A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
10th October 2005
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The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children's children! Peace be upon Israel! (Psalm 128:5-6)
Last Monday our sixth grandson was born. We still await a granddaughter! However another grandchild is due in a couple of weeks, so maybe this will be granddaughter number one—maybe grandson number seven.
Naturally it is a time when we are thinking of children and families and generations. So the mind goes back to the blessing of Psalm 128, which was read at our wedding: “May you see your children's children!”
The created order of the world leaves us with the natural desire to see our children and our grandchildren. Parenting is one of the great joys and satisfactions of being alive. It is therefore also one of the great disappointments and hurts of living. There can be real grieving and sorrow over being deprived of children. There can also be bitter heartache over wayward children. As the Proverb says “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him” (17:25). The disappointments and the hurts are the flipside of the joys and pleasures in children.
But within Israel the joys of family life were more than the natural human pleasures. There was a special sense of the blessing of God in seeing your children's children. The fifth commandment: “honour your father and your mother” comes with the promise “that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” To remain in the Promised Land involved keeping God's commandments especially to honour your parents.
Israel was given the Promised Land to live in for posterity. Passing the inheritance to the succeeding generation was to continue in the Land of Promise as God's people. That is why the Psalmist placed the wish to see your grandchildren in the context of the blessings from Zion, upon Jerusalem and Israel.
Yet Christians are reminded of the promise of the fifth commandment (Ephesians 6:3). For to us also is given the privilege of raising children to the praise and honour, as well as the fear and discipline, of the Lord. The blessings of this world continue to be blessings even for (or especially for) the citizens of heaven.
It is amongst those who deny God that the blessing of children and grandchildren is seen as a curse. The choice to live without children or to see childlessness as a blessing is a perversion of God's world and humanity. There are reasons for being childless—many of them sad consequences of being in the fallen world: sometimes choices with unintended consequences; sometimes choices that we did not make for ourselves. But the idea that it is a blessing to be without children is a sad reflection of the atheists' denial of life and denial of other people's life coming from their denial of God.
Our society, as it has turned its back on God, has slowly and steadily turned its back on other people and their life. Atheism and materialism go together. For the denial of God is the denial of anything other than material existence. Materialism and Individualism go hand in hand. For the acceptance of materialism reduces life to my material existence. People, personhood and relationships no longer matter as much as me and my personal satisfaction and fulfilment.
The current concern about the low birth rate in our society is a materialistic concern. Society is worried about who is going to be able to keep the economy going so that we can retire in wealth and comfort.
Western atheistic materialism has no belief in its own future. It is not concerned about passing on its values to the next generation. It is not concerned about the next generation.
But Christians welcome new life. We welcome the life of others. It is why we oppose the abortion and the euthanasia industries. It is why we are supportive of family friendly government legislation. It is why we rejoice with those who rejoice in the birth of another child or another grandchild. The Psalmist records God's attitude to children: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3)-----