Blessed are the Barren?

Today's Gospel reading seems to point to this day:

"For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'" Luke 23:29

I know this is firstly seen as pointing to the final destruction of Jerusalem, which was only a matter of a few years away, because in times of great tribulation and punishment it is the mothers that suffer most heavily. Yet notice how this verse doesn't just say those without children they must care for, but rather those whose wombs have NEVER born children and breasts that have NEVER nursed.

It certainly is true today that the barren are those our present world calls the most blessed. But, the fact that Christ prophesied that people would call the barren blessed does not necessarily indicate that he believed they would be. God refers to barrenness as a curse, and children always as blessings. I believe this verse ("the time will come when you will say...") is referring to the mistaken perspective of fallen man.

And this sinful perspective seems to be approaching its zenith in our postmodern world.

Meet the women who won't have babies - because they're not eco friendly


Christina Dunigan said...

http://www.amazon.com/Blessed-Are-Barren-Planned-Parenthood/dp/0898703530/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196031430&sr=8-1">It's been noted by others.

But we're not quite to the point yet where it's "Blessed are the barren," but rather, "Blessed are those who get the most gratification from their genitalia, in whatever form they want that gratification to take, be it orgasms or offspring."

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...


Thanks for the comment and for the book recommendation.

0I must disagree with you, however. Those who choose to have children are portrayed by our culture as being ignorant or insane. My wife is currently pregnant with our ninth child, and I am not shy to share this wonderful news with everyone. Alas, the only people who treat this news as a blessing to praise God about are those in my own church.

Those in the culture look at us with disgust, unbelief, pity, and shame. You wouldn't believe the rude comments we must endure.

While the choice of those who wish to have children is tolerated, the culture has long passed the third point of the acceptance of this error in thinking. Error first seeks toleration, then equal standing, and finally supremacy.

I believe that the childless marriage is now seen by our postmodern culture as the supreme, sublime ideal. The odd person who actually desires children is pitied by the culture which celebrates planned barrenhood. Worse yet, those of us who sinfully may not even desire more children, but who nonetheless submit to God's procreative purpose for marriage are considered to be evil perverts.

mlorfeld said...

I'm sorry but this is just utter violence to the text. Why must you extend this beyond what we see glaringly obvious in the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Josephus Wars Book VI Ch. 3.4ff)? Scripture isn't some kind of plaything in which we can use to back up our pre-conceived notions.

Christina Dunigan said...

Erich, I think it's halfway in between. You're seen as entitled to have children, as long as you keep to a "reaonable" nubmer.

After all, infertility tratments are covered by most insurance, and the woman desperate to have a baby is viewed with great sympathy by most people. It only gets "freaky" when you start having more than the requisite 2.2.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...


I see your point.


Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Vicar Lorfeld,

Is there some reason you believe this prophetic verse must be interpreted as referring to only one point in history?

While I agree (as written in my post) that it refers firstly to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, there is no reason to believe that this verse does not also refer to the end times.

Luther writes: "Therefore, it is of the greatest importance for every married man to pay closer, more thorough, and continuous attention to the health of his child’s soul than to the body which he has begotten, and to regard his child as nothing else but an eternal treasure God has commanded him to protect, and so prevent the world, the flesh, and the devil from stealing the child away and bringing him to destruction. For at his death and on the day of judgment he will be asked about his child and will have to give a most solemn account. For what do you think is the cause of the horrible wailing and howling of those who will cry, “O blessed are the wombs which have not bore children, and the breasts which have never suckled” [Luke 23:29]? There is not the slightest doubt that it is because they have failed to restore their children to God, from whom they received them to take care of them."

LW 44: The Christian in Society I, Page 13.

Luther obviously did not limit his interpretation of this verse to the past.

mlorfeld said...

Luther was being a good papist in 1519 when he preached this sermon. However, I would still hold that it is an invalid interpretation of the text. It goes into gross allegory. If you want that, Rome or Antioch are the place to go. Let it also be noted that I am not saying that the sensus literalis of a text is limited to one and only one interpretation (ie John 6 has many layers to it), but what cannot be done is to force a text into one's own agenda (even if it is a position which I may agree with).

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I suppose you think Luther was still being a "papist" when he wrote his treatise on good works, in which he wrote:

"On the other hand, parents cannot earn hell more easily than by neglecting their own children in their own home and by not teaching them the things spoken of above. What use is it if they fast themselves to death, pray, go on pilgrimages, and do all manner of good works? After all, God will not ask them about these in the hours of death and on the day of judgment, but will require of them the children he entrusted to their care. This is shown by the word of Christ in Luke 23[:28–29], “You daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but for yourselves and your children. The days will come when they will say, ‘Blessed are the wombs that never bore, and the breasts which never gave suck!’ ” Why should they lament in this way if it does not mean that all their condemnation will come from their own children? If they had not had children, perhaps they might have been saved. These words certainly ought to open the eyes of parents and make them think about the souls of their children so that the poor children would not be deceived by the parents’ human love and made to believe they had rightly honored theft parents because they had not shown anger toward them or had been obedient to them in everyday affairs. This serves only to strengthen the children’s self-will, although the commandment puts the parents in the place of honor so that the children’s self-will is broken and they are made humble and meek."

LW 44, Page 86

I am not forcing this text into a preconceived agenda, but rather letting it speak to the present state of the world. We live in the end times. Do you deny that childlessness is often glorified in today's age? I see no violence to the text in either what I have written or in what Luther wrote. I do see violence in your reaction to both.

mlorfeld said...

Do you deny that childlessness is often glorified in today's age?

I am not arguing this, and it is irrelevant. I am merely saying that the text does not speak about the "mistaken perspective of fallen man... [that] seems to be approaching its zenith in our postmodern world."

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a student of Luther and Chemnitz, so I do not make these comments lightly. However quoting me a snippet from Luther, especially Luther when he still didn't quite get it isn't going to convince me. I'm not bound to a tropological exegesis of the text, and furthermore because of the Lutheran hermeneutic that moves away from this medieval methodology, I must refrain from trying to make such a move.

Finally, I question what you meant by "I do see violence in your reaction to both." All I am saying is that your exegesis is wrong, and thus the proof text invalid. I know you feel strongly about this issue, and I'm not faulting you for that, but we, especially as Lutherans, must not forget the damage done by those who took Scriptural interpretation lightly.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Vicar Lorfeld,

Please know that I do not take Scriptural interpretation lightly either! I have no reason nor desire to twist Scripture for my own purposes, and every reason to repent if I ever find I have done so.

So please let me try to understand your objection to what I have said. I have said:

1. Christ was referring in this verse to a mistaken perspective of man ("blessed are the barren") which would occur soon at the destruction of Jerusalem.

2. This perspective is increasingly prevalent again in our society in these latter days.

I think we agree on #1. What, specifically, do you find in error about saying #2?

mlorfeld said...

What is illegitimate is implying that it is necessarily a mistaken perspective of man. The text does not give us that whatsoever. Rather it is merely, this is how it will be. No commentary on the morality of such a statement is given. Thus point 2 is negated.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I see your objection clearly now, Vicar. But I also can now even more clearly voice my disagreement with your objection. I thought you were simply disagreeing with my application of the verse, not what it is saying. We actually disagree on what it is that Christ is saying.

This perspective He describes is implicitly one of unbelief. Christ says "the time will come when YOU WILL SAY." Only in unbelief would we say that a woman is blessed if she NEVER gave birth to a child and NEVER suckled, and say to the mountains "fall on us!"

Lenski reminds us that here Christ is appropriating the prophesy of Hosea [10:8] regarding the sentiment of unbelievers in the destruction of Samaria, and which is repeated again in Revelation 6:16 regarding the unbelievers who are being judged on the last day.

This attitude of despair is clearly one of unbelief. It can only be the mistaken attitude of unbelief, brought about by the cares of this world, that makes fallen man say such a thing.

Do you really believe that Scripture gives no perspective on such a statement of despair and unbelief?

Christopher Amen said...

This is a call to repentance, for their unbelief is the cause of their destruction, this is referenced with 19:41-44. While it refers immediately to the impending destruction of Jerusalem it also is linked with eschatological time with the reference “the days will come.”
(See Dr. Just’s Concordia Commentary on Luke)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Precisely, Seminarian Christopher. You give me hope for the LCMS! I jumped over to your blog and saw that you just posted on the subject of contraception. I am going to make a separate post linking to your blog post about Contraception within Christian Marriage.

Blessings to you and your fiancee!

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I've run across this attitude in a couple of message boards I'm on (the 'crunchy' movement has many subgroups).

The saddest is when a woman desires more children, but feels she must deny this desire for the sake of the planet. She is then applauded for the 'right' attitude, and encouraged to deny her maternal desires. I've seen it cause great anguish and guilt.

But I guess it's the logical progression when a person worships the creation and not the Creator.


Sarah said...

If these people are really interested in being "earth friendly" they will move into a hut and live off the land. I don't see that happening any time soon.

If she doesn't want to have a child, fine, but don't get all morallysuperior!

Lace Bern said...
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