Time magazine reports the details of the Japanese Health Minister’s recent gaffe that has feminists outraged in Japan and around the world. You can read about it here. The Health Minister, a man named Hakuo Yanagisawa, was addressing his nation’s shrinking population (Japan’s 1.29 fertility rate puts it on track for depopulation in the foreseeable future), and in the process called women “baby-making machines.” Not enough of ’em doing what they are supposed to be doing, says he.
Feminists are pretty angry apparently. The writer of the article, Bryan Walsh, writes that “it’s not surprising that most take a pass on becoming rent-a-wombs for the nation.” Yikes. He gives voice to the view that for working (and therefore fully realized?) women, “getting married and having a baby often means sacrificing their career and their independence, even in 2007.”
I don’t want to defend the health minister’s comment (women are not “baby-making machines”), but his larger point stands: in Japan and in many other Westernized and Western nations, having children is seen as a drag on a woman’s individuality, her career, and her potential.
What a different picture from a biblical worldview of women and procreation. The Creator God, having entered into covenant with his newly created man and women, charged them to take dominion over the earth, to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen 1:26-28). Having children, in this divinely inspired picture, is a step not toward the end of a career but toward the beginning of a calling. When the man and the woman came together and produced a child, they were in some way mirroring the Trinity and fulfilling their primary calling to image forth the reality of the Triune God.
Women are not “rent-a-wombs” for the state, and they are not “baby-making machines,” but neither are they to see children as somehow inhibiting their potential. The biblical picture of motherhood is that of a high calling and a great privilege. Multiplying and filling the earth are not state-building activities, and they are not personal enhancements. They are, for the people of the King, kingdom activities.
Now, for unbelievers bearing children is a two-edged sword. The children they bear and raise are inescapably moving forward God’s purposes in the world — building culture, populating the earth, raising and putting down nations. Proverbs 14:28 says, “In a multitude of people is a king’s honor, but in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.” That sounds like Japan and Western Europe to me. But if one’s children are not under God’s blessing (and there is no guarantee of God’s blessing apart from being in Christ), then those children will be as a bitter taste and as a scorpion’s sting.
For the people of God, however, who know the blessing of their Covenant Head, children are a distinct blessing, the fruit of a life rich in Trinitarian delights. Psalm 128 gives us a wonderful picture of this blessed life:
Blessed is every one who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways.
When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
My wife is no baby-making machine. But a fruitful vine? That is her glory, and the glory of generations of other faithful, godly women.