Saturday, 8 December 2018
"I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 19:23-24 NIV
Money is a good resource that God entrusts to us to enable us accomplish His purposes on earth. He gives us money to help us transact kingdom businesses to His glory. But money is not the only resource that amounts to wealth. Looking at the context of the passage in Mat.19, wealth encompasses properties, possessions and every other thing that we may own which makes us or others around us to consider us as rich.
A successful young man came to Jesus inquiring on what he would do to get eternal life. The discussion went on and on until he was told to go and sell his earthly possessions so as to have treasure in heaven. He became sad and abandoned his desire for eternal life and walked away because of his much wealth. The Lord did not bother to pursue after him because of his much wealth, but “As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God's kingdom? Matt 19:23-24 (THE MESSAGE).
Yes, we do not have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to sincerely seek and solely trust in the Lord until we watch our own hearts each time we seem to possess something better than the next person. If the Lord Jesus said it is tough, it means it is really tough. In my book, Following Hard after God, I said that “money, positions of power, lifting and blessings of God increase our capacity to create options in life. Unfortunately, the very same things God has given to us to use to glorify Him turns around to hinder us from seeking Him. Once there is a challenge, we turn and look around for substitutes; we just pick one and move on as if we do not need God.” The capacity to create solutions and options offered by wealth gives us some level of freedom and liberty, which is the reason why no rich person wants to be poor and every poor man wants to be rich. These solutions can translate into comfort and security of all sorts both real and imaginary. The danger is that wealth that is not surrendered to God can deceive our hearts into thinking that “it” is what works and not God. It is possible to explore the alternatives wealth creates without any recourse to God. This is the idolatry which God hates.
This is why we are warned not to be accumulators and hoarders. (Luke 12:16-21). We are commanded to be givers, using our riches to do good works. (1 Tim.6:17-19). Giving is the only antidote that will make our wealth not to obstruct us from entering the Kingdom of God. Giving accomplishes two things, it meets a need and saves our hearts from hanging on what we have.
Do not allow your heart to be deceived. Be wise. If the Lord says it is difficult, make no mistake, it means it is difficult. May our good God bless you with wealth. May you not allow it to be an obstacle to your entering the Kingdom of God.
Saturday, 1 December 2018
Pregnancy through IVF for the Single/Unmarried Ladies: Why it crosses all Moral and Ethical Boundaries.
Recently, a pastor wrote on his wall, “I am very very proud of our dear sister …. She has shown African women that religion and society should never dictate how and when you should become a mother.” He continued by asking, “Will religion understand for a moment that everyone deserves someone to call them MAMA?... Why are we not making babies at the same rate that we are having sex ⚹? Isn't it because we are afraid of the religious and societal stigma that comes from having a child outside marriage?” His write up was a response to the safe delivery of a baby by a single/unmarried celebrity lady who got pregnant through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). He made it clear that he was not endorsing sexual immorality but concluded that the lady “is an intelligent Christian lady who did not allow religion … to dictate her life and destiny”.
My intention is not to get enmeshed in the name calling and emotional comments that characterized most of the comments that followed his post. And that is why I have chosen not to mention his name here. This post is meant to engender discussions on the matter, in our own context as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to help those who may be in crisis of faith to make godly decisions that will please God.
Is it true that the sole reason why single ladies are not making babies is just because of the fear of religious and societal stigmas that come from having a child outside marriage? For a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, are there biblical and moral reasons?
In some cultures, if a widow does not have a male child and is old, and has the where withal, she may decide to ‘marry’ any girl, especially those with premarital pregnancy, so as to have a male child in the family. After the delivery of the first child, the ‘wife’ will either be assigned to any man of the choice of the ‘husband-woman’ or the girl will be allowed to just flirt around and continue to make babies for the family line. The church has never supported this lifestyle for obvious reasons:
- The biblical view of marriage is between a man and a woman and not between a woman and a woman. It negates everything the bible teaches about marriage. Gen 2:21-25.
- The sin of fornication and adultery involved in the whole scheme of satisfying the family desire to leave behind a family line is condemned by God and will be punished except there is repentance. Heb.13:4.
- The girl that is used to produce babies for the family line has become a tool just because of the mistake of getting pregnant when not married. Instead of supporting her to get through her mistake and continue her dream, she is punished by being given out in marriage. The selfishness of the family towards achieving their own happiness does not put into consideration the happiness of the poor girl.
- Culturally, the children are not viewed as bastards because they assume the family of the “woman-husband”. Even though, in most cases, the children will come from different men. This is not healthy for a stable society.
The difference is not much between the above cultural example and the issue of our discourse, that is, a single/unmarried woman making babies with the sperm of another man with whom she has no marital commitment. The same cultural and secular worldviews guide both of them – the pursuit of personal happiness as the ultimate goal of life on earth. A committed follower of Jesus Christ is not supposed to bow to the pressures of these cultural and secular worldviews which tend to argue that there are no absolutes in life; nothing is good or bad; it depends on how you are seeing it; it is ok as long as you are happy. Ironically, in denying the absolute, they make the same relativism absolute.
Why should we see things differently? Why should this act not receive our approval?
1, A Slippery Slope
The secular worldview has no moral boundaries. In his fine in response to the US Supreme Court judgment on same-sex marriage, How wide the divide: Sexuality at the forefront, culture at the crossroads, Ravi Zacharias said that the secular thinker and the Christian come from two different definitions of what it means to be human. For the Christian, life is in the soul. The body is a temporal home. In fact, “you do not ‘have’ a soul; you are a soul, and ‘have’ a body” quoting George MacDonald. For the secular person, “NOW is all we have and NOW is the moment to enjoy whatever one pleases. A soul-less existence makes the body the sole means of fulfillment”. When there is no transcendent point of reference, you can afford to live for here and now as long as you have that sense of happiness and fulfillment. The body becomes a means we use to achieve that fulfillment.
The spiritual person seeks to know what the intention of God is. Somethings are right while others are wrong. What is God’s intention for my body? Is it just to pursue my personal happiness at all cost or to be kept holy for God? How I use my body to satisfy my happiness matters. The Christian view is that “your body is the temple of God.” 1 Cor.3:16-17. Putting your happiness above a call to holiness is not a good thing. If a single/unmarried lady is approved to get pregnant through IVF just because of sympathy and her need to have a child outside wedlock, what of a single/unmarried man who decides not to get married but chooses to procure an egg from a woman of his choice, get someone to carry the pregnancy for him, just to have a child? Where do we apply the break? A slippery slope and confusion, isn’t it? What is legal may not always be lawful.
2. God’s Family Framework
Sex and child-bearing are never discussed favorably in the Bible outside the context of marriage and a family created by the union of a man and his wife. There are instructions given by God on the roles of each parent in the family, especially in the life of the child. (Ps.112:1-2; Eph.6:1-4).
“Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Prov 1:8-9. NIV.
God’s command to humanity to “be fruitful and replenish the earth” is in the context of a man and a woman brought together in relationship and not in one person’s decision. (Gen.1:27,28; 2:23-24). God has designed the family to be a husband, wife and children. That is His plan.
For the Christian, the same way sexuality is sacred, child-bearing demands exclusivity, whether it is through sex or enabled by science, it should be pursued only in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Financial capability, ability to train a child in school and ability to give care are inadequate considerations. When a single/unmarried woman opts to get pregnant, what she is starting is a family outside of God’s designed framework.
Note that this is different from a married couple making efforts to use scientific means to help them get pregnant. Ethical procedures still have to be followed and the couple has to be careful not to commit murder in the process since we believe that life begins at conception. Any willful destruction or discarding of a fertilized fetus is murder. But I am not going to dig into the arguments since other people have done a great apologetic work in this regard. The point is that a married couple brings the baby into a God-designed family framework while the opposite is the case for the unmarried.
3. The Selfishness and Violation of the Right of the Unborn
Man, by nature is selfish and self-centered hence, it is always what I want that matters. But when Jesus Christ becomes the Lord of my life, the question changes from what I want to what God wants. Our pursuit of happiness then must have boundaries and limits both in the object of our happiness and the way we pursue it. Now, in the case under review, it is selfishness for a single/unmarried person to seek pregnancy just for her happiness without thinking of the impact on the child; she decides to raise a family without thinking of God’s design for the family.
Does the right of the woman to pursue her own happiness in deliberately bringing a child into the world not violate the right of the baby to have a healthy and a balanced home?
4. Lack of Marital Commitment
Life is not just about our personal happiness. Some things may make us happy yet are against God’s purpose. The Bible teaches us to apply restraint and guard our desires when they run foul against the will of God. For the follower of Jesus Christ, marriage is a sacred commitment between a man and a woman. When you go out of the way to procure the sperm of a man with whom you do not have any commitment to raise the family with him, just because you want to have a child and be happy, it runs against the purpose of God for the family.
When an unmarried lady goes to procure the sperm of a man so as to make babies and raise a family of her own without the man, what she is saying is that the man is not necessary to the family she wants to raise, even though his seed is necessary for her to have a baby. Same goes for a man who does not want to get married, but procures the egg of a woman just because he wants to raise a family of his own. Her egg is considered necessary to be used to satisfy his desire for a child while her commitment is not needed for him to raise his family. Life should be more decent than these games.
5. Life Realities
In life, the estates we find ourselves can be because of our choices, the choices of others or the inexplicable circumstances of life brought about by sin. Some of them we can change by deliberately making different choices and taking thoughtful actions, some we can improve, some we cannot change but just to accept. Christianity does not present anything or any estate in this present life as the permanent and ultimate hope of the believer in Christ. Yes we impact our environment, but nothing earthly can be adequate to satisfy the eternity that God planted deep in the human heart.
The truth is that everybody in this life will not get married. Everybody in this life will not bear children. Everybody in this life will not be rich, or poor etc. This is the reality of life. The difference between someone with a secular mindset and a committed follower of Jesus Christ is that while the former pursues whatever he thinks will give him personal happiness in any way possible without restraints, the latter seeks to know what the will of God is as concerns his estate in life. He pursues his personal happiness within the boundaries of God’s laws.
As a Christian, it is possible to have contentment in our estate and circumstance. 1 Tim.6:6.
6. Other Challenges
Apart from these moral problems, there are other problems.
The crisis of identity: The child will grow up wondering who his/her father and paternal relatives are since there is no official father. The extended family has a way of stabilizing the child emotionally, helping to form the child’s character. A child may understand when the circumstance around his birth was accidental like a pre or extra marital pregnancy because of rape or outside-wedlock sexual relations, but how can he cope with the mother’s deliberate choice to have him/her without a father? It is a conflict imposed on him to battle by his mother even before he is born.
The Holy Spirit put Jesus in the womb of Mary before her marriage to Joseph was consummated (Matt.1:18), but are we going to use that to justify unmarried ladies that want to become mothers to go and get pregnant through IVF since they did not commit fornication? To draw such a parallel is a theological error and shows gross ignorance of the power of God in the incarnation of Christ. Mary was betrothed to Joseph before she was made pregnant. To whom is the single/unmarried lady betrothed? It was not about Mary’s happiness, “nor the will of man,” it was about the purpose of God, even against her personal earthly pleasures.
What should constitute our Response as Followers of Jesus Christ?
- We must make this matter part of our teaching illustrations. Begin to apply the Scriptures and give careful Christian perspectives to this area. Widen the discussion and begin to address these ethical issues biblically in order to help sincere Christians make godly decisions.
- Create a lovely family atmosphere in the church that is inclusive no matter a person’s social status. Most cultures alienate the single and despise the childless couple as if they are a problem to the community. The church should live above these cultural dictates of our society and stick to God’s Word; be a good dispenser of God’s grace and mercy. If the church is not made to be the family it is, people will look for ‘family’ elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with being single and unmarried as long as you are not ‘burning’. (1 Cor.7:8-9). A person who is single has more time to spend serving the Lord. (1 Cor.7:34). Let’s celebrate every member of the body of Christ.
- Change this earthly-perpetuity-based preaching that is peddled at the expense of eternal hope in Christ. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Cor 15:19 NIV. No matter your estate in life, you can serve God well and enjoy a love relationship with Him because He loves you and redeemed you.
- If you strongly consider to be a single parent, pray and follow the adoption route and help a child find love and meaning in life. Try foster parenting or mentoring. These options are considered part of social work in contributing to making our world a better place in giving meaning to lives that ordinarily will not get it. That is better instead of engaging in this confusion.
As I conclude this discourse, let me address an important issue, and that is concerning the innocent baby that is brought into the world. Our approach should be that of forgiveness, grace and love. Throughout the scriptures, we see God celebrate life. Does the unacceptable behavior of a parent condemn the new born baby? The answer is NO. John Piper gave to that question when he argued that God can still make a child great even though the child may have originated in a sinful act. There is no difference between a human life born in marriage and a human life born outside wedlock. Sin or some sexual misbehavior can bring about pregnancy, but that does not mean that the pregnancy itself is a sin. The sin needs to be confessed and repented from while the pregnancy is a condition resulting from that sin which we need to handle with grace, love and care because as Christians, we believe that God can wash us beautifully clean and give us the chance to live for Him again. Nevertheless, Piper warned that “The remedy for that sin and the hope for a life of freedom and joy and peace and usefulness for mother and child and family and everybody affected should not be sought in the minimization of sin, but in the maximization of God’s grace.”
Christian Author & Apologist.
Christian Author & Apologist.