It’s hard to communicate when things have different meanings
Published 5:53 am Sunday, March 21, 2021
Many years ago, a group of monks and peasants shared a mountain together.
The monks lived atop the mountain and the peasants lived at the bottom. A vineyard grew between them full of juicy, ripe grapes.
The vineyard kept growing to the point that it was taking over the whole mountain.
The monks and peasants knew there was only one thing to do: one group would have to move.
They decided to settle the problem by having a debate — each group would choose one champion to represent them. The one with the greatest argument would win the debate while the other group would have to move.
On the day of the great debate, the monks and peasants all gathered in great anticipation.
The head monk announced the one rule for the debate: there would be no spoken words — all communication had to be done in sign language.
The scholar representing the monks started the debate. With great gusto, he thrust one finger toward the sky.
When the peasant saw it, he was stunned. He thought for a moment and then held up three fingers.
The scholar thought, “He’s trying to outdo me. I can’t let him win.”
Next, the scholar took one step forward and pointed toward the ground.
The peasant began to sweat furiously. Then he threw his arms up and spun around in a wide circle.
The scholar thought, “I can’t believe it — the peasant is matching my every argument!”
Finally, the scholar opened his robe and laid a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread on the table.
The peasant looked at the items bewildered.
Finally, the peasant opened his robe, took out a single, half-eaten apple and laid it on the table.
The scholar threw up his hands in disgust and exclaimed, “You’ve won! The mountain is yours.”
The peasants shouted in jubilation while the monks just stood around puzzled.
The head monk asked the scholar, “How did that lowly peasant beat you? What did you say and what did he say?”
The scholar explained, “I started the debate by holding up one finger signifying there is only one God. But the peasant held up three fingers reminding everyone that God is a triune being: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then, I pointed to the ground signifying that God is here right now. The peasant countered by throwing up his hands and spinning in a wide circle meaning that God is everywhere. Finally, I laid a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread on the table signifying Holy Communion. But the peasant laid an apple on the table reminding us that if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the forbidden fruit, sin would not have entered the world and Jesus wouldn’t have died on the cross.”
So, I threw my hands up and declared him the winner.”
While the scholar and the head monk were talking, someone asked the peasant, “That was amazing! How did you beat the scholar?”
“Well,” the peasant champion explained, “the scholar started the debate by holding up one finger — meaning we had only one day to move out of our homes.
“I held up three fingers signifying that we needed at least three days to pack our belongings. Then, the scholar pointed to the ground meaning we had to leave today. So, I threw up my hands in a wide circle, asking ’Where will we go?’ Finally, the scholar did something very strange, he opened his robe, took out his lunch and laid it on the table.”
“Well, I didn’t know what to do. So, I took my lunch and laid it on the table. He threw up his hands and declared me the winner!”
The moral of the story: Make sure what you’re communicating is what the other person is hearing.
Rev. Doug Johnson is the senior pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia.