“Children are a Kind of Wealth”

“Children are a kind of wealth,” according to Barbara Curtis, mother of twelve ranging in ages 8-39. Most Americans would find this king of statement strange or flat out absurd. We are now living in an era in which a large family is considered by the mainstream to be a sort of freak show. It was not this way not so long ago. According to an excellent recent New York Times article

In 1976, census data show, 59 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had three or more children, 20 percent had five or more and 6 percent had seven or more. By 2006…28 percent of women ages 40-44 had three or more children, 4 percent had five or more and just 0.5 percent had seven or more.”

So a lot has changed in just 30 years. As an ONLY child raised in the 70s, I probably had an uncommon view. To me, a family with two children was normal.  A family with three or more children was large. My uncommon view then is common now.

We have chosen to buck the trend.

In spite of a downward economy, we still believe that children are a blessing from the Lord. As the father of four, I hesitate to say this, but I really do mean it: the more the merrier! People with less children often look at us and say that they don’t know how we do it. But we look at Pastor Tone (my associate pastor) and his wife, Missy, and say the same thing. They probably look at Jon and Kate and say the same thing. And Jon and Kate probably look at the Duggars and say the exact same thing. In other words, God gives you the grace to handle what he gives you, but you are not sure how others with more can do it.

Another great article to read on large families and their relationship to American society was a Christianity Today cover story written a few years ago by Leslie Fields (mother of six). Here is a portion of that article, describing the positive side of being the child in a large family:

What happens in larger families? Children are more tolerant. They learn that they are one part of a whole much larger than themselves and that the common good usually takes precedence over their particular desires. They also discover the principle of scarcity; they learn to conserve. Their clothes are on loan and passed on to others when they are done. They have to share their toys. They cannot take more food than they can eat, or someone else will not have enough. They can’t take long, hot showers, or someone else gets a cold shower. They learn that their singular behavior affects multiple people. They are not the center of the universe.

Children with multiple siblings are also more accepting. They practice living with a variety of temperaments, quirks, and ages. Older children cannot stay safely within their own peer group. They learn to hold babies, sing lullabies, and change diapers. A teenager cannot retreat, morose, into his bedroom every afternoon to listen to his music—his 3-year-old brother will jump on his back and demand a gallop around the room. A 16-year-old girl will trudge through the door from school, worry on her face, to be greeted by a flying 18-month-old jumping into her arms.

Children from larger families have to work together. Every morning, the grump, the overachiever, the early riser, the dreamer, the snuggler, and the toddler must negotiate their separate concerns toward a single goal: to get out the door and to their respective schools on time. In summer, for a family with a commercial fishing operation like ours, the goal is to pick all of the fish from all of the fishing nets before the next meal. The children have to help each other. They have to work together in storms on the ocean.”

Having a lot of children can also be a tremendous blessing to the parents. Yes it is financially draining. Yes it consumes your free time. But having lots of children helps me in the area where I need the most help: my sanctification. God takes the challenges of being the father of a “large” family and uses those challenges to forge a Christ-like character. I must love even when I physically exhausted. I must sacrifice my desires for vacations, bigger toys, nicer cars, etc., for food and clothing and other expenses. These challenges and sacrifices are the things that make me more like Jesus and make me dependent on His grace to be the husband and father I am called to be. 
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7 thoughts on ““Children are a Kind of Wealth””

  1. “I must sacrifice my desires for vacations, bigger toys, nicer cars, etc., for food and clothing and other expenses. These are the things that make me more like Jesus”

    I never thought about it like that.
    It is wonderful to think that the things I do simply because I love my kids so much, mirrror the acts of the One who loves me so much.

  2. Ha! You didn’t even mention the added element of being a church planter with four little ones. As a fellow entrepreneurial pastor and father of four, I heartily concur. When others look at us with judgment in their eyes and disbelief in their voice saying, “You sure have your hands full” all I can say is I do. I do have full hands, full arms and a full heart. My cup overflows and I do not deserve to be this rich, but I am the wealthiest man I know. I never knew I could feel so full, so happy, and so exponentially loved. We are launching arrows into the next generation.

  3. Interesting post, Brett. A few comments come to mind:

    First, I totally agree. Kids were the best “things” I never knew I wanted (9 years ago now)

    However, I’m not sure where the line is between “normal-sized” and “large families”. I mean, I have 3 sons, but considering your situation managing 4 children too long could break me out in hives! 🙂 However, when I do the math, it’s only 1 physical life/person/child different. That doesn’t seem that significant.

    God intentionally made parenting to contribute to refining us. Like He did with all relationships, there are dimensions of Him reflected in each – parent, child, marriage, the church, etc.

    The circumstances God blesses us with influence (?) the stories you cite. If you only had one child, but less physical means (lower salary, more debt, etc) would not you still sacrifice for that single child? Or would fewer children cause you to live more frivolously? Of course not! Not because we’re perfect, wonderful people, but rather because God has put within our hearts as parents the desire to provide for our children – even when their rotten. This is, of course, not unlike what He does for us every moment.

    I’m not trying to pick at nits…rather, I believe your position is an extrapolation of valuing life in general. Could you see yourself have the position you have – valuing a large family – and support abortion?

    Sorry for rambling and not being well organized in my thoughts. I just didn’t want to miss the moment and not respond to a great post.

  4. A very well written article and so very true. I’m the youngest of six. You have been given the gift to have many precious babies although you are an only child, and I just bet you can teach them as if you were one of many.

  5. Thanks, everyone for the very thoughtful and encouraging feedback.

    If I were to add anything to this post, I would want to emphasize that this post was in no way means that families that have only 1 or 2 children, or even no children at all, are less spiritual and fulfilled than larger families. God has different paths for different people.

    That being said, I do think it is sad that some in our society are increasingly looking upon children as a financial burden that cramps a lifestyle.

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