April 26 is Arbor Day, and May 16 is “Love a Tree Day.” Trees are symbols of life, seen most literally in depictions of our family trees—an image of growth, connection, and rootedness. But more than symbols, trees enable us to live better lives: we eat their fruits, find shelter under their branches, use their trunks for beams to build our homes, furnish our rooms, and fuel our fires. Trees house birds and many other creatures, hosting entire ecosystems. From their pulp, we have books, paper towels, toiletry, and napkins.
Depending on how the word love is defined, this day could easily be understood as “Care for a Tree Day” or even “Appreciate a Tree Day.” The idea of loving a tree is difficult to define and even more challenging to act upon, but it is easy to explain why we’re prompted to love them: we could hardly live without them.
The Bible is full of references to trees and tree parts.
The Bible is full of references to trees and tree parts. Noah used gopher wood to build the ark (Genesis 6:14), faithful men gathered wood for burnt sacrifices, Jesus called himself the vine and believers his branches (John 15:5). Jacob may have even used tree branches for medicinal use on his flocks (Genesis 30:37-41).1
Psalm 1 describes a spiritually healthy person in terms of a tree, and Revelation 22 refers to the new earth, where the Tree of Life and its healing leaves will once again be made available to man:
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:3).
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2).
The most notable reference to trees is the parallel that Adam ate from a tree, bringing sin and death to God’s creation and that Jesus hung upon a tree, taking on the sins of the world to conquer sin and death and make the way of salvation:
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day (Acts 10:39–40).
Notice the symbolic nature of trees regarding life: as Noah’s gopher wood ark saved the lives of his family, so did Jesus become our ark of salvation when he hung on the tree.
Many love trees for the wrong reasons, making a god of nature.
Surely God himself “loves” trees, for his creation displays a vast array of thousands of species—tall, short, winding, flexible, strong—each a testament to the Creator. So, is it good to celebrate “Love a Tree Day”? The answer stems from your worldview. Many love trees for the wrong reasons, making a god of nature. While a walk through a forest is calming and therapeutic, it is not because we become “one with nature,” but because we find ourselves aware and in awe of our Creator. When a Christian “loves” trees, that love should be for the Creator of the trees and all the generous gifts he gives to us through them—and not just because of their beauty.
Facts about Trees
- Trees never die of old age. Other factors kill trees—fires, humans, flooding, drought, and so forth—but never age.
- The oldest known living tree in the world is a bristlecone pine.
- Rainforests create about a third of the oxygen on earth.2
- Trees can communicate to warn each other of harmful insects.3
- There are over 60,065 tree species in the world according to Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).
- Some trees have sexes (male and female) and require both sexes present to bear fruit.
- The Sequoia genus (redwoods) is the tallest known tree.