Have you ever heard a catch phrase and sort of understood the spirit of it but not really taken it personally?
I had a great opportunity to minister in Ukraine and on our one afternoon of sightseeing in Kiev, this phrase, “the monkey on your back”, became very real to me.
As we were walking down the road, something in the corner of my eye caught my attention. I stopped to turn and look and before I knew what was happening, I was covered in monkeys. They were on my arms, my shoulders and even perched on top of my head. The little guys were dressed in blue jeans and were soft and cute.
I had experienced something similar at Macao Surf Beach, in the Dominican Republic, only with parrots instead of monkeys. It seemed harmless and while we laughed, my friend quickly snapped a couple of pictures.
What seemed to be fun turned out to be something else entirely. After my friend took the photos, I was surrounded by four young men demanding money. They claimed that I had agreed to their terms by allowing the monkeys to sit on me and when my friend took the photos, they called it a contract that stipulated payment. “Sure,” I thought, and dug in my bag and pulled out $5 USD. “No!” they insisted that that wasn’t enough. They wanted to be paid for each photo my friend took. They were moving in closer, they were getting louder and more aggressive. Our translator tried to explain that we didn’t realize what the cost would be, but it was too late. We had engaged and now I had to pay the price.
Ephesians 4:27 cautions us to not give the Devil a foothold. The passage is referring specifically to anger, but, as in the context of the monkeys, once we open the door to sin in our lives, we can find ourselves feeling trapped and struggling to extricate ourselves from situations we never anticipated would arise from seemingly innocuous decisions.
Any time we harbour bitterness, anger, envy, we are providing a foothold.
Any time we deliberately choose to disobey God’s Word in order to satisfy a worldly desire, we are providing a foothold. Any time we allow something to enter our lives that distracts us from our relationship with the LORD, we are providing a foothold.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report… think on these things.
Making a conscious choice to focus on those things that will help us to grow and thrive in our relationship with God is a huge step in protecting ourselves from things and situations that would threaten us. It is so easy to be distracted by the things in this world – even things that seem as though they might be fun. Too often, though, these things can become the monkeys on our back.
Isaiah 11:3 gives us very sage advice about not falling prey to things that would overcome us: “And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, and he will not judge by what his eyes see, nor make a decision by what his ears hear.”
The next time something catches your peripheral vision, take time to discern if it will ultimately become a monkey on your back – demanding that you pay a price in order to be set free, or if it is an opportunity or blessing from the LORD.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test everything; hold fast to what is good.
Le the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance
Teach me good judgement and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.