Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are children a financial burden too great to bare?

The fact that there is a monetary expense in rearing a child is not a new notion.  However, according to an article from Yahoo! news the cost is now close to a quarter of a million dollars.  This government report says that it has measured the total cost of raising a child in today’s economy until the age of 17 to be  $234.900, not including college expenses. 

As I read this article I immediately thought of the young men and women looking at the prospects of marriage and wondered how this supposed research would affect their family planning.  If they believe that the expense of simply raising one child would cost them a little more than $13,800 a year it is likely that they would wish to put off having children as long as possible.  Rather than looking to the blessing of children with the first year or two of marriage, they would likely look to ungodly methods to prevent childbirth.  To ensure they were not “surprised” with a child in addition to other contraceptives abortifacents, such a birth control pills, would likely play a factor in the lives of these uninformed couples.  Thus, if the Lord sovereignly superseded their attempts at preventing childbirth they would put the life of the child in danger by taking birth control and may themselves become the parents of a child who is forcibly miscarried by this horrific pill.

In addition, when they finally decided they wanted to have children the size of their family would be affected by this false research.  Looking at their household income they would factor in the $13K amount with the mountain of debt they most likely incurred during their first few years of wedded bliss.  They would think of all the plans they had, the trips they wanted to take, and the other desires in life and would likely come to the conclusion that the fewer children they had the more they could afford.

Truly our country has lost its bearings in regards to the family.  When we look at the teachings of Scripture in comparison to the world we see a contrast that is impossible to ignore.  The world touts the materialism of possession pulling many into mountains of debt while using mis-informed research such as this to pressure many into smaller families and some even decided to live lives devoid of children completely. 

But Scripture paints these issues in reverse order.  God says children are a blessing and a reward (Psalm 127:3) and debt is curse or blight upon the home (Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44).  If they were any doubt as to how the world’s values line up with the Lord’s, this is enough evidence for the believer to know that we are called to a life of stark contrast to how the unregenerate live. 

When the importance of children is weighed against this proposed and apparently inflated cost we have begun to equate their lives as nothing more than a liability.  In the eyes of the world children are to be measured on the same level as any other economic venture.  I can personally attest to the ridiculous nature of this research.  As a father of six children on a military income, which is salary based, I can assure you that it does not cost the amount which these researchers propose to raise our children.

The problem with the research
How could such numbers be so grossly inflated?  The answer is much simpler than you may think and can be broken into two categories:  1) The entitlement mentality and 2) Confusing wants with needs.

The entitlement mentality is more pervasive with this existing generation than many are willing to admit.  I have personally witnessed young men and women entering the military, my branch in particular, who have been raised to believe that the world is in some way indebted to them.  Our government has been the primary fuel for this consuming fire.  With welfare numbers skyrocketing and new government “assistance” programs sliding through Congress on a regular basis, it is no wonder why the up and coming generation believes the way they do.  The entitlement mentality though stems from the second category of confusing wants and needs.

Spend even a little time with most people over the age of 50 and you will be blessed with stories of how they and their family were able to accomplish so much with so little.  In fact, a good friend of ours recently showed us the picture of the home where his parents raised him and his brother…in the wilds of Alaska.  He told me stories of how little they had to get by with but how satisfied they were.  Their home was simple, their needs were basic, but their hearts were warmed by the love their parents shared.  Now step into any local mall and watch as many of today’s parents buy the latest attractive trinket that catches their child’s eye.  Could it be that these are the parents who are responsible for such false research believing that they must provide their children with the most advanced tech and latest fashionable attire?

Had those who performed this research come to my home I would have gladly assisted them in their endeavors.  I would have also been willing to point them to other Christ-centered families of similar mindset.  But this type of data does not bring the readers and the government funding that they are accustomed to.  No this information would show that children are not a blight but a blessing.  Blessings which are to be treasured and raised to fear and admonition of the Lord.

There is a cost in raising children but it is the expense of time, love, and sincere study of the Word of God.  Such a cost should not be seen as burdensome but as a blessing sought after by the people of God.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Doing what us right in our own eyes

Over a year ago in our previous church I teamed up with one of the other Pastors to preach through the book of Judges.  In our newly planted church, Reformed Baptist Fellowship of the Albemarle, we are nearing the conclusion of our preaching through the book of James and I have thought of picking back up in Judges from the first verse.  This has brought to memory several lessons I learned in my initial studies of the wonderful book of the Old Testament.

One verse is repeated several times in this book that continues to haunt my thoughts: "...Every man did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25b).  The three other verses where this phrase occurs in Judges (17:6; 18:1; 19:1) are all preceded with the phrase "...there was no King in Israel".  The demise of the Jews during this time in their history is equated to the refusal to acknowledge God and turn to their own clever devices to live as they pleased.  Without a godly leader to guide the people they placed themselves as the only authority for how they should live their lives.

Warnings of this practice of self-instruction and vain philosophical pragmatism are repeated in specifics in Psalms and Proverbs:

"For he flatters himself in his own eyes in order to find his iniquity, to hate it." (Psalm 36:2)
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who listens to advice is wise." (Proverbs 12:15)
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but Jehovah weighs the spirits." (Proverbs 16:2)
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Jehovah ponders the hearts." (Proverbs 21:2)

The people believed they had a better way of functioning and living other than that which God had specifically prescribed to them, they continued to falter with each generation suffering from sin effects of their parents.  When they repented, God would hear their cries and rescue His people but the following generation would themselves turn from God and spiral even further into sin than their predecessors.  Although God had revealed His will for the people in His Word, they turned from His guidance to seek what they believed to be a justifiable alternative.

In today's church culture we see such approaches to ministry.  People with noble intentions devise numerous approaches and methods of ministry citing statistics and research to justify their ideas.  Christian publishing companies abound with material created as a result of these approaches.  While you will find Scripture peppered throughout their pages, most are inserted after the method is devised and not as the basis for said method.

Among these exist age-segregating ministries such as Youth ministry, children's church, nursery, and age-graded Sunday School.  These are a regular staple in our churches today and it would in fact be uncommon to actually walk into a church and not find them.  Such a church not having these types of ministry would seem archaic and would eventually be encouraged by others to update their view of ministry and functionality of the church.  But this approach is a relatively new invention.

Rewind to the previous church generation and while you would still find such ministries they would exist with much less regularity.  Rewind a few more generations and we would see an even more sparse occupation and placement of age-graded ministries comparative to today.  Continue going back a little further into church history and you quickly arrive to the point where such ministry approaches were completely absent.  In such churches families were not only expected to gather together in the corporate meetings of the local church but if they did not the fathers of such families were lovingly held accountable for not leading their homes in a biblical manner.

How have we arrived at the point where it is expected that children are ushered out of the corporate gathering of the church and the youth are corralled together under the supervision of someone who, although unknowingly at times, subverts the authority of their parents?  Because many have sought to do what is right in their own eyes and created methodologies starting with desired results as the foundation and not Scripture.  I am of course not equating the deliberate, sinful intentions of the people in the book of Judges to those involved in age-segregated ministries, but the underlying principle remains the same.  When Scripture is abandoned, we have no foundation on which to stand other than our own ideas.  Pragmatism prevails and biblical sufficiency slides through our fingers.

Another element is crucial in understanding how we could arrive at this point as well.  As the book of Judges reveals, the absence of a leader seeking after God's face (Proverbs 27:8) resulted in a people who were self-led and did what each saw to be valid based on their own ideals.  Such a leader would have been there to remind them of the Scriptures and the God who so graciously saved their forefathers from slavery in Egypt bringing them into the Promised Land.  Such a leader would have sought to curtail the self-interest teaching that robbed the people of God's guiding words.  Such a leader would have forsaken the surrounding culture and world's methods in order to pursue God's design for His people.

Where are those leaders today?  Where are the men of God who will cast off cultural relevance and vain philosophies and proclaim what God has ordained?  Where are the leaders of our churches who will stand in the pulpits and say "No more...let God's Word be our authority and nothing else"?

Can we stop this trend and return our people back to the sufficiency of Scripture?  Yes, but only if we humble ourselves and willingly admit our failure to seek God's guidance in this area.  Let us rise up men and proclaim the Word as sufficient.  Let us not devise methods which are merely "christianized" copies of secular ideas.  Let us desire the Word of guide as our guide in life.  May we seek to return our churches, our families, and ourselves back to the Word.  May seek to do what is right in the sight of the Lord and not in our own eyes.

Thanks for stopping by!

To God be the glory,
Adam (and family)