The Other Side of the Fence


My backyard in Indiana was to die for. It was over an acre, with a huge playset, two tree houses connected by a bridge, a swimming pool, a zip line, a tire swing, trees to climb, plenty of room to run, and a huge forest to hide in and build forts.

I remember walking outside one summer day and finding a hideout the boys had built just over the fence. It was in another yard, belonging to someone we’d never met—and someone who had not given us permission to be in his yard.

With such a huge adventure available in our own yard, what would drive them to cross the fence? Why is it so enticing to be in someone else’s yard? What is so tempting about the other side of the fence?

I think it has something to do with our flesh. No matter how wide the parameters or how broad the boundary markers, something in our makeup pulls us across the fence.

Another example: The tanning industry is strong in the United States. Women with darker skin captivate American men. That’s not true in every country. I saw a travel show about Brazil recently. A cab driver was being interviewed and talked about how Brazilian men are captivated by women with fair skin and blond hair. When asked the reason for this and told it was the opposite in the States, the cab driver astutely noted that people everywhere seem to want what they don’t have.

He may not have known it, but his observation is straight out of the New Testament:

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (1 John 2:15–17 msg)

Your marriage is great, but there is a relationship just across the fence that is interesting and exciting. You leave your wife at home in sweatpants with her hair messed up and the smell of baby diapers all over her, and you go to the office where the women look nice and smell sweet, and you ask, could life be better on the other side of the fence?

You have enough money, but you think the amount of money just across the fence would make you happier or give you more freedom. Gallup recently did a poll that said those making less than $50,000 annually thought they would be rich and happy if they made $100,000. Those who were paid more than $50,000 thought it would take $200,000 or more to be happy. And those making more than $75,000 thought it would take $250,000. We want what we don’t have. Until we get it, and then we want more.

We live in a society that is geared to make you want what you don’t have. We are exposed to as many as five thousand advertising messages every single day. That number is increasing. And nearly every message’s aim is to show you something you don’t have but probably need.

This is a problem we will likely never conquer. It will be with us for all our lives. But here are some practices I think are good antidotes to keep the Want-Monster in check:

  • Become a generous person. “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper” (Prov. 11:24–25). Generosity is the best antidote for selfishness and greed.
  • Spend time with people who have less than you. Do what you can to lift others out of poverty. “Defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9).
  • Visit and enter your annual income. You will quickly understand how blessed you are. For example, a person making $25,000 a year is in the top 2 percent of the richest people in the world.
  • Work on developing your character. Start by focusing on the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22–23.

Yes, there is something enticing about the possibilities across the fence. Don’t beat yourself up for wanting stuff. That is human. There is nothing sinful about the temptation. But begin to develop practices of how you will handle your desires when they begin to crowd out what is good and right.


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