Responsible Childbearing in This Time of the End
“Presiding in a fine manner over children.”—1 TIMOTHY 3:12.
1. What is a natural desire of most women, and how does this show up early in life?
THE joy of parenthood is undeniable. The maternal instinct is natural, although stronger in some women than in others. In many Western lands, little boys are more interested in playing with mechanical toys, while little girls generally prefer dolls, which toy makers strive to make as realistic as possible. Many girls just live for the day when they will be able to cuddle, not a doll, but their own live, warm, gurgling baby.
Joys and Responsibilities
2. How should parents consider a newborn baby, and what must they be prepared to undertake?
2 Responsible childbearing requires parents to consider a newborn baby not as a plaything but as a creature for whose life and future they are accountable to the Creator. When they bring a child into the world, parents must be prepared to take on a big responsibility and adjust accordingly. They are embarking on a 20-year feeding, clothing, health-care, and education program, with the end result unpredictable.
3. Why can Proverbs 23:24, 25 be applied to many Christian parents?
3 Happily, a great many Christian parents have raised children who have become faithful, dedicated servants of Jehovah. Some have seen their children grow up and enter the full-time service as pioneers, missionaries, or Bethel family members. Of such parents it can truly be said: “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Proverbs 23:24, 25.
4, 5. (a) What is Scripturally required of elders and ministerial servants who have children? (b) How have some children meant “adversities” to their father?
4 But this is not always the case, even for elders who have children. The apostle Paul wrote: “The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, a husband of one wife . . . a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness; (if indeed any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?)” Paul added: “Let ministerial servants be husbands of one wife, presiding in a fine manner over children and their own households.”—1 Timothy 3:2-5, 12.
5 Of course, Christian elders and ministerial servants cannot be held responsible if their children, once of age, refuse to continue serving Jehovah. But they are responsible for their minor children and for older children who are still living under their roof. Elders and ministerial servants have lost precious privileges of service because they became negligent or failed seriously to meet the Scriptural requirement of “presiding in a fine manner over children and their own households.” For such ones, and for many others, their children brought them more distress than joy. How often the proverb has proved true: “A stupid son means adversities to his father”!—Proverbs 19:13.
6. What question should Christian husbands ask themselves?
6 All Christian husbands, whether they have congregational responsibilities or not, should also consider the effect that taking care of young children could have on their wife’s spirituality. If a wife is not spiritually strong, how will a baby, or a number of babies, affect her personal study and opportunities to share in the preaching work?
7. What has happened to some Christian wives, and what is often the cause of this situation?
7 Do husbands always realize that taking care of a baby or a young child often prevents their wives from getting full benefit from the Congregation Book Study, Kingdom Hall meetings, circuit assemblies, and district conventions? Such a situation can last for months, and even years, when baby follows baby. It is in the nature of things that the load, in this respect, falls mainly on the mother, rather than on the father. It has sometimes been observed that whereas some Christian men progress spiritually, even to the point of being assigned privileges in the congregation, their wives become spiritually weak. Why? Often it is because their young children prevent the wives from concentrating at meetings, doing deep Bible study, or sharing in a large measure in the witnessing work. Can fatherhood be called responsible if it permits such situations to develop?
8. How do many fathers share the load of looking after the children, with what benefit to their wives?
8 Fortunately, this is not always the case. Many Christian fathers do their utmost to share the load of looking after the children. They take their full share in seeing that their children remain quiet during congregation meetings. If their baby starts to cry, or their child becomes boisterous, they in their turn will take it outside for appropriate discipline. Why should mother always be the one to lose parts of the meetings? At home, considerate husbands help their wives with the chores and in getting the children to bed so that husband and wife can sit down to concentrate quietly on spiritual matters.
9. What proves that children are not always a handicap?
9 When things are properly organized in a congregation, young mothers with babies can share in the auxiliary pioneer service. Some are even regular pioneers. So children are not always a handicap. Many Christian parents show a fine pioneer spirit.
Childless But Happy
10. What have some married couples decided, and how have they been blessed?
10 Some young couples have decided to remain childless. Although the wives had maternal instincts just as strong as those in other women, they decided, in agreement with their husbands, to refrain from having children in order to devote themselves to serving Jehovah full-time. Many of them have served as pioneers or missionaries. They can now look back over the years with gratitude. To be sure, they have produced no fleshly children. But they have produced new disciples who have continued faithfully worshiping Jehovah. These ‘genuine children in the faith’ will never forget who was instrumental in bringing them “the word of truth.”—1 Timothy 1:2; Ephesians 1:13; compare 1 Corinthians 4:14, 17; 1 John 2:1.
11. (a) Where are many childless couples serving Jehovah, and why do they not have any regrets? (b) What scripture can be applied to all couples who have remained childless “on account of the kingdom”?
11 Many married couples throughout the world who have relinquished the joys of parenthood have been able to serve Jehovah in the circuit work, the district work, or at Bethel. These likewise look back with satisfaction over their lives spent serving Jehovah and their brothers in these special privileges. They have no regrets. While they have not had the joy of bringing children into the world, they have played a vital part in furthering Kingdom interests in their various fields of activity. Of all these couples who have remained childless “on account of the kingdom,” the scripture is surely applicable that says: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.”—Matthew 19:12; Hebrews 6:10.
A Personal Matter
12. (a) Why is childbearing a unique privilege? (b) During what periods was childbearing a God-given assignment?
12 As we saw at the outset of this discussion, childbearing is a gift of God. (Psalm 127:3) It is a unique privilege that is not shared by Jehovah’s spirit creatures. (Matthew 22:30) There have been times when the bearing of children formed part of the work that Jehovah assigned to his servants on earth. This was the case with Adam and Eve. (Genesis 1:28) It was true of the Flood survivors. (Genesis 9:1) Jehovah willed that the sons of Israel should become numerous through childbearing.—Genesis 46:1-3; Exodus 1:7, 20; Deuteronomy 1:10.
13, 14. (a) What can be said of childbearing today, and what criticism would be inappropriate? (b) While childbearing in this time of the end is a personal matter, what counsel is given?
13 Today, childbearing is not specifically a part of the work Jehovah has committed to his people. Nevertheless, it is still a privilege that he grants to married people if they desire it. Christian couples who decide to start a family should not, therefore, be criticized; neither should couples who refrain from having children.
14 So the matter of childbearing in this time of the end is a personal one that each couple must decide for itself. However, since “the time left is reduced,” married couples would do well to weigh carefully and prayerfully the pros and cons of childbearing in these times. (1 Corinthians 7:29) Those who do choose to have children should be fully aware not only of the joys childbearing can bring but also of the responsibilities involved and the problems that can arise for them and the children they bring into the world.
15, 16. (a) What attitude should be avoided when an unexpected pregnancy occurs, and why? (b) How should any child be considered, involving what responsibilities?
15 Some may say: ‘That’s all very well, but what if a child comes along unexpectedly?’ This has happened to many couples who were fully aware of the fact that this is not the ideal time to bring children into the world. Some of them had been in the full-time service for years. How should they view the arrival of the unexpected newcomer?
16 This is where responsible parenthood comes into play. True, a pregnancy might be unexpected, but the baby that comes along cannot be considered unwanted by Christian parents. Whatever changes its arrival might bring about in their lives, they should certainly not feel resentment toward it. After all, they were responsible for its conception. Now that it is here, they should accept their changed situation, knowing that, in one way or another, “time and unforeseen occurrence befall” all humans. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Willingly or not, they have taken part in a creative act of which Jehovah God is the Author. They should accept their child as a sacred trust and lovingly assume their responsibilities as “parents in union with the Lord.”—Ephesians 6:1.
“Do Everything in the Name of the Lord”
17. What counsel did the apostle Paul give to the Colossians, and how can this advice be followed today?
17 Just before he gave counsel on family matters, the apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17-21) Whatever state a Christian may find himself in, he should be thankful to Jehovah and take advantage of his situation to “do everything in the name of the Lord.”
18, 19. (a) How can single Christians and childless couples “do everything in the name of the Lord”? (b) How should Christian parents view their children, and what goal should they set for themselves?
18 The Christian who has chosen to remain single will use his or her freedom, not for self-indulgence, but to work “whole-souled as to Jehovah,” if possible in some form of full-time service. (Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 7:32) Similarly, a married couple who decide to refrain from having children will not selfishly ‘make use of the world to the full’ but will give Kingdom service the largest possible place in their lives.—1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
19 As for Christians who have children, they should accept their parenthood in a responsible way. Far from looking upon their children as a hindrance to serving Jehovah, they should consider them as a special assignment. What will this entail? Well, when a dedicated Christian meets someone who shows an interest in the truth, he starts a regular home Bible study with that one. Having started the study, the Witness is very diligent, returning week after week in order to help the interested one to make spiritual progress. Nothing less is needed in the case of a Christian’s children. A regular, well-thought-out Bible study, starting as soon as possible and held on a regular basis, is needed to help the youngster to grow spiritually and to learn to love his Creator. (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Additionally, parents will be careful to set a good example of Christian conduct in the home, just as they do in the Kingdom Hall. And where possible they will take the responsibility of training their children in the field service. In this way, in addition to preaching to other adults, parents will seek, with Jehovah’s help, to “make disciples” of their own children.—Matthew 28:19.
Children During the “Great Tribulation”
20. (a) What is ahead of us, and of what difficulties did Jesus give warning? (b) What bearing do Jesus’ words have on rearing children in the time of the end?
20 Ahead of us is the “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) It will be a difficult time for adults and children alike. In his prophecy on the conclusion of the present system of things, Jesus foretold that Christian truth would divide families. He stated: “Furthermore, brother will deliver brother over to death, and a father a child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.” (Mark 13:12) Obviously, rearing children in the time of the end would not always be a pure joy. It could bring heartbreak, disappointment, and even danger, as Jesus’ words quoted above show.
21. (a) While contemplating the future realistically, why should parents not be unduly concerned? (b) What can be their hope, for themselves and their children?
21 But while being realistic about the difficulties ahead, those who have young children should not be unduly concerned about the future. If they remain faithful themselves and do their best to bring up their children “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah,” they can be confident that their obedient children will be favorably considered. (Ephesians 6:4; compare 1 Corinthians 7:14.) As part of the “great crowd,” they and their young children can hope to survive “the great tribulation.” If such children grow up to be faithful servants of Jehovah, they will be eternally thankful to him that they had responsible parents.—Revelation 7:9, 14; Proverbs 4:1, 3, 10.
□ What long-term program does the birth of a child involve?
□ Why have some elders and ministerial servants lost their privileges?
□ What factors should a Christian husband consider with regard to his wife’s becoming pregnant?
□ What proves that a Christian couple can be childless and happy?
□ How should the birth of a child be considered by the parents, and why do they not have to be unduly concerned about the future?
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Fathers can share the responsibility of keeping children quiet during meetings