Others Devotional, volume 16

Greedy Little Monkeys by Daniel Teerman

Scripture: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.’” 2 Corinthians 8:9 & Luke 11:17

Monkey hunters have discovered a clever way to capture their prey…greed. Monkeys love rice and will do anything to get it. Knowing this, monkey hunters take a coconut and bore a hole in it just big enough for a monkey to fit their little hand through. Then they fill the coconut about half full with warm rice and tie it to a tree.

The monkey is attracted to the smell of the warm rice. After discovering the coconut, they reach inside and grab a handful of the warm rice. They soon discover that they are not able to pull out their little hand because it is clenched around a handful of rice, too big to fit through the hole. The monkey will not let go. It is so greedy that it will stand there stuck for hours. The monkey will bang the coconut and try every which way to get the rice out, but it will not let go of its grip on the rice.

Even as the hunter approaches, the greedy little monkey will scream and go crazy with fear, but its greed keeps it fixed to the rice-filled coconut that is tied to the tree. It will not open its clenched fistful of rice. It will be easily captured. What stands between its freedom and its capture is greed; its desire to have it all, leading to its ultimate destruction.

We are not so different in our culture from the greedy little monkeys. We want to have it all, and we want it now. We want to live large, but find ourselves tripping over our affluence. Super-size me. This destructiveness has seeped into the Western Church and has trickled into our personal witness and walk of faith. Jesus said that he came that we may have life to itsfullest and that is true (John 10:10). How we interpret a “full life” has become the problem. We want to live a full life, but in order to do so we must set our priority on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). We need to realign our priorities, putting Jesus first. And what’s more: we cannot have everything and then add Jesus. There simply isn’t enough room.

Jesus taught about commitment…a lot. He expected it. Following Him required a singular, healthy focused commitment. He called his disciples to follow him and warned that it would be easy to get distracted. The tendency of their hearts was to pull in a different direction; to shy away from commitment and pursue self-interests. In Luke 10 he sends out his disciples on an evangelistic outreach, telling them not to take “a purse, bag or sandals; and not to greet anyone on the road” either. Why? Because he knew they would become distracted. These things were not bad in themselves, but still distractions. There was much at stake and a singular vision was required.

Good things can sometimes be a greater distraction to us, keeping us from the best things. Jesus talks about this in Luke 9:59-62:
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go bury my father.” Jesus said tohim, “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.”

This seems radical…almost harsh, but it is necessary. Our lives can become so convoluted with extra things that we don’t even know what we’re living for anymore. This can happen quickly. We find ourselves spending so much of our time taking care of our stuff that there is no time to serve others. Maybe our priorities are centered on other “important things” so that we don’t have time for Jesus anymore. It is difficult to prioritize our time, to choose a singular focus on Jesus. God knows how quickly our time and heart can get filled with other things. Sometimes even obsessed with them. He also understands how difficult it can be to extricate oneself from the rat race we run; the pit of pursuing more than his glory. That is why he makes it clear that we cannot have both. We cannot have it all. We cannot serve two masters. So will it be the rice or freedom? We must choose.

There is a wonderful paradox that when you give up everything to follow Jesus you realize He is everything. Seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness is to choose Jesus and forsake everything else. When we do this He becomes our strong tower, the Source of everything we need. Another important thing happens when we choose Jesus with this singular focus. People notice. Not us, but Jesus. They might not know what they’re seeing, but they’re seeing Jesus living and working through us. People far from God want to know: “What person would forsake everything else for a person named Jesus? Who is this Jesus? He must be extraordinary to draw that kind of commitment and produce that much joy in a person’s life.” This sets the stage for the same transformation we experienced: from “greedy little monkeys” to followers of Jesus.

Think it Over
Evangelism is not just about recruiting new people to our way of belief, but an invitation to resituate our talk and walk according to the reality of God’s rule. When we allow God to have everything, rather than cram Him into the leftover space, we align our walk and talk with the way of Jesus. This brings transformation into our lives, which leads to reorientation and eventual transformation in the lives of those we consistently encounter. How can giving up everything produce so much? How is this associated with freedom?

Live it Out
What is one thing that has become the “rice” in your life? As painful as it may be, identify the things that have become a distraction in your life and have become a hindrance to your witness. Tackle them one at a time in Christ’s strength. Begin today with the most obvious “rice” and take steps to release the grip you have on it (or it has on you).
Word Alert
Mammon – commonly refers to money or wealth. It has a more comprehensive meaning referring to anything that is trusted in or treasured. Jesus makes it clear that we cannot serve both God and mammon (Matt. 6:24).

Prayer: Father, teach us how to let go of the things that keep us from holding onto you and embracing others. Help us to be led by your Holy Spirit each day to a point of surrender that is centered in your will. We want to love you with all our heart, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Align our hearts with your purposes in Jesus. Amen.

About the Author: Rev. Daniel Teerman has been an educator, pastor and missionary over the last 22 years. He is married to his wife, Sherry, of 25 years and has 4 children – Caleb, Hannah, Jada and Sophia. He is currently the Lead Pastor at Tulare Community Church.

Originally published on January 12, 2017.

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