Wherever the Tree Falls

Fallen tree

If the clouds are full, they pour out rain upon the earth; and whether a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, wherever the tree falls, there it lies” (Ecclesiastes 11:3).

Man often takes pride in his perceived ability to control events in his life and achieve his goals. While it is certainly good to work to improve ourselves and change our lot in life for the better, we must also understand that there are many things in life that are simply out of our control.

As the wise man pointed out, we cannot cause the rain, nor can we prevent the rain from coming. When the “clouds are full” or when conditions are such that the clouds will produce rain, it will rain, no matter what we do or what we think about it. When a tree falls, the direction in which it falls does not matter. If it falls one way, later conditions will not cause it to relocate to another place as if it had fallen there. So these things which are out of our control must simply be dealt with. It is pointless to worry about them and wish we could change the current conditions. We simply need to deal with these conditions as they exist.

How do we deal with circumstances that are out of our control? The wise man continued:

He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

Solomon’s point was that we cannot wait for some ideal set of circumstances to come along or eliminate every risk or hardship that may come. Seed needs to be sown so it can later be harvested. If this is not done, there will be no food with which one can feed himself and his family. Even if the wind is not blowing as we would wish and even though there may be a chance of rain, work must be done. We must be busy working while we can instead of wasting our time worrying about the future and being paralyzed by the uncertainty of life.

Of course, in addition to carrying out our earthly responsibilities, we must also carry out our spiritual responsibilities. We must not allow uncontrollable circumstances to hinder us from fulfilling our primary purpose.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made the same point about not allowing worry to distract us from our primary purpose:

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27).

Just as worrying cannot change the direction in which a tree fell, it cannot add any time to our brief lives that are “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Instead of worrying, we must focus on spiritual things.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

We cannot change where a tree fell, but we can affect the eternal fate of our souls. The Hebrew writer, after warning about falling as the Israelites did, said, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). Do not allow the uncontrollable and inconsequential things of life hinder you from pleasing God and gaining the reward of heaven.

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  1. Andy makes some excellent points regarding conditions AFTER the tree has fallen (the circumstance described by Solomon). Andy’s good article reminds me of another lesson that can be learned with regard to the falling of the tree. As a former logger, I gained considerable experience in falling trees. By using various sawing techniques and taking advantage of certain physical laws, one can generally control the direction of the tree’s fall. Failure to control the fall of the tree could result in its falling on someone’s house, or someone getting injured or killed.
    As the tree cutter uses his knowledge and effort to control the fall of the tree, so can one control many things in life. Just one chapter earlier, Solomon also said, “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks” (Eccl. 10:18). This verse reminds me of the stained area on the ceiling in the corner of my living room. The stain is from a leak around my chimney. Last Fall, I intended to reseal the flashing around my chimney, but kept delaying the job. Winter came and the stained area on the ceiling in my living room is now larger. If long neglected, such a leak will rot rafters, joists, wall plates, studs and floors, and will be a much more difficult and expensive repair. (NOTE to self: FIX THE LEAK ASAP!)
    Conditions in society are exactly the same way. Solomon also said, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). When principles of righteousness are implemented by the members of a society, it is prosperous and secure. When its members are animated by sin, it fails and falls. Once fallen, it is like the tree of Ecclesiastes 11. Biblical principles of conduct must be taught and practiced if society is to succeed. Bible believers (and others who may indirectly accept the basic principles and morals of the biblical worldview) must work to influence the direction of their society. Jesus used the analogies of “salt” and “light” to represent this influence (Matthew 5:13-16). We can and must be proactive in this regard.

  2. Phyllis Damato says

    Just found this site, I think I may have had it in email but just did not read it! The article I just read hit me, it was just what I needed. Telling myself that I am 80 yrs old and there is nothing I can do about the sorry condition of our country. I listen to the news and am overwhelmed, this is the wrong thing to do. I love the Lord and have been a baptized believer since 1947, married a minister and lived the life I loved.
    Now a widow and love each day studying the scripture, somehow I let the world creep in with all its problems. I just “liked” you on FB and will read your articles each day.
    I am a member of the Church of Christ, we have a group of believers come each Sunday for services here. I live in the town where Abilene Christian University is and love it! I will close thanking you for your site.

  3. Phyllis, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right, the news about the current state of our country can be depressing. I’m glad you found this article to be helpful.


  1. […] the tree falls…” Andy Sochor draws some practical applications out of Ecclesiastes […]