Catching Monkeys, Losing Your Soul

There are stories from Africa a century ago of the locals trapping monkeys to sell to the colonialists as pets.

The way they trapped the wild monkeys was simple and almost unbelievable – and the method has a spiritual message for us today.

Monkeys in the wild are very elusive. As soon as they see or hear someone approaching they quickly jump into the tall trees and hide themselves in the canopy. The only way the white colonialists could catch them was to shoot them trying to only injure the monkeys and not kill them – but you can see straight away this method of catching monkeys had significant flaws.

The locals had a better method – one that captured the monkeys without any harm or shots being fired.

They tied a bottle to the base of a small tree and placed a delicious peanut inside the bottle. These professional monkey catchers would then walk away and give the bottle plenty of space for the monkeys to feel safe. A monkey would smell the peanut and come down to investigate. Seeing the peanut at the bottom of the bottle the monkey would squeeze his hand through the bottle’s opening and grab hold of the yummy meal.

Once the monkey had hold of the peanut, the monkey catchers would then calmly walk towards the tree. The monkey would see the humans approaching and scream and flail about, but the monkey couldn’t escape from the bottle tied to the tree. His small hand that had squeezed through the bottle’s opening was now formed into a fist as he held onto the peanut… and because the monkey wasn’t willing to let go of his food he wouldn’t be able to pull his hand out of the bottle’s opening.

A still image from a century old film of how to catch monkeys

The monkey catchers would then grab hold of the monkey, tie him up, and then train him for a lifetime of captivity as a pet to some wealthy foreigner.

For the sake of not letting go of a peanut the monkey spent a lifetime in captivity.

Before we pass judgment on the monkey or comment on their foolishness, how many of us are holding onto metaphorical “peanuts” in our lives and being held captive by them.

We remember with resentment the harsh comment by a former school teacher or friend – and allow the residual bitter feelings to well up inside us and just like the monkey we’re held captive to something that happened a long time ago. Or we allow someone else’s beliefs about us to limit the progress of becoming the person our Creator wants us to be. Sometimes we even hold onto an unfulfilling job or relationship and never truly experience the freedom the Lord wants us to have.

In the Gospel of Luke it records Jesus standing up to preach in a synagogue one Sabbath, and he says to those willing to listen: “”The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for I have been anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. I have been sent to proclaim that captives shall be released… and the oppressed will be set free.”

How many of us are not living life with more freedom because of a peanut we’re holding on to? How many of us feel like we’re captive to something else?  Won’t you let go, and let God give you a life more abundant. Won’t you let your Creator set you free.

Let go… and let God.

To view a YouTube clip of locals catching monkeys a century ago click here



About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and he lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the sad and inspiring story of a soldier who was willing to die for his fellow prisoners.

David speaking 2


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