Don’t Get Caught
with the Your in the Monkey Jar!

In a meeting last week, Leadership Transformations’ Matt Scott spoke of his desire to live with hands less clinched and grasping… more open. It was an outward symbol of a deeper Grace he sought: wanting to detach from secondary things… to the end that his hands would be freer and more open to accept the primary things of God in his life.

In a follow-up ministry note, he would expand on this notion–emphasizing its relationship to the season we are now navigating in the Church…

The Lenten journey invites us to let go. To open our hands. To release…

Jim Branch writes: “In the end, there are only two ways to live. We can live with either clenched fists or with open hands. You can’t have them both. ” (A Devotional Guide For Every Season Of Your Life, p. 195)

When we clench and close our fists, we live from a place of refusal and resistance. Refusal to let go, resistant to trust and relinquish control.

Listening to (and reading) Scott’s words, a favorite stewardship illustration from my preaching days came to mind–something along these lines…

I understand that in Asia, they have a rather ingenious way of catching monkeys in the wild. All they need is a jug with a narrow neck at the top (wide enough to accommodate a monkeys open hand), a couple of ropes, some nuts, and a net.

Placing the nuts in the jug and tying it to a tree or two, they’ll lay in wait.  Isn’t long til the monkey comes and reaches into the jar for a snack.  Even as hunters approach, the monkey is disinclined to let go of the nuts.  It is “trapped” by its balled-up fist.  All you have to do is throw a net… and, voila, you got yourself a monkey!

In typical stewardship messages, I’d invariably relate that illustration to Paul’s admonition in I Timothy 6:10 about how “the love of money is the root of evil.”  Mind you, I’d point out, it is not money per se that is the root of evil and our entrapment – no, more than it is the nut which captures the monkey!  No, it’s the love of – the addiction to – these things that is the basis of the downfall of many a human… and monkey!

Scott’s words in mind, the illustration is about a lot more than money, isn’t it?  Or, perhaps we might say, Christian stewardship goes well beyond the financial and the material, doesn’t it?!  (Christian stewardship, I have emphasized through the years, is our co-management, with God, of all that God has entrusted to us for a season – and that goes well beyond cash-ews!)

Father Thomas Keating reduced the temptations – Christ and ours – to three fundamental programs of human happiness: what I have, what I do, and what people think of me.  To be sure, “what I have” – including money – is there in the mix.  But, let’s not belittle the mix of “nuts” we seek to grasp — things like looks and health and image and status…

Detachment would appear to be a part of what Rohr and others call “The Perennial Tradition” – the spiritual stream with courses through all the world’s religious systems.  Grasping and controlling have a way of enslaving.  It’s in the relinquishment and the letting go that we are most free to live and to receive what Life has to offer.

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it,” Jesus said,
“and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)

It’s certainly a message at the heart of Lent, is it not?

Yes, don’t get caught with your hand in the monkey jar!

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