A Family Dynasty

By David Feddes

“To examine in coldly economic terms a parent’s decision to have children is widely thought to be in bad taste,” admits Phillip Longman in the first sentence of a cover story which appeared in U.S. News and World Report. But even though it’s in bad taste, Longman goes ahead anyway and tries to put a dollar figure on how much a child costs. He estimates that for the typical child in a middle‑income family, the cost will be 1.45 million dollars. That estimate is in American dollars, so the bill for Canadians is even higher. Sounds like a pile of money!

But if you’ve got kids, don’t panic just yet. Stories about the cost of children are nothing new. Such stories appear every few years. Every so often media people decide it’s time once again to talk about how expensive children are, and they usually try to get attention by headlining a shocking price tag.

In this case the author trumpets a figure of $1.45 million. But that number isn’t what you’d actually pay out to raise a child. It includes about a million dollars of supposedly lost income due to a child’s effect on the career of mom or dad. It assumes you’ll pay almost $158,000 for your child’s college education, without the kid working or getting financial aid and loans. It figures the additional 18-year housing cost of a child at over $97,000, even though many people already live in homes that could easily house more children. (When my family needed to make space for another child, we got a bunk bed. It didn’t cost $97,000!) Also, the figure is given in future dollars, not today’s dollars. Once you study the details and sort out the numbers, the actual expense for a middle‑class, only child up to age 18 would be about $100,000 in today’s money‑‑about $5,500 per year—and additional children would be less. $100,000 isn’t exactly cheap—but it’s not $1.45 million, either.

That overblown cover story bothers me. Why keep repeating a price tag in the millions, when actual expenditure is far lower? Why put a price tag on kids at all? The article is titled “The Cost of Children”; it says little about the value of children.

The author says “the ‘smartest’ people in our society end up being those least likely to have children… It’s the decision to remain childless that offers the real investment opportunity.” He then says it would be a fantastic financial investment to get sterilized in college and pursue a career and stash away those millions you save by not having kids. It sounds like an ad for family banning from Planned Barrenhood.

The article mentions in passing, “A child is a font of love, hope for the future, continuation of one’s bloodline, and various other intangible pleasures” and describes these as “sentimental considerations.” But, says the author, “For economic man, child‑rearing has become a crummy financial bargain.” Apparently, the only benefit of having children is sentimental pleasure, while the cost is astronomical.

That way of putting the matter is so crass that some of us might object. As the author admits, it “is widely thought to be in poor taste” to say such things. But although you and I might avoid putting such things into words, I’m afraid more of us think this way than we’d like to admit. How many of us with children are busier bemoaning the bills than counting the blessings? How many are putting career ahead of kids? Some career‑oriented couples deliberately delay having children, or have none at all. Others eventually have a child or two, but neither parent really wants to raise children. Both are eager to hand their kids over to someone else so that they themselves can return to work. Career comes before kids. If they see any benefit in children, it’s the sentimental benefit of cute, impressive offspring.

Power Couples

What a contrast to God’s perspective! In the Bible God says little about the cost of children or the burden of raising them, but he plainly says over and over that it’s a great blessing to have children—and lots of them (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 127:3‑5; 1 Chronicles 25:5, 26:4‑5). If we don’t see children as a blessing, we’re simply not in tune with God.

And the blessing of children isn’t just in the sentimental pleasure they can give us. It’s not just the feeling of hugging a cute little cuddler or the thrill of seeing your own features in your child’s face. These things are precious, of course, and are worth more than fat bank accounts or fancy houses or fabulous vacations. But there’s more to children than charm or sentimental appeal. For people who know and love God, raising children is a way to touch the future and even to touch eternity itself. Most of the stuff we work for is going to vanish someday, but our children will shape the future of the world, and they are everlasting souls who will live on into eternity. So when you have children and invest money and time and effort in raising them to live for the Lord, you are doing something more important than almost any career imaginable. You are becoming God’s partner in a plan for a family dynasty that goes from generation to generation and extends into eternity.

Joseph Hall was a Christian father with a large family. One day a rich, important man came to his house. When the rich man saw all of Joseph Hall’s children, he exclaimed, “These are they that make rich men poor.” “No,” the godly father answered, “these are they that make a poor man rich; for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth.”

When we talk about a “power couple,” we usually mean a man and woman who both have high‑paying, high prestige careers. The man is a big shot in politics or the corporate world, and the woman is a high‑powered doctor or lawyer. The power couple may be childless; or they may have one child or at most two–who generally end up in someone else’s care most of the time.

But there’s another kind of power couple: a father and mother who have as many children as the Lord is willing to give them, who nurture and teach their children to be powerful weapons in God’s hand. Long after the man and woman are gone, their impact lives on in descendants who are great in number and great in impact for God. Many souls who live forever in heaven will trace their ancestry back to that godly father and mother.

As for the so‑called power couples that focus mainly on careers, are they really all that powerful? Eventually they retire and die. Other people step in and take over their jobs, and that’s that. The power couple’s power is gone. The real power couple, the couple with the long-term influence, is the father and mother who build a family dynasty of faith. They set their hearts on raising up godly offspring, and their positive impact lives on long afterward in the population of earth and of heaven.

Does this mean single people or infertile couples are useless or insignificant? No, but it does mean that if they’re to have a long‑term impact, it will usually occur in much the same way that godly parents leave a long‑term legacy: by caring more about God and personal relationships and the next generation than about position or money. The great missionary Paul never had a wife or children, but did he sit around gloating about the $1.45 million he saved by not having kids? No, Paul spent his life building relationships and showing people how to be saved and know Jesus and live for him. He poured his time and energy into enlarging and strengthening the great family of God, the church, and he guided and encouraged many parents and children. Paul didn’t have a family of his own, but his overall impact was enormous. Singleness for the sake of selfishness comes to nothing, but singles and infertile couples who serve God and his people can be a blessing to many families and leave their mark on the family of God in a way that carries on for generations.

Having made that clear, let’s return to what God says about parents building a family dynasty among our own offspring.

Family Blessings

The Bible makes it clear that we can’t build a dynasty on our own; we need God and his blessing. Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain… 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” (Psalm 127).

Throughout history God has worked in special ways through families and family lines. Already in the early chapters of the Bible, the Lord told Abraham: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:7). Years later the Lord told Abraham’s grandson Jacob (also named Israel), “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Genesis 28:14). The offspring who fulfills that promise most completely is Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection bring forgiveness and eternal life to people all over the world.

But though Jesus is the primary offspring who fulfills God’s promises to Abraham and Israel, it remains true even after Jesus’ coming that the Lord continues to work in a special way through the families of those who trust him. God says in the Bible, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).” The promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:39). In other words, the moment you trust Jesus as your Savior and Master, God’s covenant promises to Abraham and his descendants now include you and your descendants.

Faith in Jesus is personal, but it’s not just individual. It involves your family. The great Israelite leader Joshua didn’t just speak as an individual and say, “As for me, I will serve the Lord.” He spoke as the head of his home and said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Centuries later, when a suicidal jail official asked the missionaries Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”—but that’s not all they said. They told the man, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and your family.” The Bible then says “he and all his family were baptized… he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God‑‑he and his whole family” (Acts 16:30‑34).

Jesus doesn’t just connect with an individual here or there; he saves and blesses entire families and generations of their offspring, and he uses those offspring to be a blessing to still others and draw them into God’s covenant family as well. God speaks of “showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

It’s a great blessing to know God and his ways yourself, and it’s a great blessing to have children and descendants who become strong for Jesus in generations to come. In Psalm 112 the Bible says, “Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed… a righteous man will be remembered forever.”

Family Disaster

Psalm 112 also shows the other side of the picture when it says, “The longings of the wicked will come to nothing.”

Sports Illustrated ran a cover story about the many professional athletes who produce children by various women but want nothing to do with the mothers or the kids. They’re too busy chasing fun and fame and fortune. Every so often they mail a small percentage of their zillion‑dollar income as child support—and some of the athletes wouldn’t even do that if they weren’t under court orders to do so.

Such men hardly deserve to be called men. They are adored by millions, yet they hardly talk to their own children. They are most admired by those who know them least, and least respected by those who know them best. How pathetic! They’d rather play around than care for the eternal souls they’ve helped bring into being. They talk about building a championship dynasty, but they don’t bother building their own family dynasty. When their playing days are over, their fans and groupies will go after other stars, their jetset lifestyle and millions of dollars will vanish in most cases, and what will they have left? “The longings of the wicked will come to nothing.”

Sad to say, it’s not just a bunch of athletes who are living that way. Far too many of us are putting our careers ahead of our kids, our fantasies ahead of our families, our goals ahead of our God. And we end up not with a dynasty but a disaster. We have no vital relationship with God, no stability in our marriages, no joyous ties with our kids, and no legacy for the future.

The neglect of children and the sad state of marriage is often a symptom of how little we care about God. In the Bible book of Malachi, God rebukes people who have married outside the faith, and he also rebukes those who have divorced their spouses because they find someone else more appealing. Such people don’t care about God, and they don’t care about raising up children who are mighty for God. To raise up godly offspring, a man and woman must be one in commitment to God, and they must be one in permanent commitment to each other. Malachi says, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord” (Malachi 2:15‑16).

There’s an old saying, “The family that prays together stays together.” If families are falling apart, perhaps one reason is that they don’t pray together or read the Bible together. Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist of religion at Princeton University, estimates that only 5 percent of the population is actively engaged in prayer or devotional practice on a daily basis. This is ruining individuals and families, and it is warping churches. Wuthnow says, “I think there is a qualitative change in our churches. They are less tied to families and neighborhoods, less certain about their doctrine, and more modeled on a consumer market where people shop for a spiritual life.” Many of us think we’re too busy to spend time with God in personal prayer and Bible reading, and we have no time for family devotions with our spouse and children, either. If we go to church at all, we expect the preacher to supply in one hour what we’ve been too godless to seek during the week. We pay no attention to God all week, and we can’t figure out why our own souls and families are so weak.

Seeing children as a burden instead of a blessing, being careless with sex and marriage, ignoring God by neglecting personal and family devotions and church attendance—these things often go together, and they are a formula for disaster. Devotion to God, my spouse, and our children is basic to a family dynasty. Devotion to “me, myself, and I” is a recipe for ruin. “The longings of the wicked will come to nothing.”

Building a Family Dynasty

The first step in building a family dynasty is to commit your own life to the Lord and cultivate a relationship with Jesus. You can’t pass on to your children what you haven’t got yourself. When Psalm 112 describes the kind of man whose children are mighty in the land, the first thing it says about such a man is that he “fears the Lord” and “finds great delight in his commands.” In other words, he takes God more seriously than anybody or anything else, and he enjoys hearing and doing what God says in the Bible.

What about you? Have you put your faith in Jesus? Do you believe that he died to pay for your sins and save you from hell and that he rose again to give you eternal life? Have you ever committed your life to him and promised to live for him? And are you carrying out that commitment? Do you talk with God each day in prayer? Do you listen to him everyday by reading what he says in the Bible? Do you have a time of personal, daily devotions for contact and conversation with Jesus? Does the life of Christ shine in your daily conduct? If you believe God’s promises are for you and for your children, be sure to start with yourself.

If you come from a family background that has ignored God for generations, why not change that? Jesus can change the direction of your children and descendants, beginning with you.

By the same token, if you’ve been blessed with godly parents or ancestors, don’t be the one to interrupt the family legacy and weaken the family dynasty. Live under the same splendid promises of God that have helped your family tree to flourish thus far.

Once you’re personally committed to Jesus and walking with him daily in a relationship of obedience and devotion and love, the next step is to claim the promise of God which embraces not only you but also your children. Prize your children as precious gifts of God, and rejoice that God’s promise includes them as well as you. Then do whatever it takes to pass your faith to them and help them enjoy the same relationship with God that you have.

Do you have family devotions with your children and spouse? Do you read Scripture and pray with them every day, perhaps several times each day? In my family, breakfast and supper and bedtime are special times for family Bible reading, prayer, singing, and talking about the day’s events and about our relationship to Jesus. I learned this basic pattern from my parents when I was growing up, they learned it from their parents, and now it’s the pattern for my own family. The Bible says, “One generation will commend your works to another; they will speak of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). Make time each day for family Bible reading and discussion, for prayer and praise. Make it a priority to connect with God and with each other. That’s a powerful part of a family dynasty. God says,

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds… Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up… so that your days and the days of your children may be many… as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth (Deuteronomy 11:18‑21).

Beware of being too busy for God or too busy to help your children get to know the Lord. One of scariest verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10. It says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). The previous generation had known God and seen his wonders, but apparently they didn’t do a good job of teaching their children. The result was a new generation in which most people didn’t know God or his works or his will. I’m afraid the same thing is happening in far too many families in our own time.

Don’t waste God’s gifts. Don’t blow your chance to build a family dynasty of children who are mighty in the land and strong for Jesus. Instead, believe God’s promise to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Believe that the Lord will do great things in your family line. Become his partner in raising up godly offspring. Delight in your children. Focus on the blessings, not just the bills. The financial costs aren’t nearly as important as the spiritual capital that will keep paying dividends for generations to come.

If you want to change the world, start with yourself and your family. Ask God to take over your life. Ask him to make your family grow in numbers and in spiritual power. And keep the big picture in mind. Generations from now (unless the Lord returns first) there could be hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of people who trace their faith and their godly way of life back to you. As one author says, anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but God can count the apples in a seed. Never underestimate what God may do through your children and your family dynasty.

By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.