Sweet-gum Trees and Sin

I hate Sweet-gum trees. If you have some in your yard, you probably know what I’m talking about. The other day, I broke a shovel trying to dig and pry one out. They are an odd and peculiar tree. Sweet-gums possess this relentless ability to multiply and root themselves in the ground.

Have you ever tried cutting one up and splitting for firewood? If not, don’t even try it. The grain pattern is so irregular, that even Superman himself would have a tough time chopping these things up.

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Don’t get me started on the sweet-gum balls. The southern comedian, Lewis Grizzard tells the story of selling sweet-gum balls to yankees by passing them off as porcupine eggs. These things are wicked looking.

Perhaps God gave us the sweet-gum tree because of his sense of humor or maybe he’s trying to teach us something. I don’t know, but I do know that God turns to plant analogies several times in the Bible.

One note-worthy passage can be found in Hebrews 12:15 (NASB):

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

I see two key phrases in this verse: “see to it” and “root of bitterness.”

The general idea here is that some sins can lead to other sins, and sins can poison others around us. As an engineer, I was trained in something called root-cause analysis. Every problem can be traced back to a root-cause—if you ask the right questions.

You might say that we can trace our root-cause back to Adam. True, but all of us are different, and we’ve all allowed different root-cause-sins to grow and flourish in our lives. For one it might be a deep-growing root of lust. For another it might be anger. And for some it could be bitterness. These well-nourished roots have allowed other habits or sins to join the vine.

To extend the analogy, our friends and family come and eat from the poisonous fruit. The way we live influences our closest relationships. I try not to forget that.

I also like the phrase “see to it.” We must see to it that we and our fellow believers stay planted in God’s grace. His grace is not a fire insurance plan or license to sin–its fertile soil brings about growth and change. Remember the parable of the different soils?(Luke 8: 4-8) The right soil can mean everything to a plant. So I ask myself: Is God changing my soil—my soul? What am I mixing into my soul and spirit to feed these bad habits? What am I allowing others and the world to plant in my life?

So allow God to do his work. Relax your grip on those troublesome roots—humble yourself before him. Let his axe fall where it may. It’s better to let that axe fall now than when our time here is up. He is actively tending our soil, but we must let him do his job.

God bless, and thanks for stopping by. Now, back to digging up more sweet-gum trees. Please contact me if you have a backhoe.

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4 Responses to Sweet-gum Trees and Sin

  1. Well written Scott. Sorry, no backhoe!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have so many sweet gum balls in my backyard you can walk. I hate them. I have someone to come and get them up, and they are right back. Maybe one day I will have the tree cut down, when I have an
    extra thousand dollars.

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