So, with my “God of” challenge where I’m reading through the whole bible start-to-finish, I’m currently reading Deuteronomy. And a verse in chapter 20 has me thinking, about being careful what you sacrifice — or not cutting down fruit trees.
I’m a bit behind on my posts about each book, only up to Exodus. I’m not being lazy, I’m just cycling each month between my three “bags”, so the topic only comes up once every three months.
But let’s get back to the point.
God’s Warning To The Israelites
Israel is on the cusp of entering its promised land. They see it on the horizon, waiting, shining. Throughout their long journey, God has given them many rules and requirements to live by. Now as their new life is about to dawn, He reminds them of these and adds a few things:
“When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food.” — Deuteronomy 20:19
At first, I thought, what? Why would you even bother telling the Israelites that. I mean, isn’t that pretty obvious? And maybe it is. But then I started thinking of a broader application of this “rule”.
God’s Warning To Us
Sometimes we get so caught up in some battle or goal, we sacrifice what’s important in the meanwhile. We even carelessly damage things we need to survive!
Anyone can see what sound this advice is, and yet don’t we make this very mistake all the time? Fighting for that promotion, while cutting down on your spiritual time. Or even obsessing about the true meaning of some obscure passage, while loosing sight of the tangible suffering and injustice around you.
The Fruit of the Spirit
I find it an interesting coincidence (or divine inspiration, or me reading too much into it) that here God talks about the importance of fruit, and later Paul also writes about important fruit. The fruit of the spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. — Galatians 5:22 – 23
These fruits are what we now should be cautious cutting down. Even when trying to evangelise to someone, you should not cut down gentleness or try use it as a weapon.
When you battle for something, scarifies often need to be made. That’s how it works. And God agrees, but warns to take care not to sacrifice some things:
“Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subsided.” — Deuteronomy 20:20
While it’s important to be careful not to sacrifice the wrong thing, sacrifices on a whole should not be avoided. On the flip side, we all need to recognise those times sacrifices are necessary, and then sacrifice the right thing.
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I think this is important for me, and all of us to keep in mind. Remember the big picture of life when choosing to sacrifice something for a cause. While sacrificing things is a part of life, some things should never be scarified.