What a baboon taught me about stewardship


I am in the middle of campaigns with a few churches this spring.  They are all entering the ‘public phase’ where the entire congregation becomes aware of the project and the commitment conversation begins.

I provide resources for the pastors and leaders to help them teach the subject of generosity to their people.  One resource I provide is a piece written by my colleague Don Linscott.  Don is one of the founders of Generis and his writing and communication skills are superb.  I thought I would allow you to read this wonderful story about generosity from Don.  Enjoy!

What a Baboon Taught Me About Stewardship

by Don Linscott

A television documentary on animal life in Africa was demonstrating how the natives of Africa have learned to find water during the dry season. A native would first locate a colony of baboons. Sure that the baboons were watching, the African dug a small hole in a dirt embankment. He then placed a handful of fruit inside. Baboons, it seems, are incurably curious, so as soon as the native returned into the jungle, one baboon quickly approached the hole. Seeing the fruit inside, the baboon stuck his hand in the hole and grasped the tasty morsel. The African hunter had skillfully carved the hole just large enough to allow the animal’s hand to enter but, when clasped around the fruit, the hand could not be withdrawn.

The native then returned from the concealment of the forest with a small rope in his hands. Amazingly, as the man approached, the baboon shrieked in terror, but refused to release the fruit and run for its life. I found myself moving to the edge of my chair as this drama intensified. I wanted to shout to the baboon, “Let go and run for your life!” But, alas, the native casually strolled up to the panic-stricken animal, laid the noose over the animal’s neck, and pulled him away. The animal was then tied to a tree, given salt, and held captive for a couple of days without water. As soon as it was released, the baboon made a bee line for its secret waterhole. The native simply followed the thirst-driven animal and found the water he would never have found without the animal’s unwitting assistance.

As I watched this drama unfold, I was impressed with the hunter’s wisdom, humored by the comical simplicity of it, but mortified to see myself in the story. I thought, “This is not a story about a baboon and water; this is a story about me and the foolishness of my own behavior!” How often have I, as the rational and intelligent being that God made me to be, performed precisely the same behavior as the baboon? Adam and Eve lost the garden for one bite. Esau sold his birthright for one meal. Samson traded his special gift of strength for a woman.

How easily have I been overcome with the enticement of a fist full of fruit! What a price tag is attached to selfish attitudes and action.

In the long run, a lifestyle of “getting” and “grabbing” is exceedingly more costly than a life of “giving.” I had wanted to warn the baboon, “Let go!” and yet, how often have I, myself, failed to accept the same advice?

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