they are not stupid. Children force us to account for our lives and our choices, and children cause us to rethink everything we choose and do and say. They are truly a heritage from the Lord and a gift beyond our years, and we are genuinely blessed when our lives are endowed with children. The problem is that we are too shallow, too selfish, too self-absorbed, and too ambitious for our own good. And children call us on that. This is the true blessing which can come only from children. This reality, however, is not the headline we prefer, is it?