Last week, in his week-day podcast and radio show “Pastor’s Perspective” on K-WAVE (sound bite can be found at 25:50), Chuck Smith, founding pastor of Calvary Chapel and respected evangelical leader in Southern California, came out with a plug for birth control, calling children a liability and — more out there still — attempted to back it up with Scripture, quoting 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that anyone unable to support or provide for their family is worse than an infidel.
His remarks were all the more startling because they sounded less like a pastor steeped in Scripture, and more like a Planned Parenthood rep. The show, airing April 30th, answered a woman’s question about responsibility and family size with advice such as: “Kids used to be assets” (emphasis added), “Children are now a liability . . . cost a huge amount of money . . . ” “They are not productive in bringing back into the family,” and finally, his co-host, Don Stewart, stated, “Scripture says, in 1 Timothy 5:8, that anyone who cannot care for their family is worse than an infidel.”
Productive in bringing what back? Free Happy Meals? A brand-new Bentley? Better? (Children do, actually, bring in tax credits each April.) And surely a family with many children has more potential to care for its own than one with one pampered pet.
Firstly, he takes Scripture surprisingly out of context, and totally skips over passages such as Psalm 127:1-5, in which children are called “a heritage from the Lord” and the man with many, a “quiver full” in fact, is called blessed, never to be put to shame — and not just blessed spiritually, but materially. The inspired Word of God doesn’t say anything about a couple of arrows, or maybe one really good arrow that gets to go to Disneyland, Cabo, Europe, the best prep schools, and Harvard. No, it says a quiver full.
At the same time, 1 Timothy 5:8 comes after the prelude stating that children are obliged to support their family, care for their widowed mother or father in their old age, and one another — and if there are no children, it then falls to the Church to carry out this duty. “Those who don’t care for their family are worse than infidels” does not then imply that you should have fewer children! It states outright that children are blessings, and that parents lose the natural support of a family if they have none or few.
Johnathan Blundell, a husband and Christian blogger, recently wrote regarding this verse that provision, in context, could not simply be read as meaning monetary — but to provide for your family is to provide love, primarily, and that, ultimately, God provides the means when we accept His gifts, which brings us back to Pastor Smith and his remarks about children no longer being much good.
The program also notes Genesis — the ever-quoted “be fruitful and multiply.” But for some reason Pastor Smith and his colleague say that this is no longer a directive. That’s lovely, but where in the Bible does it say, “Sorry, that bit in Genesis, it’s over now. There are enough of you. Leave off, don’t make any more of you — you aren’t good anymore.” Instead, Genesis states, “He saw all of this, and it was good.” This “good” was not qualified by a time constraint.
If God offered you a surplus of food, would you say, “Oh no, thanks God, I just want to barely subsist, and eat beans and rice and some limp veggies, thanks.” Or if God offered you the winning lotto ticket on the jackpot, would you say, “Wait-wait-wait, that’s a liability. I’ll have to invest it responsibly! I’ll have to finagle my taxes! It’ll take — ohmigosh — time. Liability! What if it’s stolen?” Or if God offered you a gorgeous million dollar home on the beach would you respond, “Well, no, that’s just way too much. After all, talk about a liability: upkeep and property taxes and cleaning . . . . the list just goes on!” You’d much rather have a shack, right? And happiness, if God offered never-ending happiness — well, gee, that’s just too overwhelming, isn’t it?
But is this our attitude toward children, God’s priceless gift? They aren’t valued at hundreds of millions like the lotto ticket: they’re invaluable. They aren’t valued at 1 million like the house: they’re unrepeatable, unique individuals made in the likeness of the Creator. They aren’t a lifetime of high cuisine, satiety, free food and peace of mind about being fed: they are a potential endless feeding of the soul with love.
Finally, Smith advises us about birth control, and in a flippant dismissal, tosses out all natural methods as “the rhythm method” with the cheap joke, “What do you call couples who use the rhythm method? Oh yeah: parents.” But are we really hearing the facts here? Yes, being responsible for your health and livelihood is also God’s directive to you as a married couple. Some people truly have health issues that make having many children nearly impossible, and they need to prevent pregnancy. Others wait until they have a full-time job, or more secure living arrangements. But are we to listen to Pastor Smith interpret the best methods of birth control — outside his area of expertise — when he has just quoted Scripture out of context, which is in his area of expertise?
The truth is that the Pill is abortifacient: it doesn’t just prevent pregnancy, it can take the life of an already conceived child. Secondly, its success rate is not 100%, and is often much lower due to missed days and improper use. Natural Family Planning, far from the hit-and-miss rhythm method joked about on Pastor’s Perspective, is highly effective. Many of my close friends have used it for years without a hitch, and one couple in particular delayed having a child for four years after their marriage while the husband struggled to get regular work teaching in a university. On top of that, it doesn’t douse a woman in chemicals and hormones labeled by the FDA as known carcinogens.
“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” It says this in Mark 10:14.
Are we really following Christ if we take the world’s view of children as assets or liabilities? I think if Pastor Chuck Smith took the time, he would find this verse, and, while he may not be well-versed in healthy ways to plan a family, he should know that Christ is indignant when we put our personal comfort and material gain over “these little ones.”
- April 30th Podcast from Chuck Smith (Sound bite can be found at 25:50.)
- Do Birth Control Pills Cause Abortions?(Brochure PDF)
- Do Birth Control Pills Cause Abortions? (Full Booklet PDF)
- Family of the Americas: NFP (Video)
- Life Issues “Dispelling the Myths” (Defining abortifacients and which forms of birth control use them.)