Planting Shade Trees

An author Dennis Swanberg commented that “the best shade trees you’ll ever plant are the ones you’ll never sit under.”

He means that some trees, like our local live oaks, take such a long time to grow and mature, that the person who plants them does so knowing that he will never fully benefit from them.

Why bother, then? He plants them to bless future generations (Proverbs 13:22)!

I read a story of an older gentleman named Clarence Hoesing, of Hartingon, Nebraska, who planted 20 acres on his farm with 7,500 walnut trees, which he bought from the forestry department for 30 cents each. Walnuts are notoriously fussy—they must be monitored for disease, beavers, and frost damage, they are sensitive to pesticides and weed-killers, and they must be pruned yearly. And they take a long time to bear. Hoesing knows that it is unlikely he will ever taste a single nut from his trees. Still, he has put the time and effort into them, because “he hopes that his grandchildren and great grandchildren will remember him when they harvest” ( I have heard the same thing said of lumber lots, and of medjool date palms in the Middle East that do not bear fruit for sixty or even seventy years.

Is there a spiritual application? Absolutely! Some important things in life require an investment, which the one doing the investing will scarcely enjoy. But he does it for the future. Generous Christians save money for decades to build a worship hall which they will only get to use for a few years, but which will help the growth of the congregation for decades to come. Older Bible class teachers pour time into training young people (often, not even their own kids) in the truth of God’s word, developing within them a sense of duty and faith (Psalm 78:5-8). Mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers pass on a legacy of knowledge and values (Titus 2:3- 5).

Evangelists sow the seed to some they will never meet, because “the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39).
Let us be thankful for the thoughtful, visionary people who planted the shade trees we enjoy today. Let us delight in the opportunities to pass on the same spiritual benefits to future generations.