Oh, Jesus Christ! How Bright and Fair

A beautiful hymn praising God for the gift of children.


Note especially these verses:

5. O wife! the Lord has chosen you
That from your womb shall life anew
Increase the Church and build it
This wondrous work forever mounts,
The mighty word His lips pronounce:
What here you see, shall yield it
Shall come,
Sons and daughters
To the waters
Of Salvation
Finding grace and good vocation.

6. Be of good cheer, for this decree
Is not a human father's plea:
Our Heav'nly Father gave it,
Who loves us through the coming days
And who, when grief upon us weighs,
Will give us strength to brave it;
Blest end
He'll send,
As we're doing
And pursuing,
Or conceiving,
Wise and happy children giving.


LCMS President Matt Harrison on "Be Fruitful and Multiply"

For those of you who did not have time to watch the video posted below, I have transcribed President Harrison's comments about the Missouri Synod's dismal birth rate and the divine ordinance "Be fruitful and multiply."
There are three things that are really hitting the Missouri Synod as much as anything.  We're doing, I mean we're doing better than a lot of churches of course.  But we've had a continuous slow decline over the last 50-40 years.  I think 30 years ago was the last recorded yearly increase in our membership.  Forty years ago, says Larry.  That's all right, he'll, as he becomes president and becomes more and more of a fundraiser he'll become less and less of a historian.  [Laughter]  The biggest challenge we face is the birthrate.  The birthrate of the Missouri Synod that is overwhelmingly white, descendent of European people in this synod - the birthrate of our church body has simply followed, mirrored, the broader birthrate of the United States among descendants of northern Europeans.  That's a fact.  There's hardly a single family out there that you're related to that has more children in the latest generation than it did in the previous generation.  Now, do I expect any wholesale turnaround in this phenomenon?  No, I don't.  There are all kinds of intense pressures upon us.  However, I think it's time for us to preach "Be fruitful and multiply."  That's what the Bible says.  And we ought to encourage young people and families who have the ability to have families.  And encourage them.  The church needs to be a place...  It's no time to despise family ministries.  It's no time to despise those kind of diakonic efforts in the church to care for marriages and families, etc.  It's time to redouble our efforts in those areas and it's time to speak clearly that it's a good thing to have a large Lutheran orthodox family.  If Muslims are having an average of 4.2 children a piece and we're having 2.1 children a piece, I would say God would be really happy if we'd bump it up to at least 4.2 per family.  Don't quote me on that.  [Laughter]

Pres. Matthew Harrison, ACNA-LCMS Open Forum, CTS Fort Wayne, Oct. 27, 2011.
The second issue he mentioned was the attrition rate with our youth and children, and the third was missions - specifically the need for church planting.

Lutheran Witness: "Be Fruitful and Multiply"

In his monthly Lutheran Witness article, President Harrison writes:

"Our LCMS birth rate mirrors that of the broader population of the U.S., which is at an all-time low.  So, how do we best encourage our young people to treasure marriage and have children?  How do we make the point in a freeing Gospel-oriented way?  How do we encourage those capable of having more children to do so?  How do we take concrete action in our congregations to care for children and encourage the adoption option?  "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28).  It can be a God-pleasing act to have a large, loving, orthodox Lutheran family, and those who are able should not be diverted from this by any self-imposed "green" limit of 2.1 children per couple."


WELS college president poses the procreation question

At a recent symposium on Lutheran schools, Rev. Mark Zarling (president of Martin Luther College) drew attention to the declining birthrate of his synod (Wisconsin) as well as others (Missouri and ELS). His data is drawn largely from a demographic study compiled by Dr. Ryan MacPherson, an ELS church historian. Zarling’s essay does not offer a definitive conclusion, but he does call for the church to examine its teaching and practice on the matter of procreation: “Has the Church watered down the Biblical testimony about the blessing of children, about the Lord as the author of life, about purpose and contentment in living a life of service to the Lord Jesus by serving another soul?” May the conversation Zarling has begun in the Wisconsin Synod continue, and may it bear fruit.

Here is an extended excerpt from Zarling’s paper (footnotes are omitted; most of them refer to MacPherson’s study):

You and I are concerned about the growth of the communion of saints, not the visible growth of an outward organization. At the same time, careful shepherds entrusted with flocks dare not overlook those statistics as a blessing from God that forces us to evaluate and analyze and PRAY. And as we turn over the data to expose some underlying causes, any minister of the gospel will be shocked at the realization that the worldview of death has infiltrated the homes and minds of so many people, including precious souls entrusted to our care.

Dr. Ryan MacPherson, a professor at Bethany Lutheran College, helps us to move the stones of the statistics around.92 His demographic study of the ELS showed a dramatic drop in birth rate during the history of that synod, from a birth rate of 3.77% in 1928 to a birth rate of 1.87% in 2008.93 Evidently other Lutherans also imbibed from the worldview that fewer children is better. The LCMS birth rate in 1961-2002 went from 3.34% to 1.33%, prompting a Missouri pastor to write, “Our church body has been complicit in its own demise by not emphasizing God's plan for procreation in marriage. We’re contracepting ourselves out of business.”94

Another partner in the old synodical conference had a similar history which resulted in a birth rate of 1.76% in the decade from 1999 through 2008.95 We WELSers are that partner.

Why such a precipitous drop in birth rates? Look at any population map and you will see birth rates plunging below replacement population in many continents. But why so among Christians, among people of the Word who believe children are precious gifts from God? They are taught that Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.96 Has the dominant cultural worldview convinced many people that an empty quiver allows one to substitute a heavier backpack of stuff for earthly life's brief journey?

One factor MacPherson identifies for this drop in birthrates is a thorny and emotional issue for many.97 I remember vividly the sometimes heated discussions in our dorm debates after a dog class that had any allusion to birth control. I commend to the reader MacPherson‟s study where he documents a clear shift among Lutheran theologians from equating birth control with sin to leaving it an open question and a matter of Christian freedom.98 His study gave me pause. Has the Church watered down the Biblical testimony about the blessing of children, about the Lord as the author of life, about purpose and contentment in living a life of service to the Lord Jesus by serving another soul? Neither time nor space allows us to explore other components of a culture of death in our country: abortion statistics that numb the mind;99 the crescendo of voices that raise the issue of euthanasia to the fore, whether discussing the terminally ill, or the weak and infirm, or simply the burden on society that a severely disabled person supposedly presents.

In an explanatory footnote (n. 97), Zarling calls for further introspection:

MacPherson outlines three possible causes for such declining rates among Lutheran bodies. First, the trend toward delaying marriage is identified. As more and more young adults aspire to college education, and then even a master’s degree, marriage and family are often postponed. Of special interest to this writer is an observation that MacPherson gleans from reading the work of Allan Carlson. “Today, college students typically graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt. The unanticipated consequences of this method for funding higher education become especially evident when we consider its effects on family formation, notably marriage and childbearing. Specifically, people assuming student loan debt tend to marry later, delay childbearing longer, and have fewer children during their lifetime.” Last May, 78.2% of the graduates from MLC graduated with debt. The average indebtedness was $22,176. This is of grave concern to me. Do we then unintentionally force our graduates into marriage and family decisions that don’t reflect the Bible’s priorities or a fourth petition attitude? Or have we unintentionally proclaimed a message to our students that the blessing of training to serve the Lord in gospel ministry is a greater or more important goal than the blessing of having and rearing children?
Thank you, President Zarling, for asking these soul-searching questions. May a renewed study of the pertinent Scripture passages bless your synod with a deeper appreciation for God's gift of children. And may the parents and pastors in your synod teach their little ones what a privilege it is to be made the children of God through Christ Jesus our Lord!

LCMS President Matt Harrison says "Be Fruitful and Multiply"

Set the little ball at the bottom of this youtube video at 9 minutes and 20 seconds into this video and listen to President Matt Harrison recommend giving heed to the divine command to "Be fruitful and Multiply" and have large families in the LCMS.


The Church is Fruitful for Christ

He Her Honour and She His Glory
by Pastor Vernon S. Grieger, 1994, pages 107-109 & 120:


"It is most obvious that the Church as the Bride of Christ, is not to remain sterile and unproductive, but is to be fruitful for Christ her Lord. This was taken for granted from the very beginning. Already before his atoning death and resurrection, when there were only relatively few disciples, Christ sent them out to proclaim his Word and gather others into the kingdom of God. Before his ascension into heaven Christ again gave his disciples the great commission to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations, “baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19f.). The church heeded this command and through the preaching of the Word, thousands were soon added to the Church (cp. Acts 2:41, 47). The apostles and numerous other Christians took the Gospel to all parts of the then-known world so that the Church grew and multiplied greatly. Throughout history the true Church has always been a missionary Church, intent on spreading the Gospel, calling people into the Kingdom of God, and nourishing them in the faith.

"In a similar way it is God’s intention that marriage, is not to be sterile but fruitful in the sense that a couple are to have children, and multiply. Already soon after their creation, the Lord blessed Adam and Eve, and said to them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 1:28). Just as the Church is to multiply because of her relationship with Christ her Lord, so the wife, because of her relationship with her husband is to be fruitful and bring forth children. This is to be seen also as a great blessing (cp. Ps. 127:3-5). The trend of so many modern couples to avoid having children, and to regard it as a cross or an affliction is quite unbiblical. Ultimately it is the result of a misguided selfishness. Of course the presence of children in the family limits the freedom of the couple in certain ways, but it also brings great joys and blessings that nothing else can bring. To be a girl is easy enough, if you are born that way.  It takes no effort at all, and is certainly no accomplishment. To be truly feminine is a charming art that does take some effort, but is admired by all. To be a successful wife requires special tenderness and loving self-surrender, but is the glory of womanhood. But to be a devoted mother is the ultimate achievement of woman that makes her a blessing that will live in the hearts of her children all their life, and which ultimately shapes the nation. While it does admittedly require effort and patience to be a good mother, this is what we need to become truly mature and understanding people. Children are meant to put us through the mill, and to try us in numerous ways. It is this agitation and friction that finally polishes us to become glorious gems that sparkle and radiate understanding and tenderness. It produces a beauty and glory in woman of the deepest and most lasting nature. It is her family and motherhood that truly perfect a woman and bring her to her ultimate glory, and in doing so also bring true honour to her husband.  A woman who has selfishly avoided having children in her most glamorous years, may think she has an advantage, but when she is older, and ceases to be an attraction to those around her, especially if her husband dies, she will find that she has few friends that mean much to her and that life is not rewarding, as she must sit alone in her house, no longer loved and cared about. The mother of a well-managed family, on the other hand, will find that there are new joys, and precious highlights in her life right through to the end, as her children marry, and present her with one grandchild after another.  She becomes the dear, understanding and gracious queen mother that is the center of devotion and admiration for so many.


..."It would not be at all surprising if there is a mysterious connection between all the various imperfections and faults in marriage, and corresponding faults and problems in the church or congregation.  This is not the place to spell this out, but it may not be an unrelated coincidence that the decline in growth and missionary zeal of the church coincides roughly with a time in which the mind-set of the majority of members was toward very small families or zero population growth.  The fruitlessness of marriage may possibly carry over into the church or congregation."

[From the back cover:  "Marriage, as instituted by God, is intended to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his Bride the Church. This is the archetype from which our marriage is derived. The proper guide to marriage is therefore its archetype - the relationship between Christ and his Church. The true remedy for all marriage problems, therefore, begins with a proper study of the relationship between Christ and his Church, and is a careful attempt to apply that to man and woman in marriage. ...Pastor Vernon S. Grieger is in the active ministry of the Australian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  He is the author of the book Earthly Images of the Heavenly Bride, dealing with the role of women in the Church.  Together with his wife, Joyce, he enjoyed a rich and blessed marriage with a family of seven children."]


150 children

Here is science/choice/sin run amok. You can see some comment here.

One does not even know where to begin.


The "Christian wife and mother"

Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of James and an accomplished author in her own right, whispers this bit of sanity to those who would hear:
"A word more on the subject of home life, as one in which the interests of the whole sex are most closely involved. It is clear that those interests are manifold, highly important to the welfare of the race, unceasing in their recurrence, urgent and imperative in their nature, requiring for their successful development such devotion of time, labor, strength, thought, feeling, that they must necessarily leave but little leisure to the person who faithfully discharges them. The comfort, health, peace, temper, recreation, general welfare, intellectual, moral, and religious training of a family make up, indeed, a charge of the very highest dignity, and one which must tax to the utmost every faculty of the individual to whom it is entrusted. The commander of a regiment at the head of his men, the member of Congress in his seat, the judge on his bench, scarcely holds a position so important, so truly honorable, as that of the intelligent, devoted, faithful American wife and mother, wisely governing her household. And what are the interests of the merchant, the manufacturer, the banker, the broker, the speculator, the selfish politician, when compared with those confided to the Christian wife and mother? They are too often simply contemptible--a wretched, feverish, maddening struggle to pile up lucre, which is any thing but clean. Where is the superior merit of such a life, that we should hanker after it, when placed beside that of the loving, unselfish, Christian wife and mother--the wife, standing at her husband's side, to cheer, to aid, to strengthen, to console, to counsel, amidst the trials of life; the mother, patiently, painfully, and prayerfully cultivating every higher faculty of her children for worthy action through time and eternity?"
While Miss Cooper's handling of the subject hits rather bluntly upon our modern sensibilities, her essay, Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America, is worth a perusal. Find it here.


The Evil

Here is a story that pulls together, in one way or another, all kinds of evil things: fornication, celebrity culture, contraception, poor parenting, the effects of divorce on children, the sexualization of children and more. You name it, it's there.

Remember the Epistle for Rogate - "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." James 1:27

May our Lord be gracious in keeping us unspotted from this Evil World.


Rest from this world during Holy Saturday and beyond

On this Great Sabbath rest of Holy Saturday, after having pondered the depths of Christ's Passion, I thought it would also good to ponder God's entire providence for us as explained in Psalm 127.  The proper understanding of this psalm gives me such peaceful rest and contentment in this troublesome world that would have us worry about everything.

In the first verse of Psalm 127 Solomon puts into beautiful simplicity the most important truth upon which a marriage, family, and all that pertains to them depend:  "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

The devil, the world, and our sinful nature does not want us to believe we can trust God to provide "all that we need to support this body and life" - as we confess in the Small Catechism regarding the First Article of the Apostle's Creed. 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?--Answer.
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

And again as we confess in the meaning of the Forth Petition of the Lord's Prayer:

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.

This is what Christ is explaining to us in the Sermon on the Mount when He says: 

“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? 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? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 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?

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. "

In what follows, Luther masterfully unpacks and explains what God wants us to understand from this simple first half of verse 1 of Psalm 127.  It is an even further explanation of what we as Lutherans confess we believe according the above passages from the Small Catechism.  If you keep this understanding about life on this earth firmly in your mind, you will live in the faith that gives a peace that the world cannot give.  Here is Luther:

Solomon composed this psalm. Not only was he enlightened by the Holy Spirit, but as he daily exercised his administrative functions and mingled with people, he learned from frequent experience how vainly unbelief burdens itself with worries about feeding the belly, when in fact everything depends on God’s blessing and protection. For where God withholds his blessing, we labor in vain; where God does not protect, our worry is futile. And he speaks thus:
1a. Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
1b. Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2. It is vain that you rise up early,
sit up late,
and eat the bread of sorrow;
for to him who enjoys his favor,
he gives while he sleeps.
3. Lo, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward.
4. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
so are the children of youth.
5. Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them;
They shall not be put to shame
when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
First we must understand that “building the house” does not refer simply to the construction of walls and roof, rooms and chambers, out of wood and stone. It refers rather to everything that goes on inside the house, which in German we call “managing the household” [haushallten]; just as Aristotle writes, “Oeconomia, ” that, is pertaining to the household economy which comprises wife and child, servant and maid, livestock and fodder. The same term is used by Moses in Exodus 1[:20–21], where he writes that God dealt well with the two midwives and “built them houses” because they feared him and did not strangle the children of the Israelites; that is, he helped them to obtain husbands, sons and daughters, and enough of whatever goes along with keeping a family. Solomon’s purpose is to describe a Christian marriage; he is instructing everyone how to conduct himself as a Christian husband and head of a household.

Reason and the world think that married life and the making of a home ought to proceed as they intend; they try to determine things by their own  decisions and actions, as if their work could take care of everything. To this Solomon says No! He points us instead to God, and teaches us with a firm faith to seek and expect all such things from God. We see this in experience too. Frequently two people will marry who have hardly a shirt to their name, and yet they support themselves so quietly and well that it is a pleasure to behold. On the other hand, some bring great wealth into their marriage; yet it slips out of their hands till they can barely get along.

Again, two people marry out of passionate love; their choice and desire are realized, yet their days together are not happy. Some are very eager and anxious to have children, but they do not conceive, while others who have given the matter little thought get a house full of children. Again, some try to run the house and its servants smoothly, and it turns out that they have nothing but misfortune. And so it goes in this world; the strangest things happen.

Who is it that so disrupts marriage and household management, and turns them so strangely topsy-turvy? It is he of whom Solomon says: Unless the Lord keeps the house, household management there is a lost cause. He wishes to buttress this passage [Ps. 127:1a] and confirm its truth. This is why he permits such situations to arise in this world, as an assault on unbelief, to bring to shame the arrogance of reason with all works and cleverness, and to constrain them to believe.

This passage alone should be enough to attract people to marriage, comfort all who are now married, and sap the strength of covetousness. Young people are scared away from marriage when they see how strangely it turns out. They say, “It takes a lot to make a home”; or, “You learn a lot living with a woman.” This is because they fail to see who does this, and why He does it; and since human ingenuity and strength know no recourse and can provide no help, they hesitate to marry. As a result they fall into unchastity if they do not marry, and into covetousness and worry if they do. But here is the needed consolation: Let the Lord build the house and keep it, and do not encroach upon his work; the concern for these matters is his, not yours. For whoever is the head of the house and maintains it should be allowed to bear the burden of care. Does it take a lot to make a house? So what! God is greater than any house. He who fills heaven and earth will surely also be able to supply a house, especially since he takes the responsibility upon himself and causes it to be sung to his praise.

Why should we think it strange that it takes so much to make a home where God is not the head of the house? Because you do not see Him who is supposed to fill the house, naturally every corner must seem empty. But if you look upon Him, you will never notice whether a corner is bare; everything will appear to you to be full, and will indeed be full. And if it is not full, it is your vision which is at fault; just as it is the blind man’s fault if he fails to see the sun. For him who sees rightly, God turns the saying around and says not, “It takes a lot to make a home,” but, “How much a home contributes!” So we see that the managing of a household should and must be done in faith—then there will be enough—so that men come to acknowledge that everything depends not on our doing, but on God’s blessing and support.

We are not to understand from this that God forbids us to work. Man must and ought to work, ascribing his sustenance and the fullness of his house, however, not to his own labor but solely to the goodness and blessing of God. For where men ascribe these things to their own labor, there covetousness and anxiety quickly arise, and they hope by much labor to acquire much. But then there is this contradiction, namely, that some people labor prodigiously, yet scarcely have enough to eat, while others are slower and more relaxed in their work, and wealth pours in on  them. All this is because God wants the glory, as the one who alone gives the growth [I Cor. 8:6–7]. For if you should till the soil faithfully for a hundred years and do all the work in the world, you couldn’t bring forth from the earth even a single stalk; but God without any of your labor, while you sleep, produces from that tiny kernel a stalk with as many kernels on it as he wills.

Solomon here wishes to sanction work, but to reject worry and covetousness. He does not say, “The Lord builds the house, so no one need labor at it.” He does say, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” [Ps. 127:1a]. This is as if he were to say: Man must work, but that work is in vain if it stands alone and thinks it can sustain itself. Work cannot do this; God must do it. Therefore work in such manner that your labor is not in vain. Your labor is in vain when you worry, and rely on your own efforts to sustain yourself. It behooves you to labor, but your sustenance and the maintenance of your household belong to God alone. Therefore, you must keep these two things far apart: “to labor,” and “to maintain a household” or “to sustain”; keep them as far apart from one another as heaven and earth, or God and man.

In the Proverbs of Solomon we often read how the lazy are punished because they will not work. Solomon says, “A slack hand causes poverty, but industrious hands bring riches” [Prov. 10:4]. This and similar sayings sound as if our sustenance depended on our labor; though he says in the same passage [Prov. 10:22], as also in this psalm [127:1], that it depends on God’s blessing; or, as we say in German,  “God bestows, God provides.” Thus, the meaning is this: God commanded Adam to eat his bread in the sweat of his face [Gen. 8:19]. God wills that man should work, and without work He will give him nothing. Conversely, God will not give him anything because of his labor, but solely out of His own goodness and blessing. Man’s labor is to be his discipline in this life, by which he may keep his flesh in subjection. To him who is obedient in this matter, God will give plenty, and sustain him well.

God sustains man in the same way he sustains all other living creatures. As the psalm [147:9] says, “He gives to all flesh their food, and to the young ravens which cry unto him” Again, in Psalm 104, “The eyes of all look to thee, O Lord, and thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest every living creature with blessings,” that is, with fullness and sufficiency. Now no animal works for its living, but each has its own task to perform, after which it seeks and finds its food. The little birds fly about and warble, make nests, and hatch their young. That is their task. But they do not gain their living from it. Oxen plow, horses carry their riders and have a share in battle; sheep furnish wool, milk, cheese, etc. That is their task. But they do not gain their living from it. It is the earth which produces grass and nourishes them through God’s blessing. Christ himself, in Matthew 6[:26], bids us look at the birds: how they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; yet they are fed by God. That is, they perform their tasks all right, but they do no work from which they gain sustenance.

Similarly, man must necessarily work and busy himself at something. At the same time, however, he must know that it is something other than his labor which furnishes him sustenance; it is the divine blessing. Because God gives him nothing unless he works, it may seem as if it is his labor which sustains him; just as the little birds neither sow nor reap, but they would certainly die of hunger if they did not fly about to seek their food. The fact that they find food, however, is not due to their own labor, but to God’s goodness. For who placed their food there where they can find it? Beyond all doubt it is God alone, as he says in Genesis 1[:29–30], “Behold, I have given to you and to all creatures every growing plant for food.” In short, even if Scripture did not teach this directly, experience would prove it to be so. For where God has not laid up a supply no one will find anything, even though they all work themselves to death searching. We can see this with our eyes, and grasp it with our hands; yet we will not believe. Again, where God does not uphold and preserve, nothing can last, even though a hundred thousand fortresses were thrown up to defend it; it will be shattered and ground to dust till no one knows what has become of it.

Tell me: who puts silver and gold in the mountains so that man might find them there? Who puts into the field that great wealth which issues in grain, wine, and all kinds of produce, from which all creatures live Does the labor of man do this? To be sure, labor no doubt finds it, but God has first to bestow it and put it there if labor is to find it. Who puts into the flesh the power to bring forth young and fill the earth with birds, beasts, fish, etc.? Is this accomplished by our labor and care? By no means. God is there first, secretly laying his blessing therein; then all things are brought forth in abundance. And so we find that all our labor is nothing more than the finding and collecting of God’s gifts; it is quite unable to create or preserve anything.

Here then we see how Solomon, in this one little verse [Ps. 127:1], has solved in short order the greatest of all problems among the children of men, about which so many books have been written, so many proverbs and approaches devised, namely, how to feed our poor stomachs. Solomon rejects them all in a body, wraps the whole matter up in faith, and says: You labor in vain when you labor for the purpose of sustaining yourself and building your own house. Indeed, you make for yourself a lot of worry, and trouble. At the same time by such arrogance and wicked unbelief you kindle God’s wrath, so that you only become all the poorer and are mined completely because you undertook to do what is his alone to do. And if with such unbelief you should succeed anyway in attaining wealth in all things, it would only bring greater ruin to you soul eternally when God lets you go blindly on in your unbelief.

If you want to earn your livelihood honorably, quietly, and well, and rightly maintain your household, give heed: Take up some occupation that will keep you busy in order that you can eat your bread in the sweat of your face [Gen. 3:19]. Then do not worry, about how you will be sustained and how such labor will build and maintain your house. Place everything in God’s keeping; let him do the worrying and the building. Entrust these things to him; he will lay before you richly and well the things which your labor is to find and bring to you. If he does not put them there, you will labor in vain and find nothing.

Thus, this wholly evangelical verse in masterful fashion sets forth faith, as against that accursed covetousness and concern for the belly which today, alas! everywhere hinders the fruit of the gospel. When this verse is fully understood, the rest of the psalm is easy. We will now briefly run through the other verses.

The rest of Luther's exposition of this psalm can be read here:  http://lutheransandcontraception.blogspot.com/2010/09/luther-on-psalm-127.html

God's peace in Christ to you all on this Holy Saturday during which Christ rested in the tomb.


Condoms can be a gift from God?

Below is my comment on Rev. Kelly's post, which is awaiting moderation.

Rev. Kelly,

While there are many issues I would like to clarify, I will try to limit myself to the primary point of your post.
“Natural methods of birth control can ‘fail,’ and if in fact a spouse is genuinely concerned about the capacity of the other to care for the children already in the family, there is-like it or not-some consolation in using a method of birth control that has a statistically higher chance of preventing pregnancy.”


“…a condom can be a gift from God”
Of course all methods of family planning can fail, including sterilization. However, NFP is indisputably more reliable than a condom in preventing pregnancy. In fact, a well-done German study of the effectiveness of the sympto-thermal rules associated with NFP, published in 2007, found that NFP has a method effectiveness of 99.6% and a user effectiveness of 98.2%. Condoms are one of the least reliable methods of family planning, having a user effectiveness of only 82-84% (depending on the study). Even the infamous Guttmacher Institute rates NFP as more effective than condoms in preventing pregnancy.

Also worth mentioning in this discussion is the option of total abstinence. This certainly should not be taken off the table in difficult cases. No, it definitely is not a perversity to want to have sexual intimacy with one’s spouse. I agree. However, just as one must control other innate hungers and passions, sometimes fasting entirely from certain activities and substances, it is certainly disordered not to adequately control one’s God-instilled human desire to be fruitful and multiply if it would likely do unusual harm to one’s spouse at any point in time.

You wrote: “He tells me that as much as he believes artificial methods of birth control to be wrong, the reality is that his wife cannot adequately care for the children that they have.”

Admitting that artificial methods of birth control are wrong, one must remember that we may not do evil that good may come. (Romans 3:8)

Therefore, the condom is most certainly NOT a gift from God.

Please, let’s also not allow discussions regarding this important issue of morality to be influenced by sensationalistic news reports on extremely rare cases of women who have supposedly been driven to murder and suicide because they had “too many children.”


Eugenics, Racism, and Planned Parenthood

Nothing new to those who have been regularly reading here, but important nontheless in terms of understanding the history and practice of contraception, abortion, and especially Planned Parenthood and their founder Margaret Sanger. The purpose of this video - Sanger is now going to be on display and trumpeted for her "work and efforts" in the Smithsonian.


Too Many Babies

This story showed up on my yahoo feed this morning:


Wow! Here I've been thinking that we were looking at a decline in fertility and that world population was expected to max out in 2050 and then fall precipitously. That whole angle is missing from this story. You'd get the impression that the world population is expected to continue to increase after 2050 and ruin the world. I wondered if I was missing something, so I went to look at the UN's newest "world population prospects report" for 2010 to see if something had changed. http://esa.un.org/peps/fertility_figures/interactive-figures_TF-trajectories.htm

I haven't had time to do more than look through it, but it looks to me like there's no change in the forecast that the world population is expected to begin falling in 2050 even in the developing countries (by 2050 the populations of the United States and Europe will already have fallen so low that immigrants from the developing world will be running them.) My initial scan of the report seems to be validated by the fact that the experts in the AP story are not quoted saying anything about what happens after 2050.

If in fact the AP story really did just leave out the whole issue of the population decline following 2050, it's hard to read it as anything other than a propaganda piece. Now, what would the purpose in that be? You'd have to guess that the majority of the people reading this article are going to be Westerners, and that this article's failure to tell the whole story is just one more reason for westerners diffident about having children already to think of procreation as a morally questionable thing to do.


January Touchstone and Issues, Etc.

Check out the current issue of Touchstone: The Marital Embrace

Especially note:

Sanger's Victory
How Planned Parenthood's Founder Played the Christians, and Won
by Allan Carlson

Dr. Carlson was interviewed about this article on Issues, Etc. on January 19.

Excellent Posts Found

Hat tip to Rev. Chris Gillespie for alerting me to the writing of Rev. Ken Kelly Jr.

Here are his two most recent postings readers of this blog will find of interest:


The Proverbs 31 Superwoman

If looked at as the ideal that all wives and mothers should strive to emulate, it seems the Proverbs 31 superwoman can only make women feel inferior and/or guilty that they don't measure up. After all, "who can find such a woman? for her price is far above rubies."

What purpose would it serve for the Word of God to simply be describing a seemingly unattainable goal?

The Proverbs 31 woman also would appear to possess a few characteristics (e.g. being a land speculator and merchant) that are not necessarily consistent with other biblical descriptions of virtuous womanhood (i.e. Titus 2:3-5). At the very least we must agree that these unusual characteristics are not necessary for ideal womanly virtue.

If, on the other hand, the Proverbs 31 woman is seen as being uniquely fulfilled in the Bride of Christ (i.e. the Church), this exhaustive list of grand virtues takes on a completely different meaning.

"The heart of her husband (Christ) trusts in her (after all, the gates of Hell cannot prevail against her), and he will have no lack of gain (in making disciples of all nations). She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life."

She makes provision for those in her care, is diligence in her work, is an enterprising merchant and steward for her Husband. She also "opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy."

And how about this imagery: "She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet." What better clothing can be found than the baptismal robes which are washed clean in the scarlet blood of the Lamb? With such raiment, one can weather anything!

"Her Husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. ...Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." (She has nothing to fear in the coming tribulations.)

Proverbs 31:10-31 is a complete stand alone proverb, and is set apart from the first nine verses by a particular poetic device. It is an "acrostic." Each line of this proverb begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, spanning the entire alphabet, in proper order. This "A to Z" type of acrostic device is likely a way of indicating that it offers complete coverage of the subject matter. I wonder if we could therefore find within its verses all seven marks of the Church identified by Luther: possession of the Word, Baptism, Sacrament of the Altar, Office of the Keys, Office of Ministry, Discipleship, and the cross (suffering on account of one's faith).

Rev. Burnell Eckardt opines:
"She spends a lot of time spinning and sewing and feeding, etc. Yet 'strength and honour are her clothing.' So this is a parable: what she's sewing is a baptismal garment of righteousness; what she's feeding is the Feast of Salvation."

Of preaching and teaching: "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

Luther writes:
"Thus St. Augustine, too, in the ninth chapter of his book On the Spirit and the Letter, where he treats of the statement in the last chapter of Proverbs (31:26), 'Law and kindness are on her tongue,' makes the most excellent remark: 'Therefore it is written of wisdom that she bears law and kindness on her tongue for this reason—law, in order that she may render the proud guilty; kindness, in order that she may justify the humbled.'”

[Luther's Works, vol. 27, pg. 274. Lectures on Galatians]
Law and kindness = Law and Gospel.

Ambrose writes:
"The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter hath made two garments for her spouse, as it is written* —the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works."

*The footnote here references Proverbs XXXI

[Schaff, P. (1997). The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Vol. X. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters. (225)]
More from St. Augustine:
"Let no one say that one gave the law, and that another teaches the law: for the same teaches it who gave it; He is the Master of His own law, and teaches it. And mercy is in His tongue therefore mercifully teacheth He the law, as it is said regarding wisdom, "The law and mercy doth she carry in her tongue.”* Do not fear that thou art not able to fulfill the law, flee to mercy."

*The footnote here, again, references Prov. XXXI

[Schaff, P. (1997). The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. VII. St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John Soliloquies. (51)]
The parallels between the Proverbs 31 woman and the Church seem almost endless. After all, should we not consider that the Bride of Christ would be the fullest embodiment of the virtuous wife? Earthly marriage is but a shadow of the greater mystery of Christ and the Church. In all her virtues, the Bride of Christ is the perfect help meet of her bridegroom, and He will present her spotless to His Father.

"Who can find such a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." She, the Church, is the pearl of great price, and Christ gave up everything He has to purchase her.

Until this week, I did not have any patristics to back this up. It just made perfect sense to me when I first
reviewed this Proverb two years ago in light of Rev. Eckardt's comment quoted above. However, after researching it further now and finding the above quotes from Ambrose, Augustine, and Luther, one can see that this interpretation is not just a pious personal opinion, but is consistent with what the Church has taught from the earliest of times.

It is certainly also true, as found in many other patristics and commentaries, that many aspects of the Proverbs 31 woman are certainly things which could be praised in a uniquely accomplished and virtuous earthly wife. However, the text itself makes it quite clear that this is not what is expected of every godly woman. In fact, it seems to indicate that there is only one example of such a woman to be found. The entire Proverb is framed with these two statements:
"who can find such a woman? She is far more precious than jewels" and "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou hast surpassed them all."

Women who heed the godly admonitions of Titus 2:3-5 are to be praised as virtuous wives and mothers. Yet earthly marriage is but a shadow of the greater mystery of Christ and the Church. The Bride of Christ "surpasses them all." Women, therefore, should not measure their personal accomplishments next to the Proverbs 31 woman, but rather should seek comfort and shelter within Her.


A sermon reflecting on John 2

Dear friends,
Following some correspondence with Erich Heidenreich, he suggested that I might post here a sermon of mine on the topic of marriage I preached in my parish last weekend. For what it's worth, I hope it serves to encourage you.