We’ve all heard the phrase, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” I have two thoughts about that phrase. First, the grass may be greener but it may be sinful. Looks may be deceiving; in fact, they usually are. Sin in any of its expressions, whether it be greed, anger, or lust, presents us with the perception that our lives would be so much better if we indulged. Sin tempts us with the lie that we would feel so much better if we had that “thing,” or if we let out all of our emotions, or if we indulged in that pleasure. If we only had what was on the other side of the fence, we would find satisfaction and fulfillment and significance. But the truth is that any time we cross a boundary that God has given us, the high lasts only for a short time, actually a very short time. That is the lie of pornography or adultery. That’s the lie of materialism. Sin appears to satisfy, but all it really does is create a greater hunger. The grass may look greener, but it may be sinful.
But I have a second thought about this phrase (the grass is greener on the other side) and it deals with the issue of envy. The truth is, the grass on the other side of the fence may be greener but it may not be sinful. It may be greener, but that means it is simply different, and it is different by God’s design. Just because the grass on the other side of the fence is greener than it is on our side of the fence doesn’t change the fact that the grass on our side of the fence may still be green. Envy is wanting God’s goodness to others while ignoring God’s goodness to me. Greener is not always better. In fact, if it is not God’s will for us to have greener grass, greener is never better. This truth is illustrated in a conversation between Jesus and Peter, recorded in John 21.
We all remember that Peter denied Jesus three times, so after the resurrection, Jesus made a point to restore him by giving him a renewal of his call to ministry – “Feed my sheep.” Then he reveals to Peter that during the latter part of his life, he would suffer an ignominious death by which he would glorify God (Vs. 18-19), a statement that reveals that the grass in Peter’s life, even though difficult, is nonetheless green, as it always is when we have the opportunity to glorify God. Enter the temptation to envy.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me! (Joh 21:20-22 ESV)
Peter was just commissioned to the highest privilege under heaven – feed the sheep of Jesus. How many have received that privilege? And this privilege was given after Peter failed miserably, not once but three times. I’d say that Peter’s pasture was very green. Yet, instead of being overwhelmed with the grace and restoration of Jesus, Peter is concerned about the call of John. So Jesus gives Peter a lesson in envy. “Peter, your grass is green and John’s grass is green. You graze in your green pasture and John will graze in his green pasture. The bottom line – “You follow me.”
The temptation of a musician (which I have some experience being) is to compare my talents and abilities with the talents and abilities of others and to conclude that since I am not as proficient as someone else is, there is no place for me. The same is true of pastors and teachers. If we can’t preach and teach like those we hear on the radio, we may as well not teach. Or worse yet, we have to learn how to teach and preach like they do. That is simply envy. The truth is, the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but that doesn’t mean it is better and it certainly does not mean that our grass is not green.
Here is my challenge. Examine God’s blessing on your life and learn to appreciate it. Learn to want what you have. Thank God for what you have. Worship God for his grace and calling on your life. Then rejoice in what God has given to others. How boring life would be if all grass was the same color. May God free us from the sin of envy.