Although the actual election is about a year and a half away, we’re already starting to see prospective candidates throw their hats into the ring for the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Caucuses, primaries, debates, get-out-the-vote efforts, fund-raising, and so much more will occupy the attention of the news media as it covers the candidates’ attempts to become the so-called leader of the free world. As is true every four years, we’ll see party platforms crafted and each person in the race claiming that his or her positions on the issues are the truest embodiment of American values.
Regardless of whether the term family values is bandied about during the election cycle, we’re likely to see candidates talking about the importance of issues that pertain to families. Here I have to quibble just a bit with the term family values, and that’s because of our modern propensity to confuse the concept of values with the concept of ethics. They are not synonymous ideas. Ethics is an objective science, one that seeks to determine concrete standards of right and wrong. Values, on the other hand, refers to preferences. They are, in large measure, subjective. We speak, for example, of the “subjective theory of value,” which says that the value of goods and services in an economy is determined by the worth an individual or group of individuals attributes to them. All things being equal, if an item or service is highly desired, it will go up in price. If desire for an item or service is low, it will cost less.
In the Christian worldview, ethical standards are fixed because they are objective standards of right and wrong that reflect our transcendent Creator. In contrast, values change over time according to personal preference. That does not mean, however, that ethics and values are unrelated. Biblically speaking, the two go hand in hand. We are called to align our values with what God values, and what God values is outlined in His revealed ethical norms in Scripture. This is as true of family values as it is of economic values, political values, and so forth.
Biblical revelation tells us that family values are tied to how we should value people. When it comes to the family, Scripture is quite clear that children are gifts from God, and therefore they are of inestimable value. I’m reminded of the story of Abraham in Genesis 15 when he is concerned about his lack of an heir. That great patriarch was one of the wealthiest men in his day. He was “very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Gen. 13:2). But Abraham was not concerned for his riches above all else. There was something he wanted more—a son to be his heir. Despite his wealth, he felt impoverished because he had no children. He longed for the children God promised him when he was called out of Ur (12:1–3).
That says much about Abraham’s values. But Abraham isn’t the only person we read about in Scripture who highly valued children. We feel the anguish of Hannah in her plea for a son, and we rejoice with her in the birth of Samuel (1 Sam. 1). Solomon tells us that “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward,” and blessed is the man who fills his house with children just as he fills a quiver with arrows (Ps. 127:3–5). And who can forget Jesus’ command that His disciples not keep the “little children” from coming to Him (Matt. 19:13– 14)? Our Savior, who Himself never married or had children, placed a high value on children.
The Bible doesn’t prescribe a set number of children for each family. We know that in a fallen world, there are sometimes conditions that prevent couples from having children. Nevertheless, it does tell us that to have children is a great blessing. The creational principle that we are to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28) echoes throughout the Bible, confronting all who would view children as a burden. The family values revealed in Scripture condemn the values of Planned Parenthood, abortion on demand, and every other group or philosophy that denies the dignity of children whether they are presently in the womb or not. Any candidate or individual who espouses “family values” while turning a blind eye to the slaughter of a million children every year via America’s abortion clinics has rejected the ethics of God’s Word and should fear the judgment of God.
Periodically, we hear of the supposed economic burden children bring. Recent statistics estimate that it costs more than $250,000 to raise a child from birth to age eighteen. Yet Christians do not consider their sons and daughters to be burdens. We know they are gifts from God to be treasured and to be raised in the fear and admonition of our Lord (Eph. 6:4). No matter the financial cost, it is a small price to pay for the joys we receive from the hugs of our children and grandchildren. May the Lord bless His church with children who love and serve Him.