Years ago, I read a book entitled “The One Minute Manager Meets the monkey.” It is a management book, and the monkeys are all those things we take on that are not really ours to do. For instance, someone comes to you with a question or problem and rather that guide them to where they might find the answer or solution, you say just leave it here and I will do it. You have just taken a monkey. If you do this often enough not only will you have your own herd of monkeys, but you will never get your own things done, you will not have helped your coworker grow in their job and you will be so far behind you will never catch up. Trust me, I speak from experience.
But as I thought of this book today, it occurred to me we can take on monkeys of all kinds. Monkeys seem innocent enough at first but once you have enough of them, your life is over run. It is easy for us to take on the monkey of worry. I have friends who believe the more you worry the less the chance of something bad happening. And there are those folks who do enough worrying for six or eight people! But we read in Matthew 6:27-28, “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Worrying accomplishes very little other than it might make us miserable or physically sick.
Others take upon themselves the monkey of fear. We are afraid of everything. Fear is nothing new. I would guess Adam and Eve were fearful as the gates to the Garden of Eden slammed shut after they had disobeyed God. The disciples were fearful in the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee. They woke Jesus up and He asked them why they were afraid. They probably thought that was obvious! Psalm 27:1 tells us, ”The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” God is our refuge and strength. We have no need to be afraid of anything. We read in Isaiah 43:1-2 these words of comfort amid fear. ”But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you.”
Some of us take on the monkey of workaholic-ism. If we just do a bit more, we might be recognized. If we work harder and longer life will eventually be better. That is a lot of ifs. And some of us even try to work as hard as we can to be worthy of getting into heaven. But overworking often just robs the joy from our lives. The psalmist tells us in Psalm 127:1-2, “ It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to His loved ones.” Killing ourselves from overwork does nothing for anyone, and in the end, we may have gained nothing. Even God is not a workaholic. In Genesis 2:1-4 we read, ”By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; and on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”
There are other monkeys we take on as well. Sometimes we take on the monkey of doubt. Doubt is one of the evil one's favorite weapons and he wields it often and well. Once the seeds of doubt have been planted it is easy to question everything...ourselves, our abilities, even God. We read in James 1:6, ”But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Once we lose our confidence, our sure footing, it is easy to flounder and be tossed about.
Some days it feels like we have taken on all these monkeys, and there are people who do...plus several more. But we are not called to carry heavy loads. Jesus will carry the loads for us. He issued the invitation in Matthew 11:28,” Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Monkeys get heavy after a while. Yet some of us continue to accumulate them. It is not healthy, and it is not fun to have all these burdens to carry. So instead of taking one more monkey, whatever it may be, turn to the Lord instead. He will carry our doubt, worry, fear, and every other burden. That leaves us free to spend our time reading, praying, and getting closer to Him.
Monkeys may not seem bad at first, but they quickly become a mess we do not want. Next time you see one coming your way, resist the temptation to take just one. You do not want it. You do not need it, and it will not help you at all.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W