The Reverend Mr. Mahaffy has served since 1945 as a missionary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Eritrea, East Africa.
From the high branches of a towering eucalyptus tree in front of our home in Africa a baby stork fell from his nest and fluttered to the ground. We found him uninjured but not yet able to fly. To protect him from the hazards of hyenas, jackals, and other dangers we placed him in our walled-in garden. Our children, fascinated by the new pet, searched for information on the life, habits, and diet of the stork family. They named him Junior and aided him in his quest for food. Junior responded to this attention and soon became very tame, answering to the call of his name. After some weeks he learned to fly. Disdaining the shed, he flew to the top of the woodpile or to the roof to roost at night, descending again to the garden in the morning. Then one morning, perched on the top of our roof, he hesitated as the children called him. He looked about him at the majestic mountain peaks of solid rock and across the beautiful valley sloping gently down to the gorge that carries the floods of rain water rushing madly to the sea. Overhead a flock of storks flew gracefully by. Heedless of the calls of the children, he stretched his wings and flew off to soar with his fellow storks into the freedom of the skies.
Our children consoled themselves in their loss with the knowledge that Junior was, after all, a stork and they could expect him to prefer the freedom of the clouds and mountains to the confinement of our garden wall.
But that was not the end of the story. In about two weeks Junior, apparently tired of foraging for himself, flew back into our garden which he has again made his home. Now he willingly roosts in the shed at night and seems to prefer the security of his life as a family pet to the freedom of the mountains and sky. Never has he attempted even to fly over the garden wall. Instead, he walks at the feet of the children in search for food as they hoe in the garden or gracefully catches in his beak scraps of meat which they toss to him. While Junior is a favored pet, he seems to have lost something of the nature of that large and graceful bird by his clear preference for the pampered life of a domestic animal.
Even the children were quick to see the parallel between Junior’s conduct and that of people under the welfare state. Having become accustomed to living at the expense of others, dependent upon subsidies, tariffs, relief checks, unemployment compensation, social security, and a host of other government handouts, they lose even the desire for freedom and reject the responsibility of standing on their own feet.
Man, the image bearer of God, was created not to live as a domesticated animal, a parasite on others, but to subdue the world, applying his growing intellect and physical powers to the creation in order to develop his potential, strengthen his character, and serve his Maker. The welfare state pampered life, however, can so benumb his soul that he loses even the desire to enjoy and use his freedom under his Creator. In the process he becomes something less than man. Like Junior he finds contentment with a life that falls short of a full realization of his own nature.
The exchange of freedom for life under the welfare state is a deliberate choice of man. The consequences of that free choice, however, are destructive of his character. In fact, they are also destructive of human society for society cannot long support an ever-growing number of unproductive dependents who prefer to be something less than men.