I met a guy who had just become a father for the second time. I was inquiring on the health of his infant son. I was a surprised when suddenly he said, “you know what, babies are costly”. Of course, babies are ‘priceless’. But he actually meant, “kids are ‘high maintenance'”. I replied, “Oh, well… of course, kids cost money. But kids are what we live for… at the end of the day”. He replied, “Yes, that is a good way to look at it.”
Sometime back, I was talking with a guy from Church. He was well employed and married. He said that his wife wanted kids, but he wanted to postpone it. He said he might be able to hold out for another two years before acquiescing to his wife’s wishes. Once upon a time, I think kids were seen as a ‘blessing from God’. But now, by default, kids are seen as a ‘liability’ to be avoided as much as possible or accepted as the last resort.
Why do we live in a world where kids instead of being seeing as ‘blessings’ are seen as ‘liabilities’ monetarily and more. Broadly speaking, pre-modern values dictated the man lived for the sake of his progeny. In the book ‘How Then Shall We Live’, Francis Schaeffer says that, in contrast to the pre-modern values, the ultra-modern man see two primary values worthy of pursuit, ‘affluence’ and ‘personal peace’. Kids are a threat to both. Today, if you would go and tell an urban ‘progressives’, “you live for you kids”. He/she will probably wonder, “Wow!!! So my life is not about who I want to be? It is about the kids?”
I was chatting with a childhood friend of mine. She had been married for about 4 years. She said that her husband did not want to have kids yet. I asked why. “Oh well, he thinks he is still in his teens and wants to enjoy life more before having kids”. Pre-modern man saw marriage as a means to have children. Ultra-modern man sees marriage as a means for ‘personal fulfillment’. He’ll have kids only as long as he see that as a means to ‘personal fulfillment’ of some sort.
The young Steve Jobs is a case in point. He impregnated a girl (I believe in his early 20s) and refused to own up to it for 2 years. His court documents state, “that he couldn’t be a father because he was ‘sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.'” Later on in his life, he adored his kids he “procreated” with a different woman. This goes to the point that in the early part of his life, the kid was too burdensome to be fulfilling that he was willing to do anything to disown it, even call himself infertile. Most modern men wouldn’t go to the extent of disowning their kids, but they’ll do quite a bit to not have them in the first place.
I recently read through Genesis in my daily ‘quite time’ routine. One thing that really stuck me was how much of Genesis hangs around the idea of offspring. It is almost all of life’s meaning is drawn from the life of kids. Right at the beginning God starts talking about ‘multiplying’ and filling the earth. Then the story is about Adam and Eve and their children. Then Noah and his children. Then Abraham waits so long for a kid. Without Isaac’s birth, Abraham would have been a blip in the radar. During the time of Isaac, Isaac does not have kids. He prays and gets Jacob and Eusa. Then the story is more about Jacob and Eusa. During Jacob’s time it about how he gets to have 12 kids and then it is about Joseph. This focus of Genesis on the offspring makes a lot of sense, because, at the end of the day, the baton has to be passed so that the Name of the Lord is ultimately glorified and His blessings is carried forward through all the Nations. Christians of this generation don’t appear to be doing enough to pass on this baton.
Sociologists say that for any culture to thrive, each family on an average has to have about 2.5 kids. If it goes below this, then the culture would begin to die slowly. In fact the reason why Islam is spreading much faster than Christianity is because Christians have a lot fewer kids than Muslims.
I, being the disinterested observer, it is easy for me to say people should have more kids. It is easy for me to raise thorny questions. God has given us mandate for procreation and for preservation, and there is a balance between the two. I realize there are no easy answers. Life is hard work. Life is complex. Life is confusing. Nevertheless, I think unless we STOP seeing marriage primarily as a means to ‘personal fulfillment’ and start seeing it primarily through God’s intended purpose of procreation, there is very little in this world to encourage people living in individualistic cultures to have kids. Living in consumerist societies, we want everything cheap, Kids being priceless is something that is out of our league. Sadly so!