10.16.2007

Casuistry in Family Planning: a "Fair-Seeming" Work?


We must distinguish between the Glory of the Word of God ... and fair-seeming works. ...

Saul seems to be doing the right thing (1 Sam. 15) when he does not kill all the cattle of the Amalekites but keeps the choicer animals for worship. But because God had clearly given the command that all had to be killed, this deed provokes Him to extreme anger. Therefore the fair-seeming work is nothing but an abomination, because it was undertaken against the Word of God.

(Luther's Works, vol. 2:355, as quoted in Steinbronn,
Worldviews, CPH 2007, p 125)


Abraham "obeys God's command without arguing." (LW 3:173) He simply cuts the throat of this baneful "Why?" and tears it out of his heart by the roots. He takes reason captive and finds satisfaction in the one fact that he who gives the command is just, good, and wise; therefore, he cannot command anything but what is just, good, and wise, even if reason does not make any sense of it.

(Steinbronn,
Worldviews, CPH 2007, p 128)

I'm interested in hearing how others would apply this truth regarding faith to what we might call cases in which casuistry allows for family planning in some instances. Also, how does this apply to the Roman Catholic argument from reason regarding "separating intercourse from procreation" leading to the praise of NFP in exceptional cases. If the Word of God is clear that family planning is an abomination in God's sight, can these cases of casuistry be anything but "fair-seeming" works?

16 comments:

pastorcurtis@gmail.com said...

"Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy. . . On it you shall not do any work." Exodus 20

"Which of you, if he had a son or an ox fall into a pit on a sabbath would not pull him out?" Luke 14:5

-----------

If one is convinced, as I am, that "Be fruitful and multiply" is an ongoing command of God, and that children are his blessing (Ps. 127), and that it just seems wrong to refuse a blessing, then yes, birth control is right out. It's sinful. That's the historic Lutheran teaching.

But enter life in a fallen world. Let's imagine a few tough situations and then ask how the RC tradition and your proposed "fair-seeming work" tradition would handle it.

1. Mom and Dad find out that each child they have will have a 75% of contracting a fatal genetic disease.

2. Mom has had serious complications in her last pregnancy, and the best medical advice says that her next pregnancy will certainly result in the death of the child, and may result in her own death as well.

And we could easily go on listing such situations. Your "fair-seeming work" ethic would say: Sounds good, but no dice. God says "be fruitful" and that means you. To go against it is sin.

Fair enough. But you really haven't answered the question of what those couples should do next. Should they A) continue to have intercourse as normal and trust in the Lord; B) live a life of complete abstinence in marriage; C) live a life of selective abstinence (NFP); D) use contraception; E) use medical sterilization.

If I'm reading you correctly, everything except A would be read as a sin in the "fair-seeming work" ethic. But would you or any pastor actually recommend this option to one of these couples? If a couple chose A, I may just salute their faith as stronger than mine - but then again, I might wonder if it was more tempting the Lord than faith they were engaging in.

And I don't think I could ever recommend A. Nor would the Lutheran tradition as evidenced in Fritz's _Pastoral Theology_: he advocates B in such situations. Now, B is less than ideal - disordered even - husband and wife aren't supposed to live like that. Likewise, I'd say, with C: less than ideal, disordered. But B and C are better than D and E.

And that's life in a fallen world: sometimes there are only bad choices - is option A less faith and more tempting God? After all it is written: He shall give his angels charge of you. . . but it is also written: thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

So the "fair-seeming work" ethic might find itself in situations where it sees all options as sinful. Well, we've still got to do something. So I reckon th FSW would have to say: "Go and sin boldly and lean on God's grace. But call a sin a sin."

The modern RC ethicists approach is slightly different. They want to argue that in such situations B and C are not just flawed options that must be done and handled with forgiveness and grace - but rather they are actually positive goods.

The real world pastor in me says: who cares. They both amount to the same thing: the RC priest heavily into ethics is going to recommend B or C. A traditional Lutheran who opposes birth control in line with the Lutheran tradition will also recommend B or C.

The only difference is that the Roman will argue that the circumstance makes B and C good works, while this Lutheran, if he thinks "fair-seeming work" ethics applies, will argue that they are sinful, but darn it, the world is fallen and sometimes we're stuck: so do this even while loathing and repenting and pining for the world to come.

But if someone would honestly say that A is the only option for these couples and that if they do anything but A they are willfully sinning and should be barred from the Lord's Table - well, I think that is a Pharisaical view. And I mean that literally, not as a smear. The Pharisees where right in saying that the Scriptures said that the Sabbath simply was not to be violated. No exceptions listed. But which of you, if your son or ox fell into a pit would not lift him out on the Sabbath?

So what do you think of Jesus' word there? Was lifting the son out of the pit on a sabbath a good work (the Roman view) or a sin and violation of God's law that had to be done even though it broke God's law (the "lesser evil" view)?

I lean toward the so-called Roman view, which is more probably called the traditional western ethics view (after all, in another place Jesus says, "Is it lawful to do GOOD on the Sabbath or evil?" before he performs the work of healing on the Sabbath.) But even should you disagree - the action is the same for that Old Testament farmer: you've got to lift the kid out of the pit even though it's Saturday. Likewise, sometimes the world is so broken that husband and wife cannot be fruitful.

As my own life and ministry attest, I am not trying to use this as an excuse for what most Americans do: use birth control simply because they refuse to receive God's gift for no good reason whatsoever - simply because they don't want this blessing from God. But in upholding God's law we must not become Pharisees. We must live in the real world.

+HRC

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

"...the Roman will argue that the circumstance makes B and C good works, while this Lutheran, if he thinks 'fair-seeming work' ethics applies, will argue that they are sinful, but darn it, the world is fallen and sometimes we're stuck: so do this even while loathing and repenting and pining for the world to come." -Pr. Curtis

I would tend to agree with you here. I have adopted the "conflicting absolutes" ethical position on cases requiring casuistry.

In answer to your question about Luke 14:5, yes, were I an Old Testament Jew I would consider lifting the son out of the pit on the Sabbath the lesser evil - the best choice in a sinful world, but still a violation of God's law. But in this case we're talking ceremonial law, aren't we? There is a distinction between ceremonial law and God's eternal/immutable moral law. In the New Testament world, I would not call lifting the son out of the pit on the Sabbath a lesser evil, but rather simply a good work (though all our good works are filthy rags in need of forgiveness).

And that last point in parentheses is what I believe is the defining point of Lutheran ethics. We never come out of any situation with anything but a complete and utter need for forgiveness.

Since you brought up "sin boldly," I would also like to clarify that mistaken Lutheran ethic. Luther's supposed "sin boldly" quote is a mistranslation and is therefore often misunderstood. What he actually said is this: "Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world." Source: Project Wittenberg (a translation by a fellow German member of my congregation).

Luther was paraphrasing Romans 5:20-21.

Das Gesetz aber ist neben eingekommen, auf daß die Sünde mächtiger würde. Woaber die Sünde mächtig geworden ist, da ist doch die Gnade viel mächtiger geworden, auf daß, gleichwie die Sünde geherrscht hat zum Tode, also auch herrsche die Gnade durch die Gerechtigkeit zum ewigen Leben durch Jesum Christum, unsern HERRN. (Luther Bibel 1545)

My English translation of the literal German: The law however came in besides, so that sin became more strong. But where sin becomes strong, nevertheless grace becomes even more strong, so that, as sin prevailed to death, thus grace also prevails through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Luther's point in the misquoted "sin boldly" statement was rather "let your sins be strong." In other words, don't minimize your sins. Rather, see them in all their ugliness so that you may rely all the more on the greater gift of forgiveness in Christ. Even our "good works" are in need of Christ's forgiveness. THAT is life in the real world, and this Lutheran position avoids both the errors of antinomianism and pharisaicalism.

Now, with all that in mind, I'd like to answer your hypothetical question of casuistry in cases of an extremely high risk of death to the mother. In such cases I would not limit the solution to NFP, but would actually advise NFP plus other methods of contraception to increase the protection of the mother. Actually, I would suggest she have tubal ligation. I would not recommend the husband have a vasectomy, because if the wife dies and he remarries he may then still have more children.

The conflicting absolutes in this case are the absolute command of God to (a) be fruitful and multiply, and the absolute command of God to (b) preserve the life of your neighbor. Since we would agree that we are not able to obey both "a" and "b," and that disobeying "a" would be the lesser evil, would we not want to choose the method of disobeying "a" that does the best job of obeying "b?" If I were in the situation, I would probably advise my wife to have a tubal ligation, and we would both throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ where we confidently obtain the forgiveness of all our sins, including the sin that accompanies ALL our good works.

PAX!

Erich

Kristyn said...

Just a comment here... First let me hasten to say that we are neither Lutheran nor Catholic but have been "investigating" both traditions over the past year after leaving the home church movement. We are a "fruitful and multiplying" family, not because of any church rule but because we believe God's word teaches it.
In mainstream American Catholicism, it seems to us that NFP is encouraged as a "better birth control" (though none would dare say so out loud). The effectiveness ("more effective than the pill") and benefits to marriage ("the wife won't feel like a sex object") are touted, while the true teaching of the Church is kind of hushed up. The idea of being fruitful and trusting in God to give you the children He wants you to have is only mentioned if a couple seems to be leaning in that direction already.
As to the first comment, the list of "what-ifs" remind me of the old adage that "Extreme cases make for bad law." We know several families that were advised by doctors to have no more children and went on to have many more. Most of these doctors seem to be dishing out socially "responsible" advice, not medical advice. In a truly extreme case a couple would be forced to seek God's will for them. For the rest of us healthy, red-blooded Americans, we are not an exception to the rule. We can always talk ourselves out of the will of God by turning ourselves into exceptions, when in truth we're not. We have suffered financial problems, I usually have long, difficult labors, and there are plenty of people who are quite vocal that we are crazy to have five children, and crazier still to hope for five more. But God is faithful. The same God who sends us these little lambs provides the green pasture and the quiet waters. I have not yet arrived (obviously), but it is my goal to trust Him in everything. If it's too easy than it's not really trust.
Just my two cents (and maybe a few cents more...)
Kristyn Hall
wife to Tim
mama to Morgyn, Ryleigh, Timothy, Nathanael and Simon

Eric Phillips said...

The Word of God, of course, is NOT clear that "family planning is an abomination in God's sight." There's a big difference between a command given by God directly to specific man--as in both this post's examples--and a command given by God to an entire race. Saul was personally bound to destroy the Amalekites, with all their flocks and herds. Abraham was personally bound first to sacrifice his son to God, and then to do no such thing. We are not personally bound to "be fruitful and multiply." The race _has_ been fruitful. It _has_ multiplied. It _has_ filled the earth. No one reading this post is in the situation Adam and Eve were, or Seth and his wife, or the children of Noah, in which the continuation and enlargement of the race might actually depend personally on him or her.

Anyone who takes the position that birth control is a sin even when we do it in order to avoid a greater evil (e.g. seriously endangering the life of the mother), and bases this opinion on the commandment, "Be fruitful and multiply" must also conclude that it is a sin to remained unmarried. If the whole human race has received this command through Adam and Eve, and it can be rightly obeyed only in the context of lawful marriage, then it must be incumbent on every human being to get married.

But didn't Jesus say, "Some men make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven," and didn't St. Paul say, "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife"? If we assume that "Be fruitful and multiply" is a law that binds every man and woman in history in the same way it bound Adam and Eve, then we'll have to conclude also that Jesus and St. Paul were just encouraging "fair-seeming works" when they said those things, and were practicing "fair-seeming works" when they refrained from marriage themselves.

But I don't think you want to apply that "pick the lesser sin and ask for forgiveness" logic to Jesus.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Kristyn,

Thank you very much for your comment. I agree with most of what you say, but I'd like to point out one unique thing you will discover if you find a true Lutheran church to investigate what it is that Lutheranism means. It is something you will not find in Roman Catholicism. I'm talking about the pure Gospel.

First, though, I'd like to warn you about the antinomian tendencies of supposed "Lutherans" like Eric Phillips who posted just after you. What he writes is not Lutheran. Ignore him.

Now, what I'd really like to respond to is your comment: "If it's too easy then it's not really trust." Please don't take offense. I understand what I think you mean (we have six children on this earth and two in heaven), but that is not what I wish to discuss.

I'd like to go off on what might be considered a tangent here (though it's really not) and explain that from a Lutheran perspective, this statement of yours is somewhat troublesome. Why? Because trust is faith, and faith is a pure gift from God. In faith, we find rest from our works. Trust (in this sense of the word) IS easy!

In the Christian faith, which I believe Lutheranism is the perfect expression of, we make a sharp distinction between law and gospel.

From a law perspective, we are always going to be far from trusting God entirely, and the more we try, the harder it gets and the more we fail.

But in Christ, trust (faith) is perfected because faith looks to Christ alone and takes comfort in the fact that He has taken away the sin of the world. This trust (faith) is not "hard" or "difficult." Actually, for man it is more than difficult - it is impossible!

We confess as Lutherans that:

"I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel and kept me in the true faith In the same way He calls the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ."

This is from Luther's Small Catechism explanation to the first article of the Apostle's Creed ("I believe in...") and explains what we as Christians mean when we say "I believe" (belief = faith = trust = gift -NOT WORK!).

Now, from that faith, works flow as a natural fruit. They are not coerced by the law. The law instructs, but does not motivate good works.

I hope you understand what I'm trying to explain here -- the distinction of law and gospel. Faith is a gift from God - pure gospel. Works (such as a mother availing herself to have children according to God's will) are the fruits of faith. Certainly the law informs our works, showing us God's will. But the law also ALWAYS accuses (show us our sin).

As I've said before on this blog, my wife and I use no overt forms of birth control, yet our hearts are hopelessly sinful and contraceptive. Do we desire to follow God's will? Yes and no, and both at the same time. We are both saint and sinner in everything we do this side of heaven. Even our very best good works are filthy rags stained with sin.

What you learn as a Lutheran is that the more you try to follow the law, the more sinful you realize you are. The law is like a spotlight and it shows you the dirt you're standing in. As you lean down to clean it up, the spotlight starts expanding. The more you are in the Word, the wider the spotlight becomes and the more you can see the extent of the filth you're standing in. You despair of fixing the problem and realize that Christ is the only answer.

Romans 5:20 "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more..."

This doesn't mean that you stop trying to clean up the mess you're in, but it frees you from the guilt of your utter failure. It brings the peace that passes all understanding when you find that His yoke is "easy" and His burden light.

"...What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"

Now there's the important distinction. We don't "live in sin" as Christians. We live a life of repentance. But does that mean we sin less? Not necessarily. There is a big difference, however, between struggling with sin and living in it. We struggle with many of the same sins our entire life. This struggle of the Christian is what Paul was talking about in Romans 7:

15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.


That is what you will find in Lutheranism. You will not find pretend victories over sins and progressive steps of sanctification, but you will find the pure Gospel of forgiveness in all its beauty!!! It is Christ's blood that sanctifies!

Kristyn, as a person who is investigating Lutheranism, I thought it prudent to explain this to you. It may seem a simple nuance to the casual observer, but to Lutherans the distinction of law and gospel is of great importance. The law must be preached in all its rigid severity. Only then can the fullness of the gospel be applied where it will bring forth fruit.

I hope you continue to investigate Lutheranism and find the beauty of law/gospel preaching, and that you realize the works-righteousness of Roman Catholicism. If you're wishing to find true Lutheranism to investigate, please read the Lutheran Confessions, beginning with Luther's Small Catechism. And to find out how Lutherans worship, attend a church on this list.

God's blessings to you and your family!

Erich Heidenreich, DDS

Anonymous said...

Woman's Response

Kristyn said...

Hello,
Me again...
Thank you for your response to my comment. I have never looked at being open to children as a "law" or a "work" (though now that I think about it, I know some who do). I suppose we have seen it more as an acceptance that what God says is true and that it just makes good sense to believe Him and take Him at His Word. If children are a blessing, than we say "Thank you, Lord for another blessing."
I suppose I am looking at trust a little differently than the gift of faith. I know faith is an unearned, unsought-after gift, because I have received it. Trust, in the way I mean it, is living out the truth that God has revealed to me in everyday circumstances, with His help. When all my kids are fighting and the dog is barking and phone rings and the UPS man is on the porch (and I just know he's looking in the window seeing the mess on the floor and wondering if it warrants a call to protective services) my heart's cry is, "Help me trust You, Jesus!" Our thought has always been that if God says something is true, and we think it doesn't quite match reality, than either our reality is skewed, or our perspective of it is. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength, including smile and laugh and enjoy my messy little family, solely based on the fact that He says it is a blessing, and He can do the smiling and laughing through me. Many times I do not lean on Him and, falling upon my own strength, I completely blow it. I am learning about the distinction between the law and gospel---maybe this whole fruitfulness thing (at least to us) seems to fall on the gospel side, rather than the law.
Thanks again for your input. Good food for thought.
God bless you,
Kristyn Hall

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

God bless you. You speak like my wife does about her crazy days!

tubal reversal said...

I natural family planning sinful or family planning is sinful?then what you say for abortion and tubal reversal procedure?

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Abortion is murder.

What could be inherently sinful about tubal ligation reversal?

Bob Waters said...

It's not that Eric Phillips is an antinomian. It's that you're a legalist. It is what YOU write, Erich, that is not Lutheran. What Eric writes is precisely Lutheran.

God has not forbidden contraception. That is a purely human conceit, even if it was mistakenly shared by Luther and others in the past. The command to be fruitful and multiply does not apply to all people at all times. And as I recall, Dr. Luther himself wasn't big on the only real argument you on your side of this debate really have: the appeal to Holy Tradition, since you are unable to establish your case on the basis of Scripture.

You are putting words in God's mouth, Erich. Repent.

GL said...

I do not completely agree with Erich's position, believing that periodic continence is permissible in hard cases (which my wife and I employ). Having said that, I must come to his defense. Pr. Waters offers his interpretation of Scripture as determinative of the question when, in fact, his understanding was rejected by all orthodox Christians until the last quarter of the 19th century. (If he can prove otherwise by citing sources from before that time, I encourage him to do so.)

In particular, Pr. Waters' understanding of Scripture was rejected by the following Lutheran pastors and teachers, who specifically relied to Scripture to make the case against contraception: Martin Luther (in numerous writings), Johann A. Bengel, "Commentary of Romans 1:24, 26", Johannes Brunneman, "On Unnamed Vices", Abraham Calovius, "Commentary on Genesis 38:9-10", John H.C. Fritz, "On Marriage", Johann Gerhard, "Commentary on Genesis 38:7-10", Johann K.F. Keil and Franz Delitszch, "Commentary on Genesis 38:8-10", Paul E. Kretzmann, "Commentary on Genesis 38:9", Theodore F.K. Laetsch, "Arguments Against Birth Control", Herbert C. Leupold, ""Commentary on Genesis 38:8-10", Wolfgang Musculus, "Commentary on Genesis 38:9-10", Johannes Olearius, "Commentary on Genesis 38:9", and Lukas Osiander, the Elder, "Commentary on Genesis 38:10".

And then there is Walter A. Maier, Sr., who, in addition to condemning birth control in his book, "For Better Not for Worse", wrote the following immediately before citing Scripture to support his assertion:

"The majority report of the Committee on Birth Control appointed by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America states that the Church and the Bible are 'silent upon the subject.' This is a bold statement."

If Erich errs in his understand of Scripture in this matter, he is in good company, with no Lutheran pastor or teacher contradicting him, to my knowledge, until well into the 20th century. That alone would give me room for pause before demanding repentance for "putting words in God's mouth." It certainly would drive me to prayerfully study the subject in great detail. In fact, in my case, it did so.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Bob,

Tradition is not my argument, but certainly supports it.

My argument, as well as Luther's and that of all orthodox theologians for 2000+ years, is based on Scripture.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.

pseudepigrapha said...

Pastor Waters,

Seeing as how about twenty-five contributing members of this blog are pastors such as yourself, don't you think their error is far more pernicious and deserving of rebuke than the good tooth-doctor's? After all, it is they who, in their pastoral work, counsel their parishioners to remain faithful to a position held by the Church Catholic for a scant nineteen and a half centuries...

I jest, of course, but as long as you're reviving a three year-old debate in such a sanctimonious fashion, perhaps you could answer those questions? Also, could you comment on the fact that the change in the accepted hermeneutical stance on the Scriptures which Dr. Heidenreich offered above changed only after the practice had already been accepted? Did someone somewhere get a fax from God on this one, Joseph Smith-style? Whose name wasn't Margaret Sanger? Does it bother you that your position is not supported by Scripture, tradition, or any Christian before the twentieth century?

Please acknowledge.

Pax Christi.

tubal ligation reversal said...

If family planning is sinful then How a poor cares of ten children?

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

God will take care of all. We are to fulfill our vocations as mothers and fathers to the best of our ability, all the while trusting that God will provide all that is needed for the "support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, etc." for all the children He bless us with.

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer reads: Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean?--Answer.

God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread?--Answer.

Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like. [Luther's Small Catechism]

Luther also wrote the following in his commentary on Genesis 30:2

"Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: "Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want." But his blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God's goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God's blessing. For if you had trust in God's grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper." [Luther's Works, Vol. 5, p. 332]

"God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray [in the Lord's Prayer] that He would lead us to know it..." placing our trust entirely in His fatherly care rather than in our "fair seeming works."

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ ... For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things."

In this modern age of relative prosperity, we lack the simple faith that our more frugal, yet fruitful, ancestors placed in God's fatherly providence. If they had been given the material blessings that even the "poor" enjoy today, they would have considered themselves richly blessed beyond measure.