I could never understand the saying “More fun than a barrel of monkeys.” It really makes no sense at all. If you shove a barrel (whiskey barrel? Wine barrel? Pickled fish barrel?) full of monkeys, I’d assume that after a while it would 1) smell to high heaven (not low heaven, but high heaven) that 2) it would be very chaotic and 3) the monkeys wouldn’t really take to kindly to being shoved into a barrel in the first place. So why is something more fun than a monkey full of barrels?
The expression is first recorded sometime around 1895 (some say even earlier but in a different format). It supposed to refer to the fact that monkeys are funny and cute. Some have pointed out that a barrel can also refer to a lot of laughter. So it’s all about laughing at fun antics. Some say that over the years the statement has become more used in an ironic sense. In other words, even though someone says that something is as fun as a barrel full of monkeys, they really mean that , no, it’s not actually fun but very annoying. Confusing, I know. There’s no sarcasm or irony font for social media (there should be).
To tell the truth, I use the phrase more so in the ironic and sarcastic sense more than I do in the earlier idiomatic sense. To me, a barrel full of monkeys is more chaotic and not so much fun and silly. When I use it, I usually mean that chaos is reigning supreme and I am not having fun at all.
Irony, it’s not just for hipsters any more.
So, when things get chaotic, what do we do? When things become ironically as much fun as a barrel of monkeys, what do we do?
Well, this is Spiritual Musclehead, So what’s the spiritual side of dealing with chaos and life being as much *fun* as a barrel of monkeys?
It begins at the beginning.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep.” Genesis 1:1-2
Just this very image speaks of chaos and uncertainty. The whole idea of the earth being formless and empty (other translations have “void) is a bit chaotic. The Hebrew makes it even more so with the words תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ. Okay, so you probably can’t read that (it goes from right to left by the way…and yes, I’m getting all Bible nerdy here) but it’s toho va boho it just sounds uncertain. And then there’s darkness over the surface of the deep. Just chaotic.
The world was filled with chaos. But then we read
“and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:2
In the very beginning, in the midst of all the chaos, God was there. Then, in the subsequent verses, he begins to bring order to the world. He merely speaks and it happens. He speaks and the world comes together. He speaks and with a word the world begins (now, this isn’t young earth vs old earth, this isn’t evolutionism vs creationism, this is just looking at the text). And then God rested.
In the midst of things being ironically more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, God brought all things together with just a word, and then he rested. He declared it all good.
Then things got totally messed up when Adam and Even decided to push God away and try to do things their own way. And life’s been more fun than a barrel of monkeys ever since.
So now there’s anxiety, chaos, frustration, pain, hurt, broken lives, broken relationships–with family, with friends, with nature, with God–and it’s all as about as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. And them monkeys are starting to stink and get all frustrated. And a frustrated monkey is not fun, let alone a whole barrel of them.
So what do we do when the barrel of monkeys is beyond what we can handle? When the stench is unbearable (there’s a pun in there somewhere, I just know it)? When things are no longer ironically funny? We get rid of it all.
“Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
And Paul writes
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
Seriously, get rid of it. Stop carrying around that blasted barrel of stinkin’ monkeys. Come to God in Jesus’ name, in thankfulness that he is big enough, strong enough, powerful enough, to deal with it. Be in thankfulness that he is present and willing to allow you to cast your anxieties and worries at him. And as in cast and lay down, chuck it, dude! Throw it at him with all your might. Lay it before him.
A barrel of monkeys is not fun in the least–both in reference to something being fun or in being ironic and not being fun.
There is chaos, frustration, hurt, pain, reality TV, and all the other ills of this world. Come out of the chaos to the God of order who spoke the world into existence, and find rest in him from the anxieties and chaos. And ditch that barrel of monkeys.