The Politics of Fruitfulness
What does it mean to be pro-life across the board? We know, of course, that abortion-on-demand is a gross violation of the law of God, and we also know that biblical parents are really “into” their kids. But the question is much larger than this, and so we need to consider the politics of fruitfulness.
“In the multitude of people is the king’s honour, but in the want of people is the destruction of a prince” (Prov. 14:28).
This short proverb is not really ambiguous. What is being said here? As with many proverbs, the sentiments of each half of the proverb are juxtaposed. The first half of the proverb says that a large population is a glory for a king. The second half points to the disaster that awaits a political state when there is a dearth of people. The word for destruction here means destruction—ruination.
Children of Issachar:
There is a wonderful comment in 1 Chronicles of a blessing that had come to the tribe of Issachar. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do . . .” (1 Chron. 12:32). This being the case, there were no doubt lots of little kids of Issachar growing up in that same understanding.
There are numerous reasons for a message like this. First, we live in a day when genuine fruitfulness is regarded with genuine suspicion. If you tell a modern New York sophisticate that you are from Idaho and that you have five kids, he will look at you as though you need to retreat back into your cave. Second, we need to be reminded from time to time that the Bible is not a “spiritual” book. By saying this, I don’t mean that Holy Spirit didn’t inspire it; rather, I mean that the dualism that we learned from modernity, the dualism that separates realms of faith and realms of reason into separate compartments, is an unholy dualism. The Bible is authoritative over all of life, and this includes the part of life that requires you to get a van instead of a small two-door. And third, we need to think through this because we want to be like the men of Issachar. We are not looking at our Bibles clearly if we are not looking at our times clearly. This means that faithful preaching is not just exegesis.
This is not a message on birth control considered as a private family matter. When the Scripture is silent, we want to be silent as well. Nothing said here should be taken as a legalistic intrusion into the decision-making of a biblical family. But at the same time, this principle also means that when Scripture speaks, we want to speak just as loudly. And the Bible says, in numerous places, that fruitfulness is a blessing (e.g. Gen. 9:1, 7; Lev. 26:9; Dt. 28:2-6; Ps. 127; 128). Like all blessings, it can be mismanaged—large families are not automatically happy families. But everything else being equal, a blessing remains a blessing. The point that our passage is making, however, is that such a blessing is not just a private, family blessing. Fruitfulness is a political act.
An additional qualification is this: this message is not being preached because our congregations are somehow falling short in this matter. Demographically, a given population’s replacement rate is 2.1. children per couple. If that is the average, then 1,000 people today will be 1,000 people fifty years from now, and two hundred years from now. A rate significantly below that indicates that the culture is in a death spiral. Above that, the population is growing. The United States leads the developed world with a rate that is right about 2.1. Canada is at 1.5. Germany and Austria are at 1.3. Russia and Spain bring up the rear at 1.2 children per woman. Our two congregations average about 3 children per family. So this is not what you would call a scolding sermon. Rather, we should seek to understand the significance of this blessed obedience. It is not enough to be doing what comes naturally; we should seek to understand it in the light of God’s word.
We have been repeatedly catechized by our secularist leaders, and have been told that we have a population crisis all right—an over population crisis. But what is over population exactly? When a given population cannot feed itself, it would be fair to say that there are too many people. But this actually means that there are too many people who are not living under the blessing of God. The sin of unbelief looks at people as consumers. But faith sees people more as producers. After all, you were born into the world with just one mouth, and with two hands. What do you have when you have a population that produces more than it consumes? Wealth. What do you have when a population consumes more than it produces? Poverty . . . and overpopulation.
One Other Thing:
When this judgment happens, when this disaster befalls a particular culture, the Lord’s hand is in it. The prophet Amos asks, “When disaster befalls a city, have not I the Lord done it?” (Amos 3.6).This particular kind of ruination is not an exception. And in the modern world, we have added a twist that will make the disaster, when it finally comes, more complete and devastating. The secular West has built up a huge entitlements state, as an unquestioned ideal, which requires a young population paying into it.
Faith sees opportunity in the world that God made, and in the way God governs that world. Unbelief always sees insurmountable obstacles. Joshua and Caleb saw cities that could be conquered. The other ten spies saw cities that would be fiercely defended. And so it was to them, according to their faith.
All Who Hate Wisdom Love Death:
This is what Lady Wisdom says in the book of Proverbs (8: 15, 36). “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice . . . all they that hate me love death.” And this is precisely what we see around us. The culture that rejects biblical wisdom is the culture of death and fruitlessness. Think about this for a moment. Abortion and homosexual marriage are not just cultural sins for which there will be judgment at the Last Day. They are sins that bring their judgment with them. Seventy percent of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion. This is clearly an aspect of the judgment itself. The opposite is also true. Those who love the God of wisdom, who love Lady Wisdom, know what it is to love life.