Four Lessons From Palm Trees
Palm trees can teach us many spiritual lessons. This post examines four attributes of palm trees that instruct us about true Christianity.
In a past blog post we examined Psalm 92:12-14 and showed how these verses use the palm tree as a symbol of righteousness. We looked at three attributes of palm trees—uprightness, fruitfulness and stability—and explained what they teach us about being a Christian.
But are there other attributes of palm trees that can teach us lessons about being righteous Christians? Here are four more lessons.
1. Palm trees teach humility.
Palm trees are not the grandest or most impressive trees.
One of my favorite parks is Cornwall Park in Auckland, New Zealand. The park contains centuries-old trees. Some of the large oak trees are grand and incredibly impressive, with large root systems bulging out of the ground, large branches extending in all directions and a blanket of foliage covering the whole tree. Some of the other trees there are truly beautiful, including the cherry trees that blossom in springtime.
But palm trees’ humble appearance is closely related to the attribute of stability covered in the earlier blog post. The lack of branches on palm trees reduces the wind load on the trunk. When strong winds blow on trees with many branches, the force on the branches can be transferred to their trunks. If the force is too strong, the trunk will snap or the tree will be uprooted. But because palm trees have fewer branches and are flexible, they can often withstand some of the heaviest winds nature can throw at them.
This is why after a hurricane many of the large and grand trees are damaged or fallen—yet most palm trees continue to stand.
Likewise, we Christians must develop humility and not trust in ourselves. It is this humility, trusting in God, that helps Christians stand strong and tall in turbulent times.
Consider how King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was depicted as a strong tree of great height, lovely with branches, abundant fruit and covered in foliage (Daniel 4:10-12, 20-22). His pride was depicted through the grandness of a tree. But God humbled him by stripping off all his branches, leaves and fruit and leaving his “tree” bare until he realized that all “those who walk in pride He [God] is able to put down” (verse 37).
Palm trees are humble compared to other trees. So, too, all those who want to follow God must be humble and not trust in their own strength (Isaiah 57:15).
To learn more about the importance of this virtue, read “Humility: Why It Matters.”
2. Palm trees teach genuineness and sincerity.
The more you study palm trees, the more you discover how truly unique they are.
Did you know palm trees are not made of hard wood? Instead, they consist of spongy, fibrous tissue that helps them be flexible.
Christians are to be characterized by genuineness and sincerity. Another interesting thing about palm trees is that what’s on the outside is the same material as what’s on the inside. Most trees have an outer layer of bark. But not palm trees. What you see is what you get.
Palm trees are genuine and sincere. Their outside is the same as their inside. Likewise, Christians are to be characterized by genuineness and sincerity.
The opposite of genuineness and sincerity is hypocrisy. Jesus often corrected the Pharisees for their sin of hypocrisy (Luke 12:1-3). Instead of desiring to please God, they did righteous works only for show, to impress others. Jesus was basically calling them actors or stage players when He called them hypocrites. Instead of being genuine, they put on a show for others.
But their hearts were far from God (Matthew 15:7-8).
In contrast, Joshua instructed the Israelites to serve God “in sincerity and in truth” (Joshua 24:14). Like palm trees, Christians should be genuine and sincere. Instead of putting on a show of righteousness, they should seek to be righteous through and through.
3. Palm trees remind us of rest in God’s Kingdom.
What image do palm trees evoke in your mind? Perhaps one of two images come to mind—an oasis in a dry desert or a tropical island paradise.
Palm trees often inspire images of rest and reprieve from the harsh realities of this world.
In this way, palm trees can serve as a symbol of the Kingdom of God.
After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they came to a place where they rested and were refreshed under palm trees (Exodus 15:27). It was a reprieve from the harsh desert. After crossing the Red Sea, they would see Egypt no more (Exodus 14:13). For Christians, this depicts leaving the world behind and moving toward God’s Kingdom.
Christians are to continue seeking the rest of the Kingdom of God that is pictured every week by the seventh-day Sabbath (Hebrews 4).
4. Palm trees represent the coming King.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, the people placed palm branches on the road before Him (John 12:12-13; Matthew 21:7-8). The palm branches depicted joy, celebration and welcome to the King. Sadly, shortly after giving Him a royal welcome, the same people supported His arrest and brutal murder.
They didn’t internalize the palm branch welcome.
We as Christians today need to be ready to surrender the rest of our lives to Jesus Christ. We must surrender to Him as our Lord and soon-coming King and focus on the time when He takes the reins of this earth and rules as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Matthew 6:33; Revelation 19:16).
Let’s learn the lessons of the palm tree!