Barrel of Monkeys

We’re not the end of the line, we’re part of a chain.


“We’re just a barrel of monkeys.”  My friend Ian said this to me as he was describing our church!  Remember the game?  Open the top of a small barrel and inside you find a tangle of plastic monkeys, each with their arms molded in an ‘S’ across their bodies.  You reach in and pick up a monkey.  Using its free hand, you hook the hand of another monkey in the barrel.  Lifting that monkey out of the barrel leaves it hanging with an arm extended, and you use that to hook another monkey.  Then another, and another, until you have a long chain of monkeys connected by their hands.

We’re just a barrel of monkeys.  All of us.  Tangled in our ‘barrel’ of life until one day God reaches in and grabs our hand.  His hold is firm and strong, and as he lifts us he promises he’ll never let go.  We feel the warmth of his hand, we experience his love.  We are renewed, energized, forgiven, set free from the things that entangle us.  We believe for certain that God is real and he has touched our lives.  But God is holding only one hand.  He leaves the other one free so that we can reach out to someone else.  He wants us to be his hands in this world, to reach out and help where needed.  To extend arms of love and support and encouragement to each other.  To help others out of the tangles of life they find themselves in.  To offer the good we have received from the hand of God to others.

This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Freely you have received.  Freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)  God’s blessings come to us on their way to someone else.  When God sends good things into our lives, it is not just for ourselves alone, but so that we have something to share with others.  (2 Corinthians 9:10)  We’re not the end of the line, we’re part of a chain.  You’ve been helped, help others. You’ve been forgiven, forgive others. (Colossians 3:13) Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you.” (John 3:13)

Even in our struggles (or perhaps, especially in our struggles) God wants us to reach a hand out to someone else.   “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)  If someone has helped you through a hard time, comforted or encouraged you, if they’ve taken you by the hand or lifted your head, it gives you the experience you need to help someone else through a hard time.  When we do this, we link together in a chain like those monkeys lifted out of the barrel.

So maybe Ian was right, we are just a barrel of monkeys.  Held by God’s hand and ready to reach out a hand to someone else.


“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9:8

Next Steps

Choose an action you can take to help someone else:

  1. Find a place in your community where you can volunteer; soup kitchen, homeless shelter, school or service organization.
  2. Visit someone in a nursing home or the hospital.
  3. Offer someone a ride, take an elderly person shopping, volunteer for a household chore.
  4. Pray for someone. Write a note. Share your experience, struggles and successes.
  5. Baby-sit for the children of a young couple so they can go out.
  6. Be creative. Make up one of your own.

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