Author: Alex Araujo
Category: Workplace Ministry
THE AMAZING TREE – AN EVANGELICAL PARABLE
"On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Revelation 22:2 NIV
A peasant was walking along a country road when, atop a hill, he caught a glimpse a beautiful tree, speckled with ripe fruit.
The peasant stopped then walked through the dew-soaked grass toward the tree. The hill was steeper than he thought, and soon he was breathing hard, stopping occasionally to rest and catch breath.
He did not recognize the kind of tree, but intrigued by its beauty and the rich fruit just waiting to be harvested, he decided to try one out. The effort to get up there was well worth it for the fruit was delicious, better than anything he had ever tasted.
Walking back to the road, he wondered why no one down in the valley had noticed it before. “I must tell my friends about it. This experience must be shared, it is too good to be kept to myself”, he said. He went down and told about it to every one.
Soon villagers began to make day trips to the tree, and discovered that the fruit had healing qualities: the sick felt better and some were totally healed of their ailments; old people regained some of their lost energy, and the nutritious value of the fruit was unequalled by any other fruit that nature produced.
As the word got out to the wider world, strangers would occasionally appear asking for directions how to get to the amazing tree, for that is how the villagers described the tree to each other. Nevertheless, it took effort, time and discipline to get up to it.
One day, a local farmer saw that it was hard for some people to get to the tree. Little old ladies struggled uphill, handicapped people waited by the road for someone to bring them a sample. Mothers of young children could seldom leave the house for very long. In his generosity, he decided he would try to help.
He drove his oxcart up the road, then through the tall grass, and filled some boxes with fruit. He at first was hesitant, since the tree was not his and he didn’t want to offend the sense of sacredness around such an amazing work of nature. With great reverence he brought the boxes down the hill and set them out by the road side for those who couldn’t easily make the trip up the hill.
Some time later a stranger appeared with a novel idea: why not set an agency that would harvest the three and bring the fruit down to where the people could more easily have access to it? There was a discussion among the locals: some thought it was the right thing to do, because it would spread the blessings of the amazing tree to a wider population. Others had a sense in the pit of their stomach that something good about the tree was going to be spoiled. Since no one had been able to claim ownership of the tree, no one could prevent the newcomers from pursuing their plan.
Soon, next to the generous farmer’s oxcart with fruit free for the taking, more permanent booths were being set up with fruit properly displayed, available for a small charge—not much, really, just enough to cover the costs of bringing them down from the hilltop and a small extra fee to provide some income to the providers.
Next came others who thought, “Why not take the fruit to the town market, so that people will not need to come all the way here?”, and another agency was set up to transport fruit from the amazing tree to the market downtown. New costs were added, of course, for transport and packaging, and for setting up sale booths in town. Again, another small fee was added to cover these costs and to sustain the business.
Time passed and the scene evolved. Agencies multiplied by the side of the road, and booths surrounded the hill. A cheerful competition emerged between providers. Since the fruit was of the same quality for everyone, the competition focused around how to package the fruit to attract attention of passers-by.
The Amazing Tree brand was copyrighted. Young people were hired to distribute brochures to those who came, each more colorful than the next, praising the qualities of their service. Some claimed to offer the ripest fruit, others offered the fruit pealed and cut into slices ready to eat, while others promoted preserves to take home and use later. Flavor enhancements were added to Amazing Tree products so they could be preserved and marketed during the winter months also.
One company even created an artificial replication of the Amazing Tree flavor, to add to other fruit products. Eventually, millions of people were acquainted with and used Amazing Tree products. The humble effort by the old farmer to make the fruit freely available to more people evolved into a business success worldwide.
Local authorities felt the need to regulate the chaos around the tree, and began charging a tax to provide public services. Permits were required from any agency wanting to establish its operations there. Other businesses were established to provide related services to the growing population of the area.
It was now nearly impossible for any one to simply come and hike up to the amazing tree to savor fresh fruit and bask in the luxury of its shade. To get to it one had to walk through a veritable mall of hawkers each promoting his wares, with larger-than-life pictures of the fruit promising an amazing eating experience. Others offered caramel-coated versions of the fruit, while yet others offered pies and tortes a la mode. Vitamins, concentrates, and extract in pill-form were all available for a price.
It was now very difficult to approach the amazing tree, and even the base of the hill for that matter. Businesses, theaters, sports arenas and amusement parks covered every inch of ground around the hill and up its slopes. Newcomers often could do no more than try to see the amazing tree from a distance while nibbling on some processed products derived from its fruit. As a consolation prize, they could buy documentary videos of the early days, showing people hiking up and enjoying the shade and fresh fruit at the top of the hill.
A vibrant commercial community evolved, with employment for an increasing number of people. The local town’s tax base grew apace, and it was possible to offer public services never before dreamed of. Farmers abandoned farming in exchange for commercial enterprises to take advantage of progress. It was simply good stewardship of their trust as family men and residents of the town, so they argued.
Yet, with all this progress, a puzzling thing began to happen: disease was on the increase again, and tensions arose in the community. The greater the progress of the region, the smaller the impact of the amazing tree and its fruit on the well-being of the community.
Scientists and pollsters were brought in to try to understand the phenomenon. Consultants wrote books and gave seminars on how to increase effectiveness, all in the hope of restoring the original benefits of the amazing tree. All this was to no avail. Stress, marital conflicts, social disturbances, rudeness, road-rage, crime and a number of other social ills were on the increase.
The old farmer, whose oxcart had long been replaced by sleek shops and vendors, would still come each day to his old spot, now paved as a parking lot, and ponder. He had not foreseen what he started long ago when he tried to be helpful to those who had difficulty walking up to the amazing tree. As he pondered, he began to feel a certain burden of responsibility. The general unhappiness more than cancelled the benefits of all this development, he thought. Few people ever get to taste the original fruit any more, and the younger generation would not recognize it if it tried. They have been raised on the processed substitutes, the flashy packaging, and all the promotional flavor enhancements.
As the old farmer pondered these things, his burden grew so great that he could no longer sleep. One night, in desperation, he loaded up his pickup truck (oxcarts were no longer allowed within city limits) with barbecue lighter fluid and other combustibles and drove up to his old spot. Taking advantage of the fact that the businesses were all closed for the night, he proceeded to systematically set fire to everything.
Next morning, as people began to arrive for the business of the day, there it was once again, in all its shining splendor in the light of the rising sun: the amazing tree once more rules the hilltop and the country side, surrounded on every side by the burned out remains. Amidst the smoke and ashes, one could see a few early risers, at first shocked by the disaster, then one by one starting to walk up the hill again to enjoy the fresh fruit of the amazing tree and to bask in its shade.
Genesis 2:9 NIV • Read this chapter And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Ezekiel 31:8 NIV • Read this chapter The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the pine trees equal its boughs, nor could the plane trees compare with its branches— no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty.
Revelation 2:7 NIV • Read this chapter He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.