|A chromolithograph of The Dog in the Manger from a |
McLoughlin Brothers book for children, New York, 1880
I first heard of the term "dog in the manger" when I heard my mother use it when I was growing up. She was referring to a contract dispute that the family business was having with our software marketer. He wouldn't sell but had an exclusive contract and so no one else could sell either. She referred to him as a "dog in the manger."
The idiom actually refers to the title from one of Aesop's Fables. Here's the story:
The Dog in the Manger
A Dog looking out for its afternoon nap jumped into the Manger of an Ox and lay there cozily upon the straw. But soon the Ox,
returning from its afternoon work, came up to the Manger and wanted to eat some of the straw. The Dog in a rage, being awakened from its slumber, stood up and barked at the Ox, and whenever it came near attempted to bite it. At last the Ox had to give up the hope of getting at the straw, and went away muttering:
"Ah, people often grudge others what they
cannot enjoy themselves."
Jesus seems to refer to the Pharisees and the legal experts as dogs in the manger. With the rules of the Law, they are keeping access to God to themselves and justifiably so in their minds. Today's average church-goer probably doesn't consider himself or herself as a legal expert on the Bible. This usually leads to most people dismissing these passages as irrelevant to them. And so our introspection needs to look at how we may unwittingly keep others out.
Are there ways in which we keep God's grace to ourselves? Are there stances we take that limit access to others coming to worship? Are there things we insist upon in the sanctuary or in our pattern of worship that are more cultural rather than spiritual in nature?
I think most of us really do want to share the hay.