All Commentary
Friday, May 1, 1964

Junior’s Choice

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.

  • A graduate of Wheaton College in 1941 and Westminster Theological Seminary in 1944, Mr. Mahaffy served as a missionary to Eritrea for twenty-three years. In 1968, he was appointed Evangelist for the Presbytery of the Midwest and served faithfully in that role, helping to establish Hope OPC, Libertyville, Illinois, Christ OPC, Janesville, Wisconsin, and Trinity OPC, Chicago.