A Few Words to "The Mother Club"
on Behalf of the Hurting Ones Outside

By Mary Stephens
Feb. 2014

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 Charity suffereth long, and is kind;
charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed
up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own...

 

Recently I read a blog post by a well-meaning lady who was addressing an important subject.  She was debunking the "perfect family" ideal that has developed, thanks largely to Quiverfull, "Biblical Patriarchy" and Family Inclusive Churches.  This is the ideology that large families are more special, more blessed, have better "quivers" and are generally more to be admired by Christians than small families.  (And, let me say here that I have no problem with large families if that's what the parents want.)  The attitudes of some become almost idolatrous, if not fully so.  I was very glad to see her dealing with this subject as it is a serious issue.  No mother should be made to feel like a failure or inferior because she "only" has one or two or three kids!

However - my heart was also very deeply hurt by this lady's article (which is one reason I'm not sharing the link or quotes).  As I read her article I was so glad she was saying many of the things she said and yet so torn because of all the things she missed and even the things she was making worse and more hurtful for others.  You see, for all her good intentions she totally missed the fact that mothers of small families are not the only ones that are hurt by the "motherhood IS our identity" ideal.  She pointed out that women who are mothers to one or two or even adopted children are still "in the club" of motherhood.  I sat there and grieved in my heart for all of us who are mother to none.

Oh, sisters!  How long will you shut out the barren from being "one of us"?  How long will those who are not married or unable to have children (for whatever reason) be shut out of  "THE CLUB"?  Can you even imagine that this kind of behavior towards your sisters in Christ is honoring to the Lord Jesus??

Please note that what I've written here is not directed at the lady who wrote that blog post personally.  Again, I think that she had good motives in what she wrote.  I use her article as an example because it was a starting point for some things I had already wanted to say.
Not long before I read that article I had a sister in Christ crying on my shoulder because once again a "Christian sister" had said something unbelievably rude and hurtful to her about her bareness.  I am frankly appalled at the behavior of many who claim Christ when it comes to the subject of marriage and childbearing.  The unkind, intentionally hurtful things that are said in the hopes of putting another woman "under conviction" to perform - when she may not even be able to perform, no, not even adoption - I say, it is astonishing from people who want us to believe that they are following Christ!  Would the Lord Jesus say such things to His hurting child?  No!  Then why must you?  What right do you have to second guess the sovereignty of God Almighty, or imply that because someone is not where you think they should be in life it is somehow their fault or their "rebellion"?

I had better turn into other channels before I become guilty of overstepping my own bounds here.  But, I hope you get the point!  Trampling on hurting hearts is not a gift of the Spirit.

Are Children A Reward to Christians?

First of all, let's address this alleged "promise" of children that so many Christians appeal to in the Quiverfull and Patriarchy thinking.  Actually, I am only going to quote one verse from the passage usually used because my main point here is pretty fully addressed in this one verse.

Psalms 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

This is the Authorized King James Version and I believe it to be the infallible word of God.  I would like to point out rather emphatically that it does not say that children are a blessing.  (I think I can see some hackles coming up already.  Hm.)  Are children a blessing?  Yes, and especially if they walk in truth. 
3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  But, frankly, I've seen some kids that were not much of a blessing to their parents.  Some kids are an incredible challenge to raise, and I've heard more than one parent struggling with that.  I've even heard of a few parents who had a child they didn't even like - yes, Christian parents.  Some will judge them out of hand as being wicked for not "loving" their kid, but this is about honesty, so I'm going say that there are some kids that are not very easy to like.  If you don't know that, you need to get around more.  I'm not saying that their parents don't love them, but loving and liking are not always automatically connected.

But, the verse above says children are an heritage, not a blessing, nor a gift.  When modern translations change that word they cause a disconnect that can be very misleading.  The word "heritage" is of great importance because we are talking about an Old Testament passage of scripture written under the Mosaic covenant to Israel when they came out of Egypt.  This is Not about the church.  This is Not about Christians.  It's important to get this into our heads because the Hebrews under Moses' covenant were promised children as an heritage for obedience.

Deuteronomy 7:12-14 Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. [Emphasis added to some verses throughout this article.]

[Note: It's a funny thing that you don't hear many Christians claiming that they will have no barren cattle.  If you're going to grab God's promises to Israel either take the whole thing, or leave it alone.  Selective applications are hypocritical.]

Having said that I don't believe children are a reward to Christians, there is truth in the idea that raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Eph. 6:4, can be rewarding.  However, one man asked his wife why God would reward wicked people with children.  She said, "How do you know it is a good reward?"  This is a good question.  There are a number of different kinds of rewards in scripture.  One of them is the reward of the wicked, and not something a believer would ever want.  It may be that God gives them that reward sometimes partly through their children.  Psalms 31:23 O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.
The problem we run into is that there is no New Testament teaching that these promises were transferred to the church.  In fact, investigating the N.T. will show that our rewards for obedience are usually spiritual rewards, not physical! 

Over and over the N.T. believer is admonished to lay up treasure in heaven because that is where our reward is.  We are not promised land, nor children, nor spouses, nor wealth, nor anything physical for obeying Christ in this life, except in a few instances (which we'll discuss further on).

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Matthew 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.

The "fruit" that is spoken of as belonging to N.T. believers is from:

The preaching of the gospel -
Philemon 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:  [Note that Paul uses reproductive terminology here.  Our most important begetting as Christians is to birth others into Christ.] 

The teaching and edifying of the saints -
Galatians 4:18-19 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,  [Notice again the reproductive language.  This is very strong!]

Discipleship of younger saints by elder saints -
1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;  [We know that Timothy's real father was a Greek (Acts 16:1).  By the way, notice that Paul wants Timothy to war a good warfare.  That's an interesting point in light of teachings of the "Biblical Patriarch" Movement who want to believe that their children are their warriors or arrows.  Paul believed his "son in the faith", not the fruit of his own loins, was a warrior for God.  Why?  Because Timothy was born of Spirit and called to this work as child of God.  Paul did not have any children of his own that we know of.  Meditate on that.]

And, of course, the fruit of the Spirit -
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Now, for the incident I could recall that promises physical rewards in this life. 

Mark 10:28-31 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Perhaps this may apply, I don't know. But I do notice a few things here.  Peter was speaking on behalf of the disciples and the answer looks as if it could be quite exclusive to them or to disciples in Jesus' life time.  I say this because He answers in the past tense - "hath left..."  These are people who had done this already as He was speaking.  However, if we try to apply it to all believers in the church age, it becomes a bit awkward.  First, because we know that men like Paul did leave all for Christ and still ended their lives in poverty or martyrdom, and in Paul's case apparently without biological children.  (Yeah, so much for patriarchy and "200 year family visions".)  Also, in context of other church teaching, it's entirely possible that this concept is at least partially fulfilled in our being heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), and being now adopted into God's family.  In a very real spiritual sense we do have a hundred fold more family (except the wives!) than we do biologically.

Motherhood As A Christian Identity?

Ladies, I have no desire to downplay the importance of motherhood.  It is a good and noble thing.  It is biblical.  But, it is not your identity as a Christian.  Yes, mothers are certainly mentioned in the N.T., some of them with considerable honor, but whether you have one or fifteen or no children has no bearing on your standing in Christ.  Prove me wrong if you can, but I don't believe you can - at least not without running to O.T. promises to the children of Israel by seed.  As the children of Abraham by faith, we are another breed entirely.

The only specific verse that some might apply is 1 Timothy 2:15, Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.  This is a tough one to explain, however.  If you interpret it to mean that women will be saved - as their identity in Christ - through childbearing, you must then say that all women must have children in order to get to heaven, which is works salvation.  This is totally out of context with other N.T. teaching on salvation, so it simply can't mean that.  What it does specifically mean seems to be somewhat unclear to most people, and the ones who think they know usually have large holes in their reasoning.  2 Peter 3:15-16 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.  It's better to just admit we don't know than to be in error.

In Luke 11, when Jesus was teaching, a woman spoke up and said something interesting, to which He gave an even more interesting reply.

Luke 11:27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.

Notice that her emphasis was on who His mother was.  She was exalting His mother because she had borne this wise son.  Notice how she blessed Mary's womb and breasts - two of the major symbols of motherhood, both of them being sustaining and nourishing sources on a baby's journey to healthy childhood.  In thinking of motherhood as an identity, this should have been an acknowledged blessing.  But see what Jesus answers:

Luke 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Look at the first word given to us by the Holy Ghost -
"But".  This implies that an alternative perspective is about to be presented.  And Jesus confirms this. "Yea rather," He says.  In other words, "Yes, but in place of that..."  Mary was blessed to bare Him, but He is about to reveal a greater blessing instead.  "...blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it."  Look at that!  Meditate on that!  A greater blessing than owning the womb and breasts that sustained the Son of God is to hear and keep His word!  Ladies, this is a new and different view from the O.T. promise that so many try to claim!  Jesus Christ freed us from the need to produce offspring to be blessed!  We don't have to be in "the mother club" to have this greater blessing.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

This is our identity in Christ - to hear and do God's word.  Each and every one of us, married, single, mother, childless, are part of the body of Christ that is complete. 
Colossians 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:  We don't need to identify ourselves as wives or mothers to be blessed.  We are complete in Jesus Christ.  And, dear ones in Christ, That Is Enough.

Yes, it is true that unmarried women don't know some things that married women know.  It is true that mothers understand some things that barren and single women don't understand.  But, it is also true that women who married young do not understand some things that those of us who married later understand, and childless women understand some things that mothers don't understand.  I will even say that single women understand some things that wives and mothers don't understand.  Once we are born again and in God's family it is not about who is better, more blessed or more "in the know".  It's about walking by faith as a unified body - every member a necessary part, every part useful and helpful in the way God intends it to be.

This is a long passage, but I feel that it is needed in its entirety because there is so much "segregating" among the saints based on so many things - age, who has kids and who doesn't, who is married, who is single, who homeschools and who doesn't, race, tribe, family heritage.  The list goes on and on.

1 Corinthians 12:14-27 For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (1) And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee (2): nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked (3): That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it (4); or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

(1)  Please notice that God has put people where it has pleased HIM.  If that means without a spouse or without children, it is by His will and pleasure.  If that doesn't please you, you're the one with the problem.  To close them out of your "motherhood club" is displeasing to the God who was pleased to put these members in those positions.  Do you understand what I'm saying here?  Please read it again if you don't.

(2)  Yes, some people go so far as to ostracize women in their church or family who don't have kids and are not adopting.  They go so far as to nag and annoy the people who aren't married and aren't "trying hard enough".  Is that not something like saying to that part, "I have no need of you"?  Is it not telling them that they are worthless as they are?

(3)  Speaking of lack, when a woman lacks children or a husband, why does that make her less blessed than the rest of the body?  This says God has given those lacking parts more abundant honor!  In other words, you should be seeking to give more support and honor to those who are lacking what you perceive as "more comely" blessings.

(4)  Ma'am, may I ask you a blunt question?  When was the last time you sat and wept with a woman who couldn't have children?  When was the last time you sat and wept with a woman who desires marriage but is still single?  When was the last time you invited a childless couple or a single person to your home and treated them like family?  I am speaking here within the body of Christ, of course.  Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.  This is not a suggestion.  This is a command.

I wonder if you realize that those blessings (children) that you so scrupulously keep to yourself are not yours alone.  In one sense they belong to you.  In another sense they belong to the body, if they are believers themselves.  In fact, if they are believers, they belong to the body more than to you from all appearances. 

Remember how Paul called Timothy his son?  Timothy had a real father - a Greek unbeliever.  Paul was Timothy's spiritual father.  This is the marvel of being born again, - the new birth (John 3:3) - it puts us in a new family, and the dynamics are totally different from what they were before.  God did this on purpose because He knew that there would be those who were birthed into Christ who would not have saved parents, siblings, children, etc.  He knew there would be orphans, widows, childless, and single believers.  We are to behave as a family, as a body that works together - not to divide up into "clubs" based on things like age, schooling, marriage status, or childbearing.  It is a new way to think, and we are all called to this in Christ. 

1 Corinthians 4:6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

Conclusion

Alright, I've said a lot here and it's time to finish. 

My plea to the women in the "mother club" (and the "married club") is this - Honor those who lack.  Weep with them when they weep.  Stop making intentionally rude and unkind remarks.  ...study to be quiet, and to do your own business... 1 Thessalonians 4:11.  Let God be God for us as well as for you!  He allows many things to happen to His children so that we can reach out to others with His comfort and grace.  He ...comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  2 Corinthians 1:4  If God's children never experienced these "lacks", how would we know how to comfort others who are in these situations?  Bareness and unwanted singlehood is a common problem in the world today.  The Lord has given some of us the gift of understanding that in ways many of you never will.  Don't despise us for where God has been pleased to put us.  He knows what He's doing.  You probably don't. <smiles>  Many of us don't either.  But, we have to live by faith - just like you, sisters.

Ephesians 4:30-32 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

 

graphics and background by Mary Stephens

Written Feb., 2014
updated May 2015