If you do a google search on how to catch a monkey with a banana, you will soon discover a whole host of sites that explain it as follows. First, you put a banana in a cage that has just enough space that a monkey can fit his hand. However, you make the space small enough that the monkey will be unable to take the banana out. What happens next is that the monkey will refuse to let go of the banana, and thus it will become stuck because of its own stubbornness.
In a variety of ways, our attachments to self and the things of this world can make us seem a lot like the monkey caught with a banana. We stubbornly cling to people, places, and things in patterns of distorted thinking and feeling which lead us nowhere. The more we cling to this world, the farther we fall from the true happiness and flourishing God intends. Instead, our endless pursuit for more control, more pleasure, more comfort sows seeds of frustration and anxiety.
In John 12, Jesus gives us the answer. He explains:
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
As soon as we hear these words, we can already detect the lies of the devil that seek to prevent us from putting it into practice. We can imagine the enemy telling us, “Jesus didn’t really mean it. You only have one life to live. Focus on making yourself happy.” Again and again, the enemy will try and convince us that clinging to this world is truly what God intends. Particularly when it comes to family and friends, he will try and convince us that our clinging is really love instead of the hidden form of pride that it truly is.
The answer is to die to this world so as to rise with Christ. This truth is a profound paradox which confounds the wisdom of this world. As we die to the world and leave behind everything and everyone in it, we return back to those same relationships with a new found freedom in Christ. Thus, we only truly learn to be in the world when we let go of the world. This detachment helps us to be free to love with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, and this is because it is our attachments that keep us from this freedom. Our dying to this world allows us to participate in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and so to conquer death and sin.
Today, let us let go of the banana. Let us dare to live in the freedom of Jesus Christ by surrounding everything to Christ with total abandonment!