There was a book by Dr. J. Allan Petersen entitled The Myth of the Greener Grass. Its subtitle is: Affair-Proof Your Marriage, Restore Your Love, Recover Your Dreams. From its title and subtitle, you can guess what it’s about. It’s full of case studies of marriages that were in trouble or failed and why. The teachings of the book are quite helpful to anyone who is contemplating or recovering from an infidelity in marriage. But one of the most intriguing parts of the book is the cover. There’s a small colored drawing of several couples (husbands and wives we suppose) each surrounded by a picket fence and each man and each woman is looking through binoculars to another couple behind the next picket fence.
The lust for what belongs to someone else entered the world early on. Adam and Eve apparently wanted the eye-opening wisdom that only the Heavenly Father possessed and they were willing to commit one little act of rebellion to get it. Supposedly that’s where the angst bug bit first and the rest of us have been trying to keep the critter at bay ever since.
A few generations later the greener grass was more than a metaphor. It was real. And the main character in this story did long for something, but it was theoretically already his. It was land and God had told Abram (later renamed Abraham) he could have it and told him to go there and create a new nation. Lot, the nephew of Abram, followed his uncle on a trek to a place that God led him.
What happened next is recorded in Genesis 13. Abram and Lot were quite wealthy by that time with both owning lots of livestock. They were so rich that they couldn’t occupy the same land because there was not enough grazing space to support the enormous amount of cattle they each owned. Not only was there not enough pastureland to sustain each man’s flocks, their hired herdsmen were arguing among themselves. Arguing about what we don’t know. Anyway, it was obviously time to separate.
Each man was to take his flocks and go his separate way. Abram gave Lot first choice. To the east were lush, green pastures, the plains of the Jordan River –a perfect place to prosper. Lot chose this land even though he was aware of the dangers he might encounter from the wickedness of the city-dwellers. Abram took the lesser land and seemed to be satisfied. Well, you know the trouble that Lot later encountered with the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And in all this his wife turns to a pillar of salt and his daughters trick him into conceiving children with him, and well, nothing was ever right there. The greener grass wasn’t all it should have been.
And on it goes. King David lusted after another man’s wife. He had to have Bathsheba but the destruction that accompanied the act that followed cost a man (Bathsheba’s husband) and a child (the one that David and Bathsheda conceived) their lives. Yes, there was repentance and restitution that followed, but the lust for more in other ways seemed to haunt David the rest of his life.
The pattern of behavior has a long history. Like I said before, it’s possibly written into our DNA. So is it bad to long for something more than you have? It was in all these biblical stories. So should we never want for more because of where it can lead? It depends. What about reaching for a goal – striving to do better – having a lifelong dream? How do you keep the dreams alive without stepping over the forbidden fence of covetousness? (How’s that for a church-y word?)
Well, next time we’ll go down that road and see where innocence ends and vice begins. I’m interested in finding that place myself.
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