I recently listened to a podcast called, “How to escape the cynicism trap.” Research psychologist, Jami Zaki, told of a research project done years ago regarding trust. In the project, two fishing villages within 30 miles of each other in southeastern Brazil were compared regarding levels of trust displayed by the members of the community. The first community was on a large lake, the second on an ocean. Because fishing in the ocean was so expensive, many villagers in the ocean community had to rely on one another and share their resources. Larger seafaring boats, heavy equipment, and more workers were so costly, each had to help the other to subsist. On the other hand, because smaller lake boats and equipment were less expensive on the lake, fishing tended to be more competitive and siloed. Individuals in the lake community looked out for themselves.
Years ago researchers set out to see how people in each community responded to social experiments. When they measured levels of trust, they found that ocean fishermen tended to trust strangers and cooperated with their neighbors more often. However, lake fishermen tended to be less trustworthy of outsiders and hardly worked together well on projects. They further discovered the longer a fisherman worked on the lake, the more they competed; whereas, the longer they worked on the ocean, the less fishermen competed but cooperated and assisted.
This experiment comes with many lessons within it. One that stands out to me is the influence one's culture or environment can have on behavior. In a place in which one does not need help or think they need help, trust levels fall. But, in a place in which the odds are stacked against the individual; or the task at hand too large for one to handle, levels of trust and cooperation reign.
In our lives, it’s interesting to consider if we see ourselves as lake fishermen or ocean fishermen. Currently in our society, it feels as if everyone is on their own boat on the lake. Yet, we face insurmountable issues which cannot be tackled alone. From a pandemic, to political crisis, economic hardship, and more; we are in an ocean. Moreover, the church itself can easily get sucked into believing it is on a lake. Competing for resources among ministries, looking out for one’s own interests, and more; can creep in to make us believe the ship is sinking.
And yet, God calls us to a kingdom mindset and a kingdom ministry. The fulfillment of our calling to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the Kingdom of God is too large for any single individual to tackle. The Kingdom of God and the work of the Kingdom is an ocean!
As an aside, I will say, in our congregation, we are an ocean minded entity. In early December, we sent out a notice regarding our financial situation. While it wasn’t an emergency, we were entering dangerous waters. As the year closed, we not only surpassed our needs to fulfill our obligations and ministry plans, we went above and beyond. Many of you gave generously and sacrificed to do so. We were able to repair worn out heaters and fix potentially dangerous issues within the building, as well as continue to be agents of spiritual nourishment and hope to our community.
As we move into 2022, I’m excited and hopeful about the potential of our congregation because we are an ocean village. I pray any remnants of lake fishing will dissipate, and we can come together and see the large issues facing us and tackle them together. With gratitude and joy in my heart, I pray God’s Spirit moves in mighty ways this year and we are witnesses and agents of God’s glory.
Listen to the podcast Pastor Nathan referenced here, https://www.ted.com/talks/jamil_zaki_how_to_escape_the_cynicism_trap/up-next?language=en