All we need: a reflection on trees
What can we learn from trees? Today, on the International Day of Forests, we’re sharing this reflection that was written by Veronica Zundel for her series on ‘Trees’ in the May–August 2020 issue of New Daylight. In her introduction to the series, Veronica writes:
‘In an age when the whole future of our planet is under threat, trees are political, and we need political and economic decisions to preserve their vital role in our life on earth. I make no apology for this emphasis; I think it was Desmond Tutu who remarked that when he heard people say the Bible should be kept separate from politics, he wondered what Bible they were reading. The question of who wields power over people and nature is a central theme of our scriptures, from the garden of Eden to the teaching of Jesus. And it’s amazing what trees can teach us about this vital issue.’
All we need
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.’
Genesis 1:27–29 (NRSV)
Plant-based diets are all the rage at the moment, for both health and environmental reasons. I have never heard this preached on, but the picture of ‘original blessing’ that we get in the first two chapters of Genesis is one in which humans, at least, live on a vegetarian or even vegan diet. As Ecclesiastes says, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’!
Whether or not you think Christians should imitate this, the overall message is that God has provided in abundance for our physical needs. Our culture often gives us a message of scarcity: resources have to be carefully managed, and what one has, another must go without. But, in fact, there is plenty of food produced in our world, enough to feed everyone adequately at our present population. The trouble is that it is unfairly distributed, and huge amounts are wasted. Ironically, when people are economically secure, their population growth slows – so promoting food justice actually makes it easier, not harder, to feed the world.
Trees are, of course, also vital to balance our ecology; they are a natural carbon-capture mechanism, reversing the greenhouse effect that leads to catastrophic global warming. Yet all the time, rainforests are being cut down to feed the west’s greed for products with soya or palm oil. We need to hear the urgent call to save our planet.
The story goes that Luther was asked what he would do if he heard the world was going to end tomorrow. He replied, ‘I would plant a tree.’ The promise of Jesus’ return should make us care for the earth more, not less.
Written by Veronica Zundel in New Daylight May–August 2020
You might also be interested in the following resources:
Martin and Margot Hodson provide a series of reflections on ‘The wisdom of trees’ in their book, Green Reflections.
The Hawkers are a Christian family who are taking action for climate justice. In their book, Changing the Climate, they explore the Bible’s relevance to environmentalism, and how we can all play our part in limiting the negative effects of climate change.