Home > Bible Study Helps and Lessons >
Responsible Monkeys

I read about a cruel experiment which was done on monkeys.  A monkey was strapped into an electric chair with a hand lever.  A lightbulb was then placed in front of the monkey's view.  When the light would turn on, the monkey saw it.  After several seconds, the chair would give a small electric shock to the monkey.  Eventually the monkey figured out how the lightbulb lighting up meant a shock was about to happen.  But the monkey also quickly learned the importance of the hand lever too.  When the lever was pulled, the lightbulb would go out.  Whenever the lightbulb was turned off in time, it would prevent the chair from giving a shock.

Scientists then decided to take this experiment a step further.  Two monkeys were strapped into two seperate electric chairs facing each other.  The lightbulb was hung in between them in full view of both monkeys.  Both monkeys had gone through the experiment and knew very well how to turn off the light by pulling the lever.  The difference this time was that only one chair received the electric shock.  At first, both monkeys diligently pulled their levers whenever the lightbulb came on to keep each other from getting shocked.  But after a while, the monkey sitting in the unplugged chair eventually figured out how his chair was never going to shock him.  Whether he turned the light off or not, the consequences did not affect him either way!

Do you know what that monkey did?  He would relax in his chair and simply forget about pulling his lever.  Why bother turning out the lightbulb anymore?  It's not like he is the one getting shocked over it.  Let the other monkey do that work - after all, he is the one who gets shocked if it doesn't happen, right?  As a result, scientists ended up with one monkey turning off the lightbulb for both because one chair would never shock the other monkey.  After the experiment, both of the monkeys were examined.  The monkey in the unplugged chair was fine.  But the monkey who ended up being responsible for turning off the light for both chairs had developed stomach ulcers.

Responsiblity brings stress.  When you are the monkey who gets the shock, suddenly pulling that lever becomes a lot more serious!  Someone once said, "It's easy to make decisions on matters for which you have no responsibility."  In other words, it's easy making a decision when you're not the monkey taking the shock for it.  So what kind of monkeys are you and I?  Are we the kind of people who take responsibility seriously, but only unless we are the ones needing to avoid the shock?  If the burden of our consequences ever landed on someone else, would we still be responsible?  Or do we just kick back and relax, because some other monkey now takes the brunt of it instead of us?

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch."
- Mark 13:32-34 NIV