It’s no coincidence that Jesus often used farming illustrations in his public teaching. He would talk about sowing the seed, various soil types, tearing down and rebuilding barns, etc. There are so many lessons one can learn from watching the way we work with nature, and listening to God’s creation in the beauty of the world around us.
On the farm about this time each year, we begin to feel the chill in the air, the cool Fall nights, and the beautiful leaves turning red, orange and brown, then falling from the trees like a grand announcement that winter approaches. We detect the pleasant odor of wood smoke in the air, and are reminded that we are behind in the work of cutting, splitting and stacking firewood. Several insights from God’s word came to mind recently as I thought about these matters, which I hope you will enjoy and profit from, including the following:
- It pays to spend some time sharpening your tools before launching into the work. In the time it takes to cut up one medium sized tree with a dull chain, I can easily cut three or four with a sharp one. Sometimes I think about young people who can’t wait to get out of high school so they can launch into some job or vocation. If they seek my opinion, I usually try to encourage them to get their college education, preferably at a Christian school, and invest the money and effort getting the tools they will need for their life’s work. Put in the requisite study and hard work before your life becomes cluttered with other things. Before you are too busy cutting, sharpen your axe! Remember that Jesus in growing up, “advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men,” (Lk. 2:52).
- Remember that not every type of wood you will cut is the same. Good hard locust, or ash, is right up there with oak when it comes to firewood. And nothing will dull your chain quicker than cutting through hard locust in the winter time. In life, we are going to have to deal with many different people. Not all of them react to the same thing in the same way. Methods which work well in teaching some are largely ineffective with others. We need to be flexible, and realize that people are different. Paul did not say, “I have become one inflexible thing so that I may reach anybody who happens to be just like me.” He said, “I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some,” (1 Cor. 9:22).
- Remember you are wielding a powerful tool. I think a chainsaw is probably the most dangerous power tool I have ever used, and I have used quite a few. It is so easy to get hurt. It is so easy to misuse the tool, or use it in an unwise way. You need to be well-balanced, on good footing, using correct posture, and wearing the appropriate safety equipment. The word of God is like that. It is an extremely dangerous tool when in the wrong hands. “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart,” (Heb. 4:12). I think this is what James had in mind when he warned, “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment, (Jas. 3:1).
- Think about the others around you. When you cut branches which are held back, or wedged between other trees, they may suddenly fly or spring forward and strike you or people around you. Many people are hurt during chainsaw work, not by the chainsaw itself, but by its effects. In the church, we all need to remember that people are around us. Remember that our actions have consequences, whether for good or ill. We need to think through what we are saying or doing, and be careful that others are not hurt in the process. “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works,” (Heb. 10:24). Before you cut that particular limb, consider carefully what else may be attached to it.
- Take some time to rest, admire, and enjoy the work. After the tree is felled, the tops are cleaned up and the rest is carefully cut into the proper lengths; after those lengths are split into useable firewood, then neatly stacked and covered in a well-considered location, take a few moments to stand back and appreciate the work. A nice stack of firewood is a sight to behold, because it represents a lot of work, and has the potential of creating a lot of warmth and enjoyment. The Christian life includes time for rest, reflection, and—especially, thanksgiving.
Paul labored hard, but also took time to admire and be grateful. He said, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” (Phil. 1:3). Don’t ever let yourself get too busy or too tired to stand back with a smile, and admire for a few minutes a beautiful stack of firewood.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.