Five Monkeys

Monkey with a bananaFive monkeys were in a room that contained a table in one corner, and a banana hanging from a string in the middle of the room. The monkeys figured out that if they dragged the table to the middle of the room, they could climb up and grab the banana. So they did. As one of the monkeys quickly hopped up and reached for the banana, hidden compartments in the walls suddenly opened, releasing high-pressure cold water that knocked the monkey off the table and drenched the other four monkeys.

They quickly learned that whenever one of them climbed on the table, all of them were soaked with cold water. They realized climbing on top of the table was a bad idea. Unbeknownst to the monkeys, the high-pressure cold water hoses were disconnected and removed.

The next week, one of the five monkeys was removed from the room and replaced by a new monkey. The new monkey saw the table and the banana dangling from the ceiling… Realizing that the banana was there for the taking, the monkey headed for the table. But fearful of being drenched by the high-pressure cold water, the other four monkeys pounced on the newcomer and beat the tar out of him. Every time the new monkey got near the table, the others beat him up. Soon the new monkey no longer went near the table.

By the third week, another of the original five monkeys was replaced by a new monkey. And like the monkey the week before, the newest member of the group tried to get near the table to move it over to the banana. Once again, the others beat up the newest member of the group. Even the first new monkey joined in.

Each successive week, one more of the original monkeys was replaced. The same thing happened every time; when the newest monkey attempted to get near the table, the others joined in to discourage him.

By the sixth week, not a single monkey was left from the original group. Not one remained that had been squirted with cold water. But when the newest monkey headed toward the table and tried to reach the banana, the other four monkeys “trained” him by beating the tar out of him.

If you could ask each monkey why it was beating up the new monkey, each probably would say, “I don’t know, that is just the way we do things around here.”

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This exercise in operant conditioning with simian primates might be amusing, but don’t you see a clear parallel in life? We tend to do things to a pattern, a routine, and we tend to resist change. Some of this is natural, helps us to maintain some emotional comfort, and allows us to keep and respect tradition. This focus on being comfortable and suppressing new thought brings some other consequences however, as some change is good, change always provides opportunity for personal growth, and progress is predicated on change.

I think that there might also be a parallel between this story and the way that Christians interact with other believers. There are positive and negative aspects here as well. We need to unite on the essentials (Admit you are a sinner, Believe in Christ crucified for your sin and raised again to heaven, and Confess your faith and conversion to others), rather than dividing on non-essentials (everything else). Resisting change in this area (The Gospel) is the duty of every Christian and God is glorified when we share an untainted and joyful Gospel of grace with others. However, resisting change in the non-essentials provides fractures in the body of Christ and He is not glorified when we find things to divide on. In fact, as Christ sweated blood, suffering in Gethsemane, He prayed to our Father that the world would look at believers and see that we were united; and as a result, believe that the Father sent Christ, and that God would be glorified.

Christ chastised believers and told them that even the heathens give good things to those they love. God is not glorified when people that think the same things, give priority to the same things, and do the same things all get along. He already said that’s not a big deal! God is most glorified when people that could not possibly have gotten along DO get along because they are all filled with His Spirit. Let us each be Spirit-filled, concentrating on our walk with God, extending His grace to all, unifying in Him on the Gospel. In this, our Lord is glorified.

And when you see one of the Lord’s servants trying something new… cut them a break would you? Remember that you’re both His servant, and at least the other person is doing something for Him.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 at 9:59 and is filed under Faith. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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