A comment on Twitter recently caught my eye: “Sure, kids cost roughly $14,000 annually, but think about all the money you save from no longer having a social life.” It was tongue-in-cheek, but correct—kids are expensive!
A 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that the average cost of rearing a child from birth to age 17 is $233,610 (“How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child in the U.S. in 2018?,” TheStreet.com, December 19, 2018). And this figure does not include the cost of college.
It’s no wonder that in 2018 the birth rate in the United States continued a four-year decline (“U.S. Birthrate Drops 4th Year in a Row, Possibly Echoing the Great Recession,” New York Times, May 17, 2019). Many feel that it just costs too much to have children—especially if they must be put into daycare and provided with the latest smartphones and peer-approved Nike Air shoes. But are we missing something?
In Psalm 127, we read, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate” (vv. 4–5).
In God’s eyes, having a “quiver” well-stocked with children is good! What can we learn from God’s simple analogy? Why does it refer to children as “arrows in the hand of a warrior”? Perhaps this inspired metaphor can help us rethink our perspective on children.
Mankind has used the bow and arrow since our most ancient times. The ability to powerfully and accurately launch a projectile into the air is valuable both in hunting and in warfare. An effective arrow’s characteristics are critical.
I have an Indian arrowhead in my box of accumulated odds and ends. It was given to me by an elderly gentleman in southern Arkansas. His home was located near an area frequented by some American Indian tribes in a bygone era. He found dozens of these old arrowheads over the years. The small, flat, gray wedge of rock is a work of art. You can see and feel the marks where flecks of stone were chipped away until it took on a sharp diamond shape. Modern arrowheads are very similar. Today’s broadheads are razor-sharp and constructed from metal, but the purpose is the same: It’s the “business end” of the arrow, designed to cut into the target. It must be honed, sharpened, and carefully shaped for maximum effect. By fixing this small head to the arrow, the archer is able to extend power far beyond his arms’ reach.
The shaft is the second part of the arrow, comprising the main body. Historically, shafts were made from wood—today they are also made from fiberglass, aluminum, or carbon. The shaft must be perfectly straight and strong enough to fly accurately through the air. It must also have just the right amount of stiffness. The shaft actually bends as it leaves the bow, absorbing power from the bowstring. Then, it straightens and speeds towards its target. If it’s too stiff or not stiff enough, its accuracy will suffer.
“Fletching” refers to the feather or plastic strips positioned along the rear of the arrow. You might think they are only for decoration, but their purpose is to help provide stability for the arrow as it flies. Some arrows have helical fletching, which causes the arrow to rotate for more steadiness and accuracy. Although the fletching might just look like a flashy way to make a lost arrow easier to find, its main purpose is to help provide stability and precision.
Found at the very back of the arrow, nocks were historically made from horn or bone. Today, they are generally made from plastic. The nock’s job is to seat the arrow snugly against the bowstring as it is pulled back, then disengage as the string is released. The nock is very important as the point of power transfer from the string to the arrow.
As we examine the parts of an arrow and how they work, the lessons we can learn from the Bible’s analogy become clear.
God emphasized to the ancient Israelites their responsibility to pass His laws on to their sons and daughters: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). God commanded them to shape, sharpen, and hone their children in the understanding of His way, much as an arrowhead might be formed. Today, parents have the same mandate. By teaching our children, making His word a part of their lives, we are helping them to cut through the cultural fog and discern what is truly right. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Just as the shaft provides the main body of the arrow, we can establish patterns of life with our children to launch them into the future. We endeavor to build consistent habits of kindness, courtesy, respect, honesty, and integrity into everyday life for our children. With a mind of godly wisdom and patterns of daily life that are straight and true, our children have powerful potential.
The fletching and the nock complete the picture. As children grow, they need continued guidance, encouragement, and nurturing from their parents to give their lives stability, just as fletching stabilizes an arrow. We provide much of this stability when they are young, and other mentors come into their lives as they grow. The nock can represent the close relationship that connects them to their parents. The love of a father and mother for their child should create a bond of heart and soul, unbreakable. Yet as parents, we also recognize that our grown children must launch their own lives, building new families as we did.
In Genesis 18:19, God spoke of Abraham: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
When we read this statement, we glimpse the importance that God placed on Abraham’s projecting his obedience, faithfulness, and integrity into the future—through his children, grandchildren, and beyond. By living his life faithfully and teaching his son to live faithfully, Abraham powerfully impacted the future.
We can do the same. Bringing children into this world blesses us and connects us to the future. As we teach them, train them, and sharpen their understanding of a godly way of life, we prepare them to have an impact far beyond our small circle of influence today. A warrior with a full quiver of sharp arrows can face the enemy with confidence, knowing he can project his strength to defend his own. The blessing of children gives us the opportunity to bring “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15) into the world, and through them, project the values, beliefs, and convictions that we hold dear into the next generation—and far beyond.