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No Kidding

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Date August 16, 2002

NO KIDDING

Children are a covenantal blessing. Children are not an unmixed blessing, and I would quickly disabuse any starry-eyed romantic who thinks otherwise

by William H Smith

There was a time when we thought there might be no kids for us. We were scheduled for a doctor’s appointment to discuss among other things the possibility of adoption when we found out Calvin was “in the oven.” The rest, as they say, is history – five boys born in just over 8 years. As a parent with a little experience, I think I might be able to make a few useful observations about kids.

They are a blessing from God. I am not against what is called family planning. Those who oppose it seem to me to make several mistakes in reading the Bible. I understand family planning (those methods which prevent only conception, not any which interrupt pregnancy) to be a lawful exercise of man’s dominion over creation, to be a merciful means to relieving a part of the curse upon woman, and a responsible exercise of human responsibility under the sovereignty of God. But, it seems to me, that “family planning” can go too far. For some the pendulum has swung to the extreme that we no longer justify preventing conception but must justify the failure to prevent conception. Others seem to think that planning means knowing in advance that we can make a financial go of it before having children. I suppose this would require pulling out the calculator and multiplying the costs of rearing a child from birth to adulthood times the number of children we might want to have and seeing if the bottom line allows Had we taken this approach we would have had exactly none! We always need to approach this subject remembering that the mandate “to be fruitful and multiply” given to our first parents has not been rescinded and that the Psalmist declares that children are a blessing from the Lord and that the man whose quiver (the image is of an archer and his arrows) is full of them is a blessed man. Frankly, my wife and I have through the years been offended when people have expressed their sympathy for us because we have five children or have five boys. We’re glad we have five children and are thankful they are boys.

Children are a covenantal blessing. Children are not an unmixed blessing, and I would quickly disabuse any starry-eyed romantic who thinks otherwise. Kids cost a lot of money, they are awfully inconvenient, they put limits on your standard of living, they break your heart a lot, they have a lot of poopy diapers, and you can never stop worrying about them. But they have wonderful potential for blessing us for God is in covenant, not just with individuals, but with families, even with generations. Yes, there are “covenantal mysteries” in which children brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord seem to go astray (don’t give up on them – you never know what God will do). But God has promised to be our God and the God of our descendants after us; the promise is to us and to our children; if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved, we and our households. As parents who have received the promises at the baptismal font we should make it our prayer and our ambition, not only that they will believe, but that they will be a part of a generation more faithful and godly than ours. How else is the kingdom going to advance than if our children are better and do better than we? We can accomplish work for this goal, not as isolated families, but only as a community in covenant with God and with one another. This is what the TRIAD at Westminster is all about – family, church, and school working together and each the stronger for it.

Children are a covenantal blessing who need discipline. They need discipline in the broad and positive sense of covenantal training – all that we do striving by every means of God’s appointment to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Paul charges especially fathers to take this
responsibility: “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). But they also need discipline in the negative sense of correction and punishment for wrong doing. Since they are covenant children, we do not treat them as reprobates, but we do treat them as sinners. They may be sinners in need yet of regeneration or sinners in need of sanctification but little sinners they are. The book of Proverbs was written not to pagans but to the covenant community, and it teaches repeatedly the necessity of negative discipline. Just one of the texts makes the point: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Porverbs 22: 15).

When our children were quite young and we lived in Mississippi we were sometimes suspected of being liberals about kids. We did not think that the only method of discipline available to parents was spanking. We did not think anyone but parents should apply this form of discipline (see Ted Tripp who says the same thing). We thought there came a point in child rearing when this form of discipline should recede and then disappear. We did not like “the abeka system” of education which required children in school to sit in their desks with their hands folded on top and to speak not a word. If that made us liberals then, we are liberals still.

But something has happened. We have become conservatives of the most conservative sort! Why? Because we believe children should respect and obey adults, behave themselves properly at home and in public, and get punished if they don’t and until they don’t. If parents don’t work at unbinding that folly (sinful ignorance of God and His ways), we have no hope of the next generation being and doing more for God than we.

At Wallace Church an older lady took “a shine” to our family. Once or twice a year she would invite all seven of us out to dinner at a nice restaurant, where she would provide “the works.” Afterward we would always return to her home where we would be served her delicious desserts using her china and crystal. And it worked! Why? Because we told them how they would dress (Sunday clothes and shoes), how they would conduct themselves in the restaurant and her home, and how they would speak to and treat “Miss Mary.” And they did it. No one went to dinner in fear of his life. No other dinner saw the skittish look of the abused child. What they saw were imperfect parents who failed in many ways (the kids can give you a long list!) with imperfect, loved, and disciplined children.

We hear a lot about “the children” these days. The best thing we Christian can do for the children is to treat them as the blessing they are, rear them in the covenant faith, and provide them with covenant discipline. I’m not kidding!

William H. Smith, Sr. Pastor
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1400 Evangel Drive
Huntsville, AL 35758
256-830-5754

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