There is a lot to be learned from a tree.
A long time ago, my fourth grade Art teacher, Mrs. Bradshaw, encouraged my choice of subject matter by saying, “Drawing people and trees have a lot in common.” She would go on to nurture my yet to blossom talent into something that, as of yet, may someday come to honor God more fully. But beyond that intended encouragement, her words would stay with me for decades to cross into other patterns of thought.
This past Sunday morning, as part of my weekly walking to church ritual, I stopped once again at the Collettsville General store to pause and take in God’s word. A gentle breeze blew across the picnic table before me, rustling the pages of the Bible, “Whispers of the Holy Spirit,” my mind mused. The unseen hand turned the thin paper until it landed upon a scripture in the gospel of Matthew. Glancing at the words before me, I read, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.”
No sooner had those lines entered my mind, to my left, the cries of a forlorn hawk echoed off the mountain walls. Turning to see from whence he called, my attention was drawn to a majestic old tree. In the upper reaches of that giant oak sat the raptor. He glanced in my direction as if to say, Good Morning,” Below him, my artistic mind began to trace the tree down to its curious, twisting trunk whereby was entwined about by a massive vine. Its strength is drawn partly from the earth, but ever more, it sucked the life from its host, the oak. Alone, the vine would have weighed more than several men could lift, yet the tree seemed unphased by its presence; healthy and vibrant were its limbs and branches.
“How much greater would this tree have been had it not been encumbered by such a growth,” were the thoughts that rang in my head? “Or better yet, had this vine somehow created the curious twist and turns of that shape that lone it might have never known?”
Now two thoughts were churning about in my mind; the fruit of a tree and the trials of such a growth prohibiting what might be considered a normal existence for said tree.
All our lives, we toil and labor to obtain what is good and right. As we age, we find that what was once important no longer matters. When we come to Christ and are saved, we become a new person, and all that once was gold no longer glitters. We become changed, and with those changes, we can see how the fruits of those once labors of a lost being were misdirected. Now, with a new heart and soul, we can focus on producing fruit that is beneficial not only for our immediate family and friends but far beyond our horizons. We become that good tree of which Jesus spoke.
Yet, many suffer from ailments, both physical and mental, through which they must battle. Their lives are less than perfect. For some, the sin to which they are chained seems as if they may never break free. The vine of Satan’s grasp has them in its hold. They might walk each day in the world appearing to others as if they are quite normal, but beneath the surface, they are in utter turmoil. Their branches may appear healthy, strong, and abundant. Beneath the soil of their flesh, they fight to maintain their integrity. When they go home each night, it seems as if the world around them falls into greater chaos, an entropy if you will. The only fruit they produce only causes strife and ill will to others. With all their might, they strive to make things right, but alone, they cannot right the wrongs. “An evil tree cannot bear good fruit.” Some give up and end their struggles the only way they know how; by escape through alcohol or drugs, or worse, by taking their own life. That evil tree is cast into the fire, and with it, the life that once was is no longer. Sadly, many in our world face this dire ending.
But there is an answer. There is a cure for this darkness.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find: Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
Jesus Christ is the answer.
Like a lumberjack, he comes to our call when we ask, wielding a mighty chainsaw, cutting us free from our bonds of sin and strife. “The truth shall set you free,” says the scripture, and like the spinning teeth of the chainsaw blade, the Holy Spirit enters our soul, cutting to the very marrow of our existence, splitting us asunder from that corruption which once held us captive.
When we accept Christ into our lives, we are made a new person. That evil tree is cut down and cast into the fire, but unlike with those that are lost, in the place of this once evil tree, a new tree is planted, one that is good. From henceforth, it begins to grow, unencumbered by the clutches of Satan’s vines of addiction, it begins to flourish. The fruit grows ripe and sweet. The world around them can witness the change, and to them, this metamorphosis becomes a testimony in and of itself.
The breeze turned the page before me one last time. The conclusion became apparent. There before me, God spoke once again.
“Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.”
Jesus told us that it would be obvious to see those who had received Him by how their actions and labors would appear. The twist and turns of that ancient tree would become ever more glorious in that their story, their testimony, would produce a heavenly fruit; the sweet nectar of the Holy Spirit.
Although that massive oak makes a beautiful image with the vine that intertwines amongst its gentle limbs, how much greater might it be should a woodsman happen by with his chainsaw someday and cut it loose? As you go through your work week, watch and listen to those around you. They may appear the picture-perfect co-worker or friend, but don’t be afraid to wield your chainsaw, the Word of God, and be ready to set them free from the vines of this world.
In the end, they will thank you.
And in all we do, let us be thankful for his Holy Word.
Thanks be to God.
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – Matthew 7:16-20