Hollow Trees

Did you ever wake up early in the morning thinking about the strangest thing?  Well, I woke up on Sunday morning thinking about hollow trees.  How is it even possible to wake up at 4:30 am thinking about such a thing I asked myself? After all, I have to preach 2 times on Sunday morning, and I need to get focused. And yet, I couldn’t get hollow trees off my mind. I told the worship team about the experience prior to the first worship service on Sunday and included the remark, “I have no idea why I’m thinking about hollow trees.” And then, believe it or not, it even came up in the sermon. Yes, it fit even though I was sure that it had nothing to do with the sermon on Sunday.

As we drove to Omaha Sunday afternoon, I began wondering how trees became hollow in the first place. Of course, I had to whip out my phone later that evening to find out. Oh yes, I Googled it. What did I discover? The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains the damage for a tree hollow or tree hole is due to a breakage of an attached limb that exposes the sapwood or the damage is a result of microbial or animal damage.  In any case, the tree develops a cavity that continues to deteriorate over time and the tree becomes hollow. At that point, I thought I could move on and let hollow trees rest.  Well, of course not. I thought about the subject on Monday, off and on, and I’ve thought about hollowed out trees for a couple of days now. Oh, when is ever going to stop? HELP!

And then, as I thought about the spiritual application to hollow trees, it came to me.  MT 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

I’ve noticed a number of trees over the years that looked fine on the outside but under closer examination, revealed a weak and hollow core.  It’s the kind of tree that will blow over in a storm or if discovered, would get cut down by a homeowner to prevent damage or injury.  Similarly, what Jesus described as a whitewashed tomb is a person that appears to be righteous on the outside but on the inside their life is full of hypocrisy and their hearts are wicked.  After all, it is only possible to be consistent through and through, inside and outside, when we are filled with the Spirit of God.  GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Now think about it. Don’t we often try to portray a positive image, the way we want people to think of us, whether it is true or not? You know, we often spend more time on the haircut and style, the application of beauty products, the clothes, cleaning the car, furnishing the apartment or home and keeping it clean than we do on our relationship with God. Our image is so significant to us that we go as far as doing things that please people, even when we don’t want to and even when we have a misleading motive, just so others think we are a good person. In other words, we want people to think we are a beautiful tree that is solid inside and out.  C’mon now, do you really think your tree trunk is free of tree holes?  Be careful because you could be a strong wind away from causing damage or injury.

But, let’s be reasonable, its normal to have tree holes.  Everyone has them, right?  After all, the average squirrel needs shelter. However, these tree holes are a few months, maybe years, away from growing so large that the tree becomes hollow. On the spiritual side of things, the tree hole is like the devil’s foot hold or strong hold in our lives.  When we don’t rid ourselves of the proverbial squirrel or sinful fungus or bacteria, we eventually become a hollow tree.  In Jesus words, we become a whitewashed tomb. That’s right. Even though we might appear to be beautiful on the outside, we are fill of hypocrisy and wickedness.

What are some examples of being a hollow tree?

  1. Lack desire for worship.
  2. Addictions.
  3. Hidden, unconfessed sin.
  4. Unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment.
  5. Hatred toward others.
  6. Gossip/slander.
  7. Resist and disrespect authority.

So then, how to we prevent ourselves from becoming hollow tress?

  1. Start with evaluating your relationship with Jesus. Is He truly your Savior and Lord? (Romans 3:23, 6:23; 5:8; 10:9,13, Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 4:12)
  2. Repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19, 8;22)
  3. Worship the one true God. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
  4. Glorify God. (Isaiah 43:5-6)
  5. Live in obedience to Jesus because you love Him. Are you obeying the commands of Jesus? (John 14:15)
  6. Grow in your faith. Are you reading, studying and memorizing scripture? (Romans 12:2; Psalm 119:11) Are you connected in a community of faith with close relationships and are you lovingly held accountable in that community? (Acts 2:42-47)
  7. Serve others. Are you using your gifts, talents and resources to build others up in their faith?  (1 Thes 5:11; Romans 14:19)

What if I’ve have already become a hollow tree?

  1. God loves you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  2. God forgives. (1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19)
  3. God restores. (Psalm 71:20-21)
  4. God strengthens. (Philippians 4:13)
  5. God works all things together for good. (Romans 8:28)

WOW!  All of that from waking up early on Sunday morning with hollow trees on my mind. Nevertheless, Jesus, going back over two thousand years, warns against being hypocrites and full of wickedness.  And, even in nature, we can see the impact of becoming hollow trees or, for that matter, whitewashed tombs full of dead man’s bones. After all, God cares more about the inside than the outside. Why? Because our motives, actions and attitude must be the fruit of what God is doing on the inside. Besides, he wants us to be beautiful on the inside, full of righteousness.

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene