“Children are an inheritance from Jehovah.” – Psalm 127:3
[From ws 12/19 p.22 Study Article 52: February 24 – March 1, 2020]
Paragraphs 1-5 contain perfectly reasonable advice. In doing so the Organization makes it clear that others should not pressure couples as to when or whether to have children. That is good counsel so far, but for the fact the theme of the article is about training children, not whether to have them or to pressure others to have or not have children. This counsel should surely be in a differently themed article.
But this good counsel ends in paragraph 6 when the Organization then goes against its own good advice to others. How?
Firstly, Paragraph 6 it states “Other Christians have chosen to consider the pattern set by Noah’s three sons and their wives. Those three couples did not have children immediately. (Gen. 6:18; 9:18, 19; 10:1; 2 Pet. 2:5)”.
The inference being given here is that Noah’s sons delayed having children because the flood was coming. Now, that may or may not be true as the Bible record does not say, hence it is speculation. But there are two important points to bear in mind before deciding if Noah’s sons set any pattern or not.
Firstly, Noah has his three sons after he reached 500 years of age (Genesis 5:32). The flood came in his 600th year. In pre-flood times the Bible record shows fathers had children much later in life than today. Of those mentioned in Genesis 5, the youngest age men became fathers was 65 up to Methuselah at 187 and Noah at 500+. Genesis 11:10 would suggest Shem was born when Noah was about 503. Shem being 100 years old, 2 years after the flood, Noah would have been 600+1+2=603, -100 = 503. Genesis 10:2,6,21 indicate that Japheth was the oldest, followed by Ham. Hence, they were most likely born in Noah’s 501st and 502nd year respectively. Therefore, we find that Noah’s sons were only around the average age of 100 years old that men in pre-flood times first had children by the time of the flood. It is not possible for the Organization to prove a deliberate delay or pattern here, hence they try to add weight to their argument by the suggestion that Noah’s sons delayed by saying “not … immediately”.
Secondly, Noah and his family were busy building the ark. They knew that God had promised to bring a flood (Genesis 6:13-17). Furthermore, God had told Noah either directly or through an angel (depending on whether one understands the verse literally or perhaps more reasonably as a figure of speech) what was going to happen. They therefore had a guarantee that the flood would come well before they were beyond child-bearing age.
By contrast, today, we are not in the same position. We have not been personally informed of our near future by an Angel, nor the timing of any such destructive event like the flood, in our case Armageddon. In fact, Jesus said we could not know, as even he did not know (Matthew 24:23-27,36,42-44). Given the record of failures of predictions from the Organization, trying to guess the unknowable, all couples who were of childbearing age in 1975, or within a lifetime from 1900, etc., are now well past childbearing age. No doubt there are many Witness couples in the same predicament today. They wonder, will I still be of childbearing age when Armageddon comes? Sadly, there is no answer anyone can truthfully give. The Organization still claims Armageddon is imminent, just as it has since 1874, yet it is not yet here, and how imminent it is remains to be seen. Mankind has a record of wanting it to come in their own lifetime, but the Bible shows God will bring it in his own time.
Paragraph 6 next says “Jesus likened our time to “the days of Noah,” and there is no doubt that we are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (Matt. 24:37; 2 Tim. 3:1)”.
Jesus did not liken our time to the days of Noah. If we read the cited scripture of Matthew 24:37 you will notice that the “presence of the son of man” would be like “the days of Noah”. Is Jesus present? Reading Matthew 24:23-30 without preconceptions would lead us to understand that he is not yet present, otherwise all would know it. The world has not seen “And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”, therefore logically Jesus cannot be present yet. Additionally, Jesus likened the presence of the son of man to the time of Noah, not the early 21st century.
True, 2 Timothy 3:1 relates there would be critical times hard to deal with, but exactly how critical the times are compared to any other times past or future is very difficult to quantify. Furthermore, whether these critical times in Timothy are being fulfilled today is a question no-one on earth can answer. They can only speculate.
Finally, paragraph 6 concludes “With that reality in mind, some couples have concluded that they would like to postpone having children so that they can devote more time to sharing in the Christian ministry”.[i]
What does this statement have to do with bringing up children? Absolutely nothing. Its sole aim is to attempt to persuade couples not to have children. Why? Is it not so that they have more time to spend preaching and recruiting for the Organization? Those Witness couples of childbearing age today reading this review need to know that this suggestion is nothing new. If my parents had heeded the very same suggestion given in their day your Watchtower article reviewer would not be here. If my spouse and I had heeded this same advice which was heavily promoted also in our younger days, neither would we have adult children who bring my spouse and I great joy.
Concluding this section, the words “Physician, heal thyself” come to mind. Having children or not, is a personal decision for the married couple and neither the parents nor relatives nor friends nor any Organization, should attempt to strongly influence the couple’s decision for their own benefit.
Paragraph 7 contains useful practical reminders such as “When deciding whether to have children and how many children to have, wise couples “calculate the expense.” (Read Luke 14:28, 29.)”. Of course, couples cannot allow for every eventuality, but at least if applied to normal expectations and requirements it would be very beneficial. It is so sad when one sees children who are bringing up themselves because the parents did not calculate the expense and are not willing to spend the required emotional and financial cost on bringing their child. True Christians would ensure that we treat any such inheritance from Jehovah with love and care, dignifying the life the parents have created.
Paragraph 8 mentions that “Some couples who had a number of young children confessed that they felt overwhelmed. A mother may struggle with feeling drained physically and emotionally. Could that have an impact on her being able to study, pray, and share in the ministry regularly? A related challenge is being able to pay attention during Christian meetings and to benefit from them”.
Is this article written by one of those childless men in Bethel headquarters rather than from someone who has brought up children themselves? It certainly seems like it. Surely a father would be concerned about helping his wife cope with the physical and emotional drain or reduce it, and hence offer some practical advice. Yet the paragraph instead goes on to be solely showing concern about the mother’s ability to study, pray, go in the ministry regularly and pay attention in the meetings. This is putting the cart before the horse as the saying goes. If the strain on the mother is reduced, then she would have the time and energy to do the things the Organization desires her to do should she choose to do so. Making the mother (and potentially) father feel guilty about having little or no time for those Organization centric activities will only worsen the problem rather than alleviate it.
“For example, he could help his wife with household chores.” is the suggestion. That might help, but surely any truly Christian father would already be doing that. Does that not sound like someone who has never done household chores in their life?
“And Christian fathers will regularly accompany the family in field service”. This is a sweeping generalisation and only serves to keep up the pressure of demands from the Organization. While this might be possible with one child or maybe two, if the mother came too, there is no obvious consideration of if one or more of the children is very young. It also fails to take account of the personality of the children. Some are naturally quiet and submissive and obedient; others are the opposite and no amount of training and reasoning and discipline can fully control some children. With some children it is only a case of damage limitation and surviving the experience. It also assumes that economically the father can afford the time to do so.
Paragraphs 10 and 11 suggest praying to Jehovah for help, and proceeds to give the example of Manoah and his wife found in Judges 13. Is this really a helpful example? The events back then are not in any way comparable with today. The situation back then was that an angel has given the wife of Manoah instructions as to what was to happen to the child she would soon bear. Clearly, given that the angel had indicated their future son had been chosen for a special, specific purpose, they wanted more instructions so that they could do their best to please Jehovah and to bring up their son so he could fulfill the purpose for which he had been chosen. The angel was sent back to Manoah with more instructions which expanded on the initial communication. These events do not occur in our day. Angels do not visit us personally and visibly to give personal instructions, nor have any sons been chosen to do tasks like that of Manoah’s son (Samson).
Furthermore, today, we have all we need in God’s Word, if we read it and study it. As to the claim of Nihad and Alma mentioned in the paragraph that “And Jehovah answered our prayers in various ways—through the Scriptures, Bible literature, congregation meetings, and conventions”, it is not a verifiable true fact that Jehovah had anything to do with answering their prayers, it is only their view of the matter, coloured by what is written in the Organization’s literature. Is it reasonable to expect that Jehovah specifically ensured that something was written in the literature or put in a meeting or convention outline just for this couple? Nothing in the scriptures indicates that the Holy Spirit would be used or is used like this.[ii]
Paragraph 12 contains one of the most vital principles in bringing up children. “Teach by Example”. Simply put, we can spend all the time we like taking our child(ren) in the ministry, to all the meetings, studying regularly with them, but if we do not show them we are putting on the new personality and changing for the better as a true Christian, it will be all for naught as they will see the hypocrisy and turn their backs on what we may have done. “Joseph worked hard to support his family. In addition, Joseph encouraged his household to appreciate spiritual things. (Deut. 4:9, 10)”. Children are also astute and are often able to see that the requirements of the Organization often have little solid basis in scripture.
Paragraphs 14 and 15 talk about “helping to your children to choose good associates” which all parents whether Witnesses or not would agree with.
Although not mentioned here the Organization frequently strongly encourages Witnesses not to allow their children to associate with non-Witness children. Following this unscriptural advice hinders the ability of Witness children to get used to making their own decisions as to who is good association and makes their transition into adult life difficult as they are ill-prepared to handle both the positives and the negatives of the world around us. Attempting to wrap children figuratively in cotton wool in a sterile environment actually weakens their ability to withstand dangerous germs as the medical field will attest to. As with everything balance is needed. Did Mary and Joseph isolate Jesus from the world around him? Did they control his association with those perhaps viewed as “non-spiritual”? Not if we think about how Jesus got to be missed on the occasion of one trip to the passover in Jerusalem as recorded in Luke 2:41-50.
Paragraphs 17-19 contain useful reminders on training children from an early age and so does the next paragraph about being discerning.
Paragraph 22 correctly reminds us “It has been said that raising children is a 20-year project, but parents never really stop being parents. Among the very best things they can give their children are love, time, and Bible-based training. Each child will respond differently to the training”.
As parents, it is beneficial for us and our children if we make a real effort to raise our children to love God, Christ and their neighbour, with a healthy respect for his Word and his creation. By doing this we greatly lessen the chances that they will be stumbled when finding out that they have been taught lies by the Organization and enslaved by men. Instead they will feel set free as they will be able to keep their faith in Jesus as our ransomer and mediator.
[i] While it seems the main stated aim is to encourage couple to remain childless so as to pioneer and serve the Organization’s aims, there is also a by-product the Organization is very happy about. The likelihood that childless couples can be persuaded to leave any assets to the Organization as they will have no children to care for with an inheritance.