Are You Smarter Than A Goldfish?

“After awhile the joy that I got from watching them calmly do nothing was overcome by the frustration of having to constantly feed them and clean their bowl”

I wonder if there’s anything dumber than a goldfish. I make that observation from experience. Let me explain.

Once I visited a French friend who had an aquarium. Georges was a guy who did nothing half-way and his aquarium had all kind of fish, aquatic plants, cleaning systems, etc. It was like a little slice of the bottom of a very beautiful part of the sea.

I’m like Georges in that I like beautiful living things. I’m unlike Georges in that I have been known to do things halfway. So, half-thoroughly inspired by Georges’ fish, I purchased two goldfish and a bowl. I planned to work my way up.

The only thing, though, is that goldfish don’t do anything. They just kind of hang out all day long. I mean if they swam excitedly around the fishbowl, that would be something. If they swam towards the surface with all their might and leapt into the air before plunging into the water again, that would be worth watching.

But what they do is imitate a rock. Occasionally they swim around just a bit and they come to life slightly if you feed them. Otherwise you get more activity from a hound dog snoozing in the shade of the porch on a hot summer day.

At least the hound dog snores.

Actually they do accomplish one thing. They stink up their bowl. After a certain time, that crystal-clear water you put in the bowl is the color of uneaten fish food mixed with fish poop. You play a waiting game with you wife to see who finally breaks down and cleans the thing.

“The fish were your idea,”
she will probably remind you.

After awhile the joy that I got from watching them calmly do nothing was overcome by the frustration of having to constantly feed them and clean their bowl. I begin to have thoughts like, “I ought to take them to the bathroom and flush them.” I didn’t have the heart to do it, though, and things would have probably continued like that until one of us died of old age when help came from an unexpected source.

Unexpected Helper

My daughter had a little black cat named Betty who was just the opposite of the goldfish. She was always into something. One day I came in and found her with her little paw plunged into the fishbowl, aggressively seeking victims. “Get down from there!” I cried.

But, I came in another time and she was fishing again. This time, though, one of the fish was floating–but not in an upright position. That’s how I knew he was dead. (Still wasn’t moving).

It was my duty to get onto Betty. So I yelled at her a bit and swatted at her as if I was mad. But inside I was saying, “Yes!”

A bit later I came in and the other one was floating, too, so I knew Betty had come back to finish the job. I didn’t mourn a long time. Thanks Betty.

An Unsavory Job

Someone else once took care of an unsavory job for me. It was the Lord. I was floating, dead in my stinking sins. All my efforts at pleasing God were about as pleasant as filthy rags. And it was my fault. My sin had separated me from my Heavenly Father.

“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” Eph. 2:1-6, the Message.

I was like a dead goldfish, rotting in my sin. For some reason God loved me … you, too! And Jesus gave His life to bring us back to life! Now instead of wilting away in the goldfish bowl, we’re turbo-charged spiritually! We’re busy serving Him because we’re so thankful for what He did for us and because His heart of love beats in our chest, too. My little bowl has become a living aquarium!

“He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Eph. 2:10. The Message.

If you haven’t asked Him for life, do it right now. He’s up to any task. He’ll forgive you and give you a life that’s worth living. If you’ve received that new life in Jesus, get busy serving Him. The Lord wants to see a little movement in that goldfish bowl!


“The irony of commitment is that it is deeply liberating—in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as natural hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.”
Anne Morris, seen on a Starbucks coffee cup.

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