Monkeys and Peanuts

There is an oft-told story regarding a monkey, a jar (or hollowed out coconut), and a peanut. Maybe the story is true, maybe it isn’t. My guess: it’s partially but entirely true. Either way, it’s a good story and illustrates well a problem each of us struggle with.

They say that you can trap a monkey with the help of only two items. One is a peanut or in some cases a banana. Basically, anything that is enticing, a piece of food that the monkey will enjoy. The second item is a jar with a narrow mouth. Something that the hand of a monkey can barely fit through.

The trap is this: you take the treat and drop it into the heavy jar, removing the lid to encourage the monkey to grasp the peanut. But here’s the thing: the opening is big enough for a hand to reach through, but not big enough for a fist to get through. Thus, the monkey’s hand will slip through it on the way in, but once he has balled up his fist to grasp the treat, his hand will no longer pass through the opening on the way out. They say that some monkeys are so greedy and stuck on the idea of having the peanut, that one can simply walk up and trap him. The desire for the peanut is so great, that they will refuse to release it and escape.

Are you ever so enthralled with the momentary happiness a peanut will offer you, that you are willing to hold on to it in spite of imminent danger? Because that’s what we basically do, isn’t it? Matthew 19:24 (ESV) says this: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth or money, I’m not suggesting that and neither is Scripture. But there is a warning that is being issued. And yet how many of us will cling to wealth and materialism, or pleasure, control, power, selfishness…and ignore the danger that it is putting our souls under?

This week, since I was reminded of this story, I’ve been examining my life. What are my peanuts? What am I clinging to too tightly? Is there anything God is warning me of? Things I may need to loosen my grasp on, or drop because of danger I’m putting myself in? I’d invite you to ponder these things with me.

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