An ancient king once wrote: "Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward" (Ps. 127:3, Revised Authorized Version). But for many nations around the world, children are no longer a blessing. They have become a liability.
One third of all people living on earth today are children under the age of 15. Eighty percent of these children live in the poor and underdeveloped parts of the world.
In some countries they make up over half the population. Millions of them live in poverty and squalor, without proper health care, and without hope. They are growing up sick and illiterate.
One Nation's Approach Many major nations have embarked on ambitious programs to stem the tide of extra mouths. One of the best known examples is the one-child-per-couple policy in effect in the People's Republic of China.
The Chinese were headed for a catastrophe. Their population doubled just since the Revolution of 1949. To counteract this, the Chinese government decided to attempt to restrict all couples to only one child. Parents who agree to restrict their families receive certain economic benefits. Parents who have larger families are penalized by fines and lack of certain privileges. Although this may seem heartless, the Chinese point out that those who cooperate with the one-child program should not have to bear the cost of other families' extra mouths.
Reports indicate that the policy will stabilize China's population by the year 2000. But even now with the comparatively modest birthrate of 1.2 percent, China adds the equivalent of Australia's population each year.
Such a massive social experiment has not been without cost. Millions of Chinese mothers, many in the later stages of pregnancy, have had abortions. There are also disturbing reports of infanticide of girls. Chinese tradition values sons, and many have taken drastic steps to ensure that their one permitted child is male. It is hard to prove, but the Chinese do admit that in some rural areas there seems to be a disproportionate amount of male births reported.
China's government is conducting widespread campaigns to educate their people about the value of their daughters as well as their sons. But tradition dies hard. Nobody likes this situation, and the Chinese have promised to relax the one-child policy as soon as it is practical to do so. But at present the only alternative would p1ean millions of children facing a life of poverty, potential illiteracy and the ever-present threat of starvation.
In answer to their critics, Chinese point to other nations with top heavy populations, whose governments do not exert the discipline that the People's Republic of China can exert on its people. Many of these nations are on a collision course with disaster.
Effects of Overpopulation In Asia today hundreds of thousands of children go blind every year because of eye diseases that would take only a few cents worth of vitamin A to correct. A few more pennies would provide the vitamin D and calcium that would stop the deformed and twisted limbs caused by rickets.
Millions die of easily cured and even more easily prevented diseases — because they have no access to even minimal health care.
Some weeks ago I was driven through the slum areas just outside the modern city of Nairobi, capital of Kenya. On a hillside covered with squalid shacks, hundreds of children played amidst piles of rubbish.
Kenya has the world's highest birthrate, and must urgently find a solution to its growing population of children. Dozens of these children swarmed around our car. These cheerful, playful children had no idea that they were surplus or that they had been born into a world that may have no place for them.
They face a desperate future. There are not enough places for them to go to school — and insufficient jobs for those that do somehow get an education. They are, as humans view it, a liability for their already hard pressed nation.
In the slums of Calcutta, one can sometimes hear a piteous sound coming from the mounds of garbage and trash that line the streets of that desperately overcrowded city. Sometimes it is an abandoned kitten. Sometimes it is a newborn baby abandoned in its first hours of life by parents who knew they could not care for it.
Some of these babies are discovered and are blessed to be taken to the orphanage. The tiny, fragile scraps of humanity are lovingly cared for by those who struggle in the orphanage to preserve each infant's spark of life. Sometimes they succeed and they continue to care for the children during their first years of life. And then? "We must let them go back to the streets they came from," I was told sorrowfully. "There are always other children we must save. We wish it were not that way."
We all wish it were not that way.
We all love to see healthy, cute, cheerful little children. We ache to see them with their skin drawn tight over their bones, their eyes dulled with suffering, their bellies distended, and their bodies prematurely aged through disease and malnutrition. Significant sums of money are given every year by wealthier countries to help the poorer nations care for their children. But it is only scratching the surface. We are trapped in a system where more children are born than can be cared for. Is there no way out of it? Must it be this way?
We Must Choose When God created this earth, he said that it was "very good" (Gen. 1:31). He told the first humans to "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth" (verse 28).
Did God know what he was asking? Didn't he foresee that 6,000 years later the human race would run out of room and food so that they would have to figure out how to be unfruitful and stop multiplying?
God set before the first humans, Adam and Eve, a choice of two ways of life; one would lead to happiness, prosperity and abundance — the other would lead most surely to misery and death. This choice was symbolized by two trees that stood in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, tempted by Satan, chose the wrong tree, the tree that symbolized the knowledge of good and evil. God had forbidden them to touch it.
Satan convinced them that God had not told them the truth, and that he was deliberately holding back important information from them.
By making the decision to disobey, our first parents showed that they thought they knew better than God. They chose their own way of life, and they reaped the consequences. Even their first son, Cain, became a liability.
Without the knowledge that could only come from God, man has continued to blunder around in ignorance for nearly 6,000 years. Humans have chosen to live the way of greed and selfishness. We have lost the knowledge of how to replenish the earth:
This earth could produce enough food to feed double and triple the present population. In fact, it already does. But because of our greed and selfishness, which have made it impossible for nations to work together and share their resources, millions still starve. Through ignorance and mismanagement of agriculture, large areas of the earth's surface have become arid and uninhabitable. Wars take more land out of productivity. Cut off from true education, whole populations lack even a simple knowledge of basic health that could drastically improve their standard of living almost overnight.
The Solution Revealed This magazine acquaints its readers with good news for the whole world, beyond the capacity of human governments to achieve. That good news is the real message of the gospel of Jesus Christ — that he will soon be directed to return and restore the government of God to this earth.
When God's way of life is restored, starvation, ignorance, illiteracy and poverty will belong firmly in the past. Children will continue to be born after Christ returns to bring the world peace, but no longer will they grow up in misery. That is good news.
There is even better news. What about the millions of children that have died so far? What about the child that has died of starvation somewhere on earth even while you have been reading this sentence? What will become of him or her?
In prophecies that have been for too long misunderstood, God has announced in advance the resurrection of all who have ever lived. His goal is, as it has always been, that mankind should live for eternity with him as the family of God.
In the book of Revelation the apostle John foresaw a time, little more than a thousand years from now, when the dead, "great and small," standing before the throne of God, will have been given a future opportunity — or to be more accurate we should say will have been given their first opportunity — to live a life according to the law of God (Rev. 20:12). Many other scriptures show this time of resurrection for those who lived in the past. For a full and complete explanation, why not read our free booklet entitled Is This the Only Day of Salvation?
Millions of children who lived and died in misery are going to live again. The God who gives life will give them their lives back. They will be given the chance to live again and develop to the full their human potential, which this evil world did not allow. That, for millions of bereaved parents today, is the best of the "good news" that Jesus Christ brought to earth.
Many children today are, tragically, a liability and a drain on their country's scant resources. But one day they will live again, in a world governed by the rule and law of God — a world that can support them, a world that appreciates their worth.
That is no excuse for bringing more children now into situations where they can only know wretchedness and misery. In many parts of this sad world, cut off from the revealed knowledge of God, a form of national population control is the only sensible alternative humans know. We should not want more children now if we cannot take care of those that we already have. But that does not mean that every method of population control is good. Some are certainly wrong. Wise family planning excludes abortion and infanticide!
Countless millions of children are already a liability. But that isn't their fault. Thank God that those who are such a liability now will yet become a legacy for the future.