Everywhere you go, you find Christians who act like monkeys, insisting on their own way and mistrusting divine supply of their needs. Why do Christians act like monkeys?
Three in the Morning
There’s an old Taoist story about a monkey trainer who gave his monkeys seven nuts as a treat every day. He gave them three in the morning and four at night. The monkeys got very upset, saying that it wasn’t fair. So, the trainer changed his approach. Instead, he gave them four in the morning and three at night. This made the monkeys very happy, even though either way they still got seven.
In The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton discusses the keeper’s perspective. He says it was important to understand that his pets had “irrational reasons of their own for wanting four in the morning and three in the evening. The keeper did not stubbornly insist on his original arrangement. He did not waste time trying to convince the monkeys to be more reasonable about it.” Merton reminds his readers not to insist on everyone else being reasonable. That’s when we become unreasonable ourselves, he warns.
Why Do Christians Act Like Monkeys?
We can also act a lot like those monkeys. Why do we do this? We become discontented with the way Heaven supplies our needs, thinking it is somehow unfair. Yet divine providence does not discriminate. As the number seven represents perfection, we are reminded of how God perfectly provides for us. But sometimes all we see is three plus four, without doing the math and adding it up to perfect provision. We wonder why there seems to be an imbalance between what we get in the morning and in the evening, distrusting the wisdom of our Provider. In Philippians 4:11b-13; 19, the apostle Paul writes:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me…. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Like monkeys, we forget that all of our needs will be supplied–in just the right amount and just the right time. We simply need to learn to trust this. When we can learn to abound in every situation, we will have learned the secret to contentment.
The Secret of Contentment
Not many of us know the secret of contentment. We think we’ll find it in the accumulation of more possessions. Or even less-substantial gains like honor and glory. But whether we’re talking about material or non-material things, we must trust that God knows just how much we need and will give us the perfect amount. Do you feel deprived of attention? Understand that God will give you what you need. Do you feel like you don’t have enough admiration or affection? Trust that God will supply what you need the most, at the time that you need it. Trust the perfection of Providence. When you find the secret of contentment, you begin to doubt your own discontented perspective of 3+4.
Enough Fish for Today
Recently, I read a story from “Our Daily Bread” that illustrates our confusion about contentment:
Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.
“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.
Just as the fisherman understood that he had all that he needed, we need to trust that our God will meet our needs. I pray that God will fill your heart with contentment so that you know when you have enough. I pray that, whether you have three in the morning and four at night, or the other way around, you’ll realize that the amount God provides for you is perfect. Because when Christians stop acting like monkeys, our hearts will finally be at peace.