Proliferate

By Michael W. Salemink

Date: February 28, 2019

Category: Family Living

Make “pro-life” into a verb, and you get proliferate. It means increase, multiply, mushroom rapidly and even ridiculously. Proliferate also indicates childbearing, begetting numerous babies. Every child embodies God’s own precious gift. That includes each additional child. More children bring more treasures, more privileges.

In God’s story, large families come with special blessings. The Scriptures speak enthusiastically about procreation and proliferation. Get a load of the good Lord’s very first words as soon as Adam and Eve opened their eyes, what He eagerly blurted out before anything else: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth!” (Genesis 1:28). Multiply instead of only adding! Join Me in the fun of making more! It’s such a central source of joy that He repeats it—thrice!—for Noah’s crew (Genesis 8:17; 9:1, 7).

The Bible can’t describe Job’s wealth without paying particular attention to his ten children. “[T]hat man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:1-3). Nor does the sacred record illustrate his agony apart from being deprived of them. “‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead’” (Job 1:18-19).

God’s epic promise to Abraham—the utmost benediction in Israel’s entire history—encompassed abundant descendants. “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). Two consecutive psalms declare the desire for God to grant this pleasure to each of His people. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward … Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3, 5). “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128:3).

Isaiah’s oracles exult in manifold children. “‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:1). And the prophet Malachi proclaims that the making of children provides a primary purpose of marriage. “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15).

Jesus Himself has only highest regard for how each successive child displays His grace. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). “[T]hey were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them …’. And he took them in his arms and blessed them (Mark 10:13-14, 16). “[C]alling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me … See that you do not despise one of these little ones’” (Matthew 18:2-5, 10a).

The apostles also consider children as proclamation of the Gospel and portrait of faith. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1). “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

To be sure, our God Father does not give the vocation of a large family to everyone. (And, of course, any quantity of family and offspring He bestows is a great benefit.) But we need not despise proliferation the way the world does. Indeed, we may appreciate and assist our brothers and sisters who engage in this holy (and delightful!) calling. And we may also raise our young ones to cherish procreation and adoption more than any personal preferences or material possessions.

The blessings of children always outweigh even the burdens!

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