“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” The reader has likely seen this to be true with livestock, as goats and other animals push their heads through fences to get at the grass on the other side, regardless of how green and lush their own pastures might be. The reader has likely seen this proverb to be true with human beings as well, as so many people are never satisfied with what they have. Their eyes look with envy upon what other people have and upon what they do. Their hearts wonder and wander after things of the world. And, as with animals, such a person will often “get his head stuck in the fence” while trying to get at that illusorily greener grass.
A few years ago, news sources reported of a fourteen-year-old boy who ran away from his father’s home in the United States to fly back to their native Cuba. The boy’s apparent motive for running away was that his father took away his computer and iPod privileges. As one news magazine commented, “The boy, who must not have read much about communism, apparently thinks life will be better in Castro's Cuba.” This magazine’s article was aptly entitled “Breaking into Prison.” By feeding his desire for greener pastures, he likely cut off all real opportunity ever to return.
How especially sad it is when those who are in the Lord’s pasture choose to wander in search of greener pastures! They honestly believe they can find something better, but they only find their heads stuck in the fence; they find they have “broken into prison.” Jesus’ Parable of the Lost/Prodigal Son paints a grim picture of this:
And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! (Luke 15:11-16).
The younger son thought he saw greener pastures in the “far country,” far from the rules—and riches—of his father’s house. Many young people find such pastures particularly enticing. They have lived under their fathers’ roofs and rules their entire lives, and they seek opportunities to graze elsewhere. Many eagerly anticipate going away to college not to grow in knowledge or to expand their opportunities, but to go to the “far country”—both physically and spiritually. They do not intend it to be a permanent trip; they fully intend to come back to a life of faithful service, worship, and devotion to the Lord. But when one deliberately turns away his ear from hearing the word of the Lord, one can potentially do irreparable damage to his mind and conscience (Romans 1:21-22; Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Timothy 4:2)—not to mention his soul (Proverbs 28:9). One who continually allows himself to do wrong comes to a point where he has difficulty discerning correctly between right and wrong. He may, like the prodigal son, have yet to “come to himself.” He may think he is enjoying the greener pastures of that country far from God, but he is in the pigpen:
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Sometimes one intends his foray into green pastures to be nothing more than a quick taste. A young person tries “just one sip of beer.” He or she goes too far with a member of the opposite sex “just this one time.” However, such one-time trials lead to lifelong habits—no one ever developed a habitual practice he never tried. Did the prodigal son think that he would stay in the far country as long as he did, and spend everything of his father’s he had? Probably not. Did he think he would sink as low in the wretchedness of the far country as he did? Certainly not.
It has been said, “Forbidden fruit is sweet” (compare with Genesis 3:6; Joshua 7:21). But God only forbids that which is self-destructive and deadly (Genesis 2:17; Joshua 7:1-5, 25). As green as pastures outside the Lord’s may look, they have nothing positive to offer.
For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:20-23).
The apostle Paul knew better than to desire pastures away from the Lord: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Paul knew that he had access to the lushest and greenest pasture anywhere. As the psalmist penned, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2). When the Lord is one’s Shepherd, one cannot lack spiritually. One who is found grazing in the Lord’s pasture—who has been Scripturally baptized (John 3:5), who labors faithfully in His kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:58), who does good as the opportunity arises (Galatians 6:10), who grows in faith and godly living (2 Peter 1:5-7)—will enter into truly green pastures following his time here (Revelation 7:16-17). Contrariwise, regarding those in other pastures: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:15). Now, where do you think the grass is greener?
Dear reader, do not be enticed by greener pastures outside of the Lord. You risk getting your head stuck there, and its pleasures are fleeting (compare with Hebrews 11:25). “. . . The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:24-25).
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