Monday, March 16, 2009

Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side of the Fence?

I wonder why there are so many extramarital affairs and why there is generally so much discontent in the world. It’s the same with job-hopping; a process the financial crisis will surely put paid to. Why are people searching for something better elsewhere? Is it because people grow fond of casting an eye over the fence to catch glimpses of the neighbour’s grass that only looks greener, but never is?

It’s a little hard when we take our marital partners, our kids and our bosses at work and think of how better they could be. We think others in a similar position to us have it so much better. Naturally from this viewpoint we’ll see others in a better, falser light. (Of course, we can equally look on others’ less fortunate situations, and be cheerful, which is just as false.)

Comparisons of another person’s lot are almost always illusionary. They are dangerous, not only because they are covetous, but they prove a lie; it is tantamount to believing what we’re feeling no matter how false it might be. We need to learn to habitually run our feelings through the sieve that is the objective-cognitive thought process.

Paul says to the Galatians: “Each of you should test your own actions. Then you can take pride in yourself, without comparing yourself to somebody else, for each of you should carry your own load” –Galatians 6:4-5 (TNIV).

Comparisons in a certain context, however, are not only warranted, but healthy. If we consider God’s standard for living, and what he’s particularly called us to do, there’s no harm in that sort of comparison. It can only help us improve. We also need to learn to see ourselves as God sees us, and not how we think others see us.[1]

Our confidence and boasting should only come from who we are in Christ--a redeemed people with a second chance who’ve accepted his marvellous forgiveness and grace.

Another thing we can do to prevent the grass-greener syndrome is to assume personal responsibility for our own lives, and this is what ‘carrying our own load’ means in verse 5.

The Bible uses an interesting metaphor for this. Imagine a personal backpack, like we’d use on a hike. We wouldn’t expect anyone to carry our own backpack would we? And this is what this passage is talking about.[2] Our backpack is our life, our feelings, thoughts and deeds.

God expects us to carry our own load and that’s it. Comparisons are pseudo-loads, and will always seem burdensome and heavy--like pulling a cargo ship, because they have no place for those who follow God. “God will judge us all on the basis of our calling, gifts, and obedience.”[3] (Italics added.)

When we’re improving at what we’re doing and it feels good and anything but burdensome, we know we’re probably close to making only the right Godly comparisons.[4]

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians – Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2005), p. 251. Ryken believes this is precisely what Galatians 6:4 is talking about.
[2] Ryken, Ibid, p. 252.
[3] Ryken, Ibid, p. 252.
[4] See Leon Morris, Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 180.

No comments: