I learned a lot from the books I read to my kids when they were young. One that hit close to home was a comic adaptation of a story by Paul White, who apparently was a missionary in Africa. We had other comics of his stories, all set in Africa, but this one always made me uneasy.
It was about a young man who found a leopard cub and decided it would make a neat pet. Some old geezer in the fillage told him he should kill the cub, but the cub was cute and playful, and the young man was sure he could keep it under control. The old man left the young man with this warning: "You have to make sure that that that leopard never smells blood, because once he does, he will only be satisfied with fresh meat."
You've guessed the rest. The young man gets a small cut while playing with the leopard—How could he have expected things to turn out otherwise?—and the leopard smells the blood and kills the young man and others.
Even I could see what the author was getting at: I'm not above indulging in a little questionable behavior that I think I've got under control. And when the leopard smells the blood, having to admit that I should have known better–ha! did know better—is a living death.
Reading that book to my kids was about a weekly experience. Another story that has stayed with me, even though I only read it once, was Frank Peretti's The Oath. The theme was the same as the comic, except this time the young man was a modern village in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and the leopard was an invisible dragon. Here a whole community had adopted this cute little dragon, but the more they loved it and fed it, the bigger it grew, the bigger its appetite became, and the nastier its reactions became when gratification was delayed. The dragon was eventually slain, but not before a lot of innocent people died.
And, of course, there's the Veggie Tale about Junior Asparagus and the giant fib, which turned into a monster that almost destroyed the town.
Why do we need so many stories with the same theme? I'd say it's because we don't learn. We all want to be an exception to that rule (except me, of course).
There once was a people called Israel who had a special relationship with God. For reasons of his own, God gave them a rich and fertile land to live in. Little by little the Israelites started cutting theological and moral corners. Paul White and Frank Peretti would no doubt say they had started nursing beasts as pets, but the pets grew up and became masters. Before long things were so bad that they decided they needed something God warned them against: "a king like all the other nations have." After all, this king would be "the anointed of the Lord," so how could that be bad?
Well, it was bad. All but one of those kings shed innocent blood, and the problem the Israelites had asked for a king to solve, utter defeat at the hands of their enemies, came anyway. How could things have gone differently?
You know what's coming, right? The newly independent colonists decided that the confederation of small, sovereign, independent states they had pledged their sacred honor to fight for wasn't good enough: they needed a stronger central government. (Or at least that's the story told by the "Federalist" victors.) Yes, a central government, with only those powers "delegated" to it by the states, that's the ticket! Of course, that federal government would have the power to determine whether which powers had been delegated, but what's the harm in that?
As Elmer Peterson has said, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."
The more power and privilege government offers to its agents, the more people who desire power and privilege will seek to work for the government, and the more powerful and expensive it will become. The leopard will grow up, and eventually he'll smell blood. It's best to kill the beast when he's small.
George Washington was a Federalist, part of the scam that now afflicts us as badly as anything King George ever wrought on the colonies. But he could talk convincingly, and here's a pearl we anti-Federalists wish he had taken to heart: "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
Do we want this or that government to master us, or are we willing to settle only for the easy and light yoke of the Spirit of God?