As shown below, April is the perfect month to advance that tree-planting effort.
God made trees as a good part of His creation.2 Even after the Fall, trees are a demonstration of God's goodness.2 So the idea of appreciating the value of trees is a good idea, especially if our appreciation of trees reminds us of how wonderful God is. One way to do that is to eat fruits or nuts that grow on trees, or other tree products such as cinnamon or maple syrup. Another way to appreciate God for making trees is to plant one, two, three, or many more!
In fact, we even have a holiday in America that focuses on planting trees: Arbor Day. This American holiday was invented in 1872 by Julius Sterling Morton of Nebraska City. This civic-minded pioneer lamented that Nebraska (“the Cornhusker State”) was largely devoid of trees, a stark contrast to his earlier life in heavily wooded places like New York and Michigan.3 Morton’s achievements included serving as acting governor of Nebraska and as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
At a meeting of Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture in January 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day” (meaning Tree Day). The date selected was April 10, 1872.
When that day came, prizes were given to groups and individuals who planted the most amount of trees. About a million trees were planted in Nebraska that day, and probably more!
Each year thereafter the tradition grew. Soon, school children were planting trees as a classroom project, and trees so planted were nurtured by students who planted them.
Morton advocated tree-planting and tree care in his published writings. He encouraged civic groups to sponsor tree-planting as a group activity to benefit present and future generations of Nebraskans.
Of course, Morton’s goal for forested lands was not limited to Nebraska. In time, publicity led to Arbor Day being officially celebrated in the other states of America.
The overwhelming success of Morton’s tree-planting holiday soon became formalized as an official Nebraskan holiday, although the exact date of its observance has sometimes changed. For a while it was observed on Morton’s birthday, April 22, until it was finally settled as the last Friday in April.
Other states, copying Nebraska’s example, celebrate the last Friday of April as Arbor Day.4 Moreover, several other nations—such as Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, and others—now have an equivalent holiday.
Israel has linked tree-related celebrations to the Bible. During late January or early February, the Jews celebrate “Tu Bishvat,” also called “Rosh HaShanah La’llanoth,” which means “new year of trees.” The Holy Land’s almond tree usually blossoms around that time. This observance is linked to the Mosaic laws governing tree-care (and, indirectly, to the tithing laws of Deuteronomy 14:22-29), including Leviticus 19:23-24:
When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord.
Notice that this Levitical law required the Hebrews to plant trees!
Each person who plants a few trees is adding to the overall benefit that trees provide. Leading this useful practice, the National Arbor Day Foundation has more than 250 million trees since its formal establishment in 1972.5
However, when it comes to celebrating and appreciating trees, the bottom line is that God made the trees and their fruit.6 The food we enjoy from trees should prompt us to worship the God Who created trees, because “all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord.”7
The first Arbor Day was quite a success, planting one million trees, but today the goal is one trillion! Maybe your family can plant a tree (or more) this month to contribute toward that goal.
1. Samuels, B. Trump Announces the U.S. Will Join One Trillion Tree Initiative. The Hill. Posted on thehill.com January 21, 2020, accessed April 15, 2020.
2. Genesis 1:11-12 says: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good." See also Acts 14:17, noting how fruit is proof of God’s kind providence.
3. Rissman, R. 2010. Arbor Day—Holidays and Festivals. Chicago, IL: Heineman Library, 6-14.
4. Ansary, M. T. 2006. Arbor Day—Holiday Histories. Chicago, IL: Heineman Library, 28-29.
5. Regarding Arbor Day in America, see https://www.arborday.org/
6. Acts 14:17; Genesis 1:11-12, 1:29; Leviticus 26:4, 27:30.
7. Leviticus 19:24.
*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.