The Beauty of TREES

The View of a Christian Forester

A presentation for the Opelika Garden Club
by Tim Albritton
Forest Operations Specialist
Alabama Forestry Commission
January 7, 2000


All of you remember how we were taught in grammar school about the important role trees play by producing oxygen for us all to breathe. And how trees provide a home for the birds, squirrels, racoons, and other wildlife. These are still important lessons for our children to learn and hopefully someone is teaching these lessons today.

The forest industry in Alabama has a vested interest in educating the public as to the many benefits they receive from the products produced from trees. At $1.3 billion dollars, the forest products payroll is the largest of any manufacturing industry in Alabama. Some 66,000 Alabamians are directly employed by more than 1,800 manufacturers and suppliers of wood and wood- related products in Alabama. Alabama's forest product industry is certainly a success story that deserves to be told, and for which all of us as citizens can be thankful.

In preparing for this presentation however, I chose a different way to tell the story of trees. I began reflecting on the role trees play in our spiritual life. If this sounds a bit strange, hopefully you will agree when I am finished that we can learn some valuable spiritual lessons by studying trees.

Trees have played an important role in the history of mankind. Even someone who doesn't believe the Bible would have a hard time disputing that fact. From a Christian perspective however, trees take on an even more important role. Throughout the Bible we see trees used time and again to illustrate a point, as a metaphor, or as a key part of a story.

In The Beginning

In the beginning, God created trees. He did this on the third day of creation. He was preparing a place for Adam and Eve to live. So often today I hear natural resource professionals refer to the habitat of an animal or tree. Through studying trees I have learned that each species has a unique habitat in which it thrives. Remove a plant or animal from its habitat and the result is usually undesirable. How many people have ever stopped to think, that God created a habitat for us to live in? That habitat includes trees for us to enjoy viewing and eating of the fruit. That's what God was doing the first five days of creation-putting together your unique habitat.

When God had completed the garden of Eden and placed Adam and Eve there, trees had a significant role to play. Did you know that after God created the whole world, God then gave Adam and Eve something-a tree. God instructed them to eat from the trees. The trees were to be their food source, all but one tree. The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was placed in the garden by God. And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of that tree our future was changed forever.

People are compared to trees throughout the Old Testament. In Psalms One we see that a man who delights in the law of the Lord is "like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither." In Forestry School I learned the importance of soil moisture to the survival of trees. Water and minerals are taken up through the roots and transported throughout the tree to provide for the growth and survival of the tree.

When we understand this process we can see more clearly the Psalmist's meaning. Being planted by streams of water leads to growth, which in turn leads to health, which results in fruit bearing. In this connection you recall how Jesus said: John 15: 5-8 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

When taking dendrology at Auburn we learned to identify trees by certain characteristics. This task became even more difficult when I was working with the Alabama Forest Inventory during the winter. Most of the more obvious characteristics used to identify a tree are missing during the winter.

Trees have many characteristics that help us recognize them, like the bark of a shagbark hickory, the leaves of a bigleaf magnolia, or the roots of a bald cypress.

But none of the trees' characteristics are as helpful as the fruit. Our fruit also will be used to identify us by other people and more importantly by our Lord.

Now I invite you to consider with me the fascinating subject of "Jesus and Trees."

Intro: "In the beginning was the word" and thus we know that Jesus created trees.

First, The Mulberry Tree

Jesus talked to trees. In Luke 17:6 Jesus said "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you." Jesus identified the tree as a mulberry. This isn't difficult to believe though since Jesus created trees. He also created you and me and he knows us too. He wants us to be rooted in his word. He desires that no one be uprooted and thrown into the sea but it is up to us to decide. It's a matter of faith.

Second, The Mustard Tree

Jesus also knew about the mustard tree. He compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, that was planted by a man and it grew to become a tree. Jesus has a master plan-seeds become trees, the lost are found, the weak become strong, the last will be first, the meek will inherit the earth.

Third, The Sycamore Tree

A sycamore tree helped Zacchaeous see Jesus one day. But Jesus knew just seeing him wasn't enough for Zacchaeous. He told him to come down and go home with him. Jesus wants us to take him home also. Sometimes we get too comfortable on the tree limb we're sitting on and we would rather watch Jesus from a distance but Jesus desires a much closer relationship.

Lessons Jesus Taught Using Trees

First, A Trees' Fruit

Jesus knew you can recognize a tree by the fruit it produces. Good trees will produce good fruit, bad trees will produce bad fruit. This seems to be very simplistic but in this modern age it's still important to watch out for bad fruit. For Jesus said in Matthew 7:19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Not a fire, but The Fire and the fire department can't put this one out.

Second, The Fruitless Fig Tree

Jesus had no patience with trees that didn't produce fruit. In Matthew 21:19 Jesus spoke to a fruitless fig tree and said "May you never bear fruit again" and the tree withered. This amazed the disciples. Jesus also said that we could do the same thing-it just takes faith. This missing ingredient has caused many a fig tree not to wither. Our society is full of leafy trees.

Third, Another lesson from a Fig Tree

Jesus taught another lesson using a fig tree. Jesus said in Matthew 24:32 " as soon as the twigs get tender and the leaves come out, you know that summer is near." Even so he said when you see the signs of the end of the age you know that the Day of the Lord is right at the door. Have you been checking the twigs to see if they are tender? I'm keeping a close eye on the trees and the signs of the end of the age.

Fourth, Dead Wood

If a branch is not attached to the trunk it dies (withers). Jesus said in John 15:15 "such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." In a forest the branches that aren't getting light usually die-this is called natural pruning.

Jesus said in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Are you beginning to get the picture? Branch gets light, branch has life, branch doesn't die, branch doesn't fall off, branch doesn't get picked up and burned in The Fire. You know this tree business is pretty good stuff. I'm glad God called me to serve Him as a forester. It puts me one step ahead of most other professions. You know the cross was made out of dead wood. That should tell you how Jesus feels about dead wood.

Fifth, Trees' response to light

Sunlight is one of the most important factors in determining if a little seedling will grow to become a mature tree in the forest. Sunlight can dramatically change the growth of a tree that had been previously shaded. However, a tree can reach a point where it is not able to respond to the sunlight.

People respond to Jesus, the Light of the world, in much the same way as trees. When people receive the Light into their lives, dramatic changes take place. However, like trees people can reach a point where they too no longer respond to the Light. Their hearts become hardened to the Word of God and to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As Christians we need to spread the light of God's love around to the lost before they become so hardened they will not respond to the Light. When a seedling in the forest is not receiving sunlight from above, it is called suppressed. Christians need to look around for the suppressed people of the world and let our lights shine for the glory of God.

Sixth, A Trees' fruit

Jesus tells us that a tree is recognized by its fruit. A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. We are very much like trees. People recognize us by the fruit we produce. If we are producing the fruit of kindness or joy, then people will recognize us by that fruit. Have you checked your branches lately to see what fruit is there for people to recognize you by.

A Summary

In closing let us review the lessons we have learned:

1. Trees have a unique habitat which they thrive in, and so do we. We should take the time to evaluate our current habitat. Who knows we might need to be transplanted.
2. God gave us trees to enjoy and to eat the fruit of some. We should do this more often. It will improve our quality of life. We should spend more time looking at and enjoying trees. It's good for the soul.
3. When planting a tree consider the water source. Trees and people thrive best when we are rooted close to a river of life. Jesus said, "I am the water of life."
4. Trees and people are recognized by their fruit.
5. Jesus knew a lot about trees. This is reason enough to concern ourselves with them-to love them, enjoy them, and learn from them.


by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems were made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.