In light of last week’s post, and the fact that this is Lent, we start today’s post off with another passage from the Book of Sirach:
Do not desire a multitude of useless children,
nor rejoice in ungodly sons.
2 If they multiply, do not rejoice in them,
unless the fear of the Lord is in them.
3 Do not trust in their survival,
and do not rely on their multitude;
for one is better than a thousand,
and to die childless is better than to have ungodly children.
4 For through one man of understanding a city will be filled with people,
but through a tribe of lawless men it will be made desolate.
5 Many such things my eye has seen,
and my ear has heard things more striking than these.
6 In an assembly of sinners a fire will be kindled,
and in a disobedient nation wrath was kindled.
7 He was not propitiated for the ancient giants
who revolted in their might.
8 He did not spare the neighbors of Lot,
whom he loathed on account of their insolence.
9 He showed no pity for a nation devoted to destruction,
for those destroyed in their sins;
10 nor for the six hundred thousand men on foot,
who rebelliously assembled in their stubbornness.
11 Even if there is only one stiff-necked person,
it will be a wonder if he remains unpunished.
For mercy and wrath are with the Lord;
he is mighty to forgive, and he pours out wrath.
12 As great as his mercy, so great is also his reproof;
he judges a man according to his deeds.
13 The sinner will not escape with his plunder,
and the patience of the godly will not be frustrated.
14 He will make room for every act of mercy;
every one will receive in accordance with his deeds.
Last week the topic of children as a liability was raised. It is clear that Ben Sira regarded children as something that could be either a blessing or a curse. If they turn out well, then they are a blessing of the greatest nature. But if they turn out wicked- well, you better watch out. God find no joy or happiness in wicked offspring. In fact, he makes clear through the Prophet Malachi what he wants:
Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life?And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth.
So parents have a special responsibility that they face- raising children in righteousness. As much as I want to, and feel called to marry and have children, I can appreciate the fact that my responsibilities are that much lighter without either.
St. Paul agrees that this responsibility exists, and in his first Letter to Timothy explains that it is part of the process of sanctification for mothers:
15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.
(1 Timothy 2:15)
St. John Chrysostom explains in his homily concerning 1 Timothy 2 that this applies to fathers and mothers alike:
Hear this, you fathers and mothers, that your bringing up of children shall not lose its reward. This also he says, as he proceeds,Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children.1 Timothy 5:10 Among other commendations he reckons this one, for it is no light praise to devote to God those children which are given them of God. For if the basis, the foundation which they lay be good, great will be their reward; as great, if they neglect it, will be their punishment. It was on account of his children that Eli perished. For he ought to have admonished them, and indeed he did admonish them, but not as he ought; but from his unwillingness to give them pain he destroyed both himself and them. Hear this, you fathers, bring your children up with great carein the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Children are indeed a blessing. But like all the blessing of God, they place a responsibility upon us to use them rightly. Failing to do so brings us not further blessing, but condemnation. Our Lord and Savior explained it thus:
14 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
This last parable is one that I try to keep at heart at all times. God has given me much, and expects much from me. We are called to be fruitful in our lives, not barren like the Fig tree. At least, not unless we want to end up like it.