The birth rate in the United States has dropped once again, now to 13.5 birth for every 1000 people, the lowest such rate in at least over a century. News organizations and pundits are greeting this news by blaming it on the bad economy, arguing that there is less money to feed mouths, and that is why people are having less children.
While that certainly may be a factor in the short term, that hypothesis ignores the statistical facts; namely, that the birth rate has been in progressive decline since the mid-1950s. The birth rate has declined in economically prosperous times and in times like these, so it seems awfully short-sighted, or an act of plain ole willful ignorance, to say that money in peoples’ pockets, or lack thereof, is the biggest reason for the newest drop in the birth rate (a 2.6 percent decrease, even as the population grew).
What this signifies is merely the further degradation of American society as our nation moves away from the idea of biblical family and more toward the idea of self-gratification that exalts the self over Christ. It is no accident that the birth rate has fallen in the last fifty-plus years while the divorce rates have skyrocketed. It is no accident that the birth rate has fallen while adolescence (a dubious, unbiblical life stage) has extended into the mid-20s and beyond. It is no accident that the birth rate has fallen as the influence of Christian principles has regressed and the evangelical church at large has seemed more interested in catering ministries to distinct, homogenous demographic groups instead of taking the gospel to the nations and teaching fathers and mothers how to love one another and raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
We live in an anti-Psalm 127 world, in which men and women are seeking to build their own houses in vain, apart from the LORD. They rise up early and stay up late to earn cash to buy stuff they do not need. They do not trust in God nor His Son Jesus Christ, who blesses His people even while they sleep. They do not believe the word of God, that children are a blessing from Him, that the fruit of the womb is a reward, an asset, not a liability. Like arrows are an asset to the warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. In other words, the sacrifices you make to receive God’s blessings pay off and then some in the end.
But our society, and tragically many in the church, no longer believe this. The bad economy is not the cause for the low birth rate, but they are like symptoms of the greater and growing cancer: Christlessness. This, of course, is no surprise. We are fallen people in a fallen creation and sin is just doing what sin does: spread, permeate, saturate, affect each and every bit of our being, drive us away from the person of Christ and the will of God.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a revision of the original final paragraph. After some feedback and upon reading it a couple of times again for myself, I came to agree with the contention that some of my thoughts were, in the way they were worded at least, insulting. I apologize if you read the original and were likewise insulted, for that surely was not my intent. It is my belief that the following final paragraph better reflects my heart on the matter, and my prayer that it will be received in like manner.]
The Bible doesn’t command how many children believers should or shouldn’t have. The matter is left to husbands and wives in individual family situations to make these decisions for themselves. There are examples of both large families, smaller families, and childlessness in the Scriptures (although I would argue strongly that the latter is not the prescribed norm). Sometimes health concerns take priority. Sometimes there are other factors involved. God gives His people the gift of wisdom when they fear Him. There are, though, also some (but not all) who make the decision to not have children or to intentionally limit themselves out of selfish motives, in situations where there is more interest in building houses in vain (Ps 127:1) then enjoying the blessings of God’s gifts. If we believe God’s promises of blessings as a result of the new birth He has wrought in us, we must also believe God’s promises of blessings as it relates to the birth of children. It is my prayer that society might turn toward the LORD and that the church might repent from its sins and be truly counter-cultural by promoting, both in word and in practice, the blessings of having children.