We live in northwest Montana in the midst of the Kootenai National Forest with trees all around us. When we were in junior and senior high school, a large portion of the folks in our community were employed in the wood industry, with some 1500 working at a large local saw mill. The U.S. Forest Service was another large employer, and a major task was working out timber sale contracts and building logging roads. Now we have no sawmill and the U.S.F.S. spends much of its time working on Environmental Impact Statements and dealing with numerous environmental groups (“Tree Huggers”) that wish to shut down all logging and get rid of the roads in the forest, making it all a wilderness area. Our sports teams here are still the “Loggers,” but now only a relatively small percentage of our work force is involved in the logging industry. A number of folks in the community wear T-shirts that have a picture of a stump on the front, and on the back it says, “Don’t Worry, I Hugged It First!”
“Tree Hugger” is a relatively modern term with political implications. Some like it and some don’t. Did you know that the original “tree hugger” was one of the writers of the Bible as well as the third king of Israel? Solomon, in his Book of Proverbs, likened wisdom to a tree of life and guaranteed our success in life if we would “take hold of (hug) her.” “She (wisdom) is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast” (Pr. 3:18 NASB).
When Solomon used the term “tree of life,” he was making reference to the tree of life that stood in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9). That tree was part of God’s plan for mankind and for the world. It would have been great wisdom if Adam had followed His plan, rather than to eat from the forbidden tree, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17), and end up being removed from the Garden (2:24) lest he and Eve eat from the “tree of life” and live forever in a state of death and alienation. Certainly the term “tree hugger” would have different connotations today!
Solomon made it clear that wisdom is still available to us. God still has a plan to bless His people. If we will focus on Him and “hold on to wisdom,” He guarantees spiritual success. According to Proverbs 3, wisdom not only delivers one from evil but promises certain rewards: longevity and peace (vv. 1,2), favor with God and man (vv. 3,4), guidance (vv. 5,6), health and refreshment (vv. 7,8), prosperity (vv. 9,10), and a proper response to discipline (vv. 11,12). It was by wisdom that God created the earth (vv. 19-26).
Solomon had not yet seen the fulfillment of God’s plan in Jesus Christ, but we have, and we embrace wisdom when we embrace Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). When we put our trust in Christ and His atoning work at Calvary, we are placed (positionally) in Christ and through the Holy Spirit Who comes to dwell in us, Christ lives in us as well. “By His (God’s) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30). Focusing on Christ and His Word is “holding on” to wisdom, something Solomon said is “more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her” (Pr. 3:15).
The things we may try to hold on to here on earth are fleeting, temporal. But the relationship we are developing with Christ and godly wisdom will be ours eternally. No wonder Jesus exhorted us to “not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Mt. 6:19,20,33).
If you are going to be a “tree hugger,” make it the “tree of life”! (Remember, this is “Logger country!”)