For the past couple of weeks, I have been removing trees. Well, actually, some people with chain saws and stump grinders have been doing the work for me. Some gum trees were hanging precariously over my roof and their roots were moving toward my foundation. So I had them extracted.
If you have ever had trees removed, you know the risks. But there is also a risk associated with doing nothing. Removing trees is expensive, but like a lot of things we put off doing, once it is done we usually wonder why we waited.
In the kingdom of God we are always growing. Many of Jesus’ parables focused on the supernatural nature of this growth. The mustard seed produces a plant that nestles the birds of the air in its branches. A farmer who finds good spiritual soil will experience 30, 60 and 100 fold his investment.
However, the kingdom of God is also about cutting away what doesn’t belong. Jesus cursed a fig tree because it wasn’t bearing fruit and He used the metaphor of the grape-vine to illustrate how God prunes away unproductive branches.
Years later, when the apostle Paul wrote his letters, he used the contrast of life and death to stress this same principle. He encouraged the Colossians to “put to death” anything that belonged to their earthly nature (Colossians 3:5). In Ephesians 4:22 he challenged his readers to “put off” the old self.
The growth process takes lots of hard work, but the cutting process involves pain and separation. Our tree project was relatively uneventful, but it still stirred things up. Squirrels’ homes were destroyed, birds were chased away from their perches and insects of every kind were cast to the wind. It will take me all summer to restore the yard, and a few extra bucks to replace some fencing. The tree company was extremely careful in their work, and I was amazed at the skill of the workers. But there is always some collateral damage when you remove things that are as deeply rooted as trees. Is it any wonder Jesus used nature to prepare us for the challenge of cutting old sinful habits out of our lives?
Most of us don’t like to talk about cutting things out of our lives. A man who had a fairly pessimistic view of life once told me, “Everyone likes to talk about the positive. No one ever talks about the negative. That’s what I try to do. I try to make sure everyone sees the negative.” While I am not sure his approach to life was healthy for him, or others, I must admit he was correct in his observation. We would much rather talk about what is going right in our lives, and avoid the things that are going wrong.
So let me give you another option. I suggest when we cut things out of our lives that don’t belong, we are doing something positive. Why wait until the hurricane arrives to remove dead branches and why let a rotten tree fall on our house when we can cut it down? If a storm blew through our community and our house was the only one without damage because we removed some branches and trees, would that not be a positive?
Allow me to help you even more. Did you know we all have sins that need to be removed from our lives? We have thought processes and habits that keep pulling us back into our old selves. And when we are falling backward, we aren’t moving forward.
People who are growing in the kingdom of God are people who are putting on the right things and putting off the wrong things. They are putting forth branches and cutting off branches.
We all need an occasional kingdom cut. Sometimes branches even come back and we have to cut then out again. The possibilities for growth are limitless and the need for pruning is endless. But as they say, “it’s all good.” There is no reason why we should carry around dead weight when we need to be rising to the call of Christ.
Where do you plan on making your first cut?