The Life Boat

A trial lawyer, neuro-surgeon, elementary school teacher, electrician, and a pastor all find themselves on a tiny lifeboat floating in the Caribbean Sea. They survived a plane crash in a 6-seat Cessna on their way to a weekend wedding in Grand Cayman, says the high school psychologist to a troubled Freshman. The lifeboat holds three, maybe four, if everyone is small. Who would you vote off the boat?

This test can be changed to meet the situation. You might place four men and one woman in the mix if you want to test for gender. Adding different professions can demonstrate preferred vocations. You might add traits from the student’s parents or siblings. There are many ways to manipulate the test.

At the core, this test exposes values. If the student votes the teacher off the boat, it could be he/she does not value education, or they had a poor teacher. They may vote off the lawyer because of what they have seen on TV. It depends on their life experiences.

The Test

I gave this test to a group of students and then their parents. Some of the students flippantly kicked off, in order, the lawyer, electrician, teacher, surgeon, and last the pastor. They loved their youth pastor. He was their friend.

One sixth-grade student choked on the test. He was visibly shaken and wouldn’t kick anyone off the raft. He said they should all live or all die. If someone had to leave the safety of the raft, they should all get out and hang onto the side, he said. He couldn’t and wouldn’t vote anyone off the raft. Curious.

The parents choked on the test too, but when pushed, they voted off the lawyer first, then the pastor, electrician, teacher, and the neuro-surgeon last. They were educated, older, and may have had a surgery or two and therefore valued the skills of the surgeon over all others.

What if you were on that raft, floating along with the lawyer, surgeon, electrician, teacher, and pastor, and someone had to get off the raft, who would you pick? Let’s assume for experiment’s sake, that you are the CEO of a major corporation. You help employ hundreds of people; you have a spouse and three children in school. Who would you vote off the life-saving boat?


I’m glad this is just a mental exercise. Right? Not on your life! No, this goes on every day, everywhere, with almost every person on earth, and it’s not theoretical. We vote people off the boat every day with our words and actions. The lifeboat doesn’t float the 7-seas; it is climbing the corporate ladder and being the coolest at school. It’s competition. It’s survival of the fittest. And this is not the way God wants us to live our lives.

We have been fed a line by Darwin and others suggesting that this is the way humanity is to operate. Many scientists, not all, but the majority, see competition in nature and translate it into how we should behave, how business should work, how nations should operate. They are promoting, then mimicking our world’s fallen, selfish nature. Seeing death in nature should be repulsive. Seeing lions case, maul, and devour an antelope or crocodiles ripping into wildebeests should be sickening. The aggressive aspects of nature should be an object lesson on how not to behave. We should focus on the cooperative aspect of the world such as the water cycle, where the oceans take only to give back to the parched land, or the oxygen cycle, where plants use carbon dioxide only to give oxygen to animals who give carbon dioxide in return. They take only to give.

Even though competition drives people to excel, more can be done in cooperative efforts. With cooperation and collaboration, we all benefit, and no one gets voted off the lifeboat.

The True Life Boat

Were it not for the Bible, this principle of love would be hardly known or recognized. The Bible highlights the conflict between good and evil, between God’s ways and Satan’s ways, and it shows up in unexpected places such as our educational systems, our recreational choices, and politics. God’s principles are of love; they are selfless and others-centered. They are redemptive, healing, and helping. Satan’s principles are selfish and self-centered. They are vengeful and hurtful.

Can you see these principles acted out in our society? Can you see and hear people of all walks of life either pulling people into lifeboats or throwing them out? I can. In almost every conversation we take one side or the other. Do we lift people up or throw them under a bus? Do we magnify ourselves or do we praise others? Will we help people into the raft and onto the team, or kick them out?

The choice is yours.

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