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July 25, 2007 / beidson

Empty Tables and Suicidal Cries: When Having No Children is a "Blessing"

The other day I was eating with family and friends and the topic of conversation turned to children. My wife and I mentioned that we were hopeful we would have more children in the near future, to which someone responded, “Another kid?” as if one was already too many. He said this sitting around a dinner table full of people, enjoying the company of his wife and in-laws, two of which were siblings of his wife. I thought, “Aren’t you glad your in-laws decided to have more than one child?” In his defense, I believe they do want to have children, one day, way on down the road. But the point is this: What’s wrong with having children? Is it really that bad?
As Jesus was being led to the place of his crucifixion, Luke tells us that women were following him, weeping aloud and lamenting for him. Jesus turns to them and says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:26-31).
What could be so horrific that women without children would be considered blessed? Conditions so bad that death is an appealing alternative. A reality so terrible that you wouldn’t wish it upon your worst enemy, especially upon little children. And so you would consider women “blessed” who did not have to endure the pain of seeing their children suffer.
But considering the verse I referred to earlier, you might expect to hear something like this today: “Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed . . . because they are free to be young and pursue beauty and wealth and entertainment, and do not have to worry about the responsibility of being a parent, and do not have to deal with the physical changes that motherhood brings which may make the body less Cosmopolitan . . . But for those who are not barren, and do have to nurse, well, it’s almost as bad as being under a crumbling mountain.”
The difference is in the reason Jesus says childless women will be called “blessed” and the reason many today would call childless women blessed: the people in Jesus’ story wouldn’t wish death upon children; others today are wishing that children never even live at all, that is, that they themselves wouldn’t have to deal with children, at least until it’s convenient.
We might expect unbelievers to hope for many childless years so that they could pursue their careers or hobbies, but for believers to hope that children don’t interrupt their lives is unbiblical. Scripture is very clear that children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:10), that barreness ought to be considered abnormal, and that fertility and child-bearing ought to be matters of prayer (as seen with Hannah and with Zechariah and Elizabeth).
Psalm 113 blesses the name of the Lord for raising up the poor and needy and for making the barren woman the joyous mother of children. He takes those who can’t feed themselves and feeds them; he takes those who have no mouths to feed and gives them a table full of little hungry tummies.
I wouldn’t wish death upon anyone, let alone little children. Yet I would also wish life to many couples I know who long to have a child, and to all of the couples who are able yet despise the idea of being responsible for children. I’m not saying it is a sin to not have a child, or to put off having children temporarily. What I am saying is that it is sin to consider childlessness a blessing for the wrong reasons.
I am glad the table was full that day. I would hate to sit down to an empty table and eat alone. And I am glad that we have a child. I would never wish death upon her, but even more, she will never be the cause of me wishing death upon myself. I will never cry out suicidal cries because of teething, disobedience, and dirty diapers. My daugther is a blessing, and I would rather the mountains fall on me and the hills cover me than ever come to the point where I wished she was never born.
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