H. Gordon Clinard's Sermon:
Planting Trees You Will Never Sit Under!
1 Chronicles 22:1- 16
There are many ways to measure the greatness of men.
Men can be called great because of their talents, their possessions, their buildings, their service.
But the philosopher A. N. Whitehead had a standard of greatness which reflection will confirm
as most worthy of all: "The great man is he who plants shade trees he will never sit under."
Immediately you know what he means.
Such a man is unselfish, visionary, dedicated.
Whether we recognize it or not, we are all planting these trees.
What we do today is going to affect those who walk after us.
They will inherit both our folly and our wisdom.
Next Sunday will be Father's Day.
Although apart from the tie salesman the day may not have great significance,
it will at least furnish a good opportunity for both fathers and mothers to remember that for better
or for worse we are planting trees we shall not sit under but under which our children will sit,
to praise us or to blame.
A late issue of Home Life tells of the little girl whose mother could not decide
whether she should attend her father's funeral or not.
They had been quite close, and all their friends knew that it would just be too much for her.
But it was the little girl who surprised and gave stability to the whole family.
When they went to the funeral home, it was she who talked of the beautiful flowers
and it was she who said, "A lot of people loved my Daddy, didn't they?"
It was she who was the most sensible when they saw the body for the first time.
"That isn't my father," she said. "That's just the place where he lived awhile."
She was the most calm at the funeral.
She lifted the faith of all the others and reminded them again and again with quiet
confidence that her daddy was happy in heaven.
It did not happen by accident.
Because he and his daughter were so close, he had talked to her a lot about God
and about death and about what happens to those who love the Lord.
He had planted a tree he would never sit under.
How tragic that not all our plantings are that good.
It is inescapable that our sins and our negligence afflict those who come after us.
It would be honest of us to admit that the influence of David, the hero of this sermon,
was not always for good.
The trees of idleness, pride, passion, and forgetfulness of God cast their shade over his children
long after he had passed beyond them.
Whoever called parents to more sober thought about our responsibility to live so
as to influence others for good than he who wrote about the "bridge builder"?
Indifference and selfish living which smack of a careless existentialism find
no greater challenge than in the poet's simple lines:
"The builder lifted his old gray head,
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way;
This chasm that has been naught to me,
To that fair haired youth may a pit-fall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim,
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.' "
Whether we know it or not, we are all planting trees we shall never sit under.
But the truly great man is he who deliberately sets out to make something possible which
he will never enjoy, to give of himself and the best he has so that others who walk after him
may achieve noble goals.
In an age which generally lives for the moment and which is enamored with building
its own monuments, like the men of Babel's tower, such greatness is a worthy goal.
We need a revival of men in churches and in homes and in the nation who will plant
vineyards for others.
To do so deliberately requires certain qualities of life which we must seek.
To Plant Trees You Will Never Sit Under Requires a Great Dream
David had a dream of building a great house for God.
It was to be a magnificent house.
The reason for his high resolve was clear.
For one thing, the people of God under his most successful reign had prospered.
They lived in their cedar houses and enjoyed a high standard of living.
To David it was inconsistent that God should have no house when His people were so
For too long the Ark of the Covenant had known no settled resting place.
It was time, the king thought, to do something magnificent for God.
Just by way of passing, let me observe that God must still look with disfavor upon a people
who spend their best on their own comfort while bringing their second best to God.
David's other motivation was more personal.
It was God's goodness to him that prompted a worthy dream of honoring the Lord;
but particularly fresh in his mind was his pride, because David wished to
"number" the people.
He wanted a census from Dan to Beersheba so that he could brag on his own greatness.
The numbers game is pretty old, you see.
It was not pleasing to God, and the nation suffered under God's judgment for a ruler's arrogance.
But as pestilence fell on the people, David built an altar to God and in repentance called
on Him to stay His hand.
God heard the prayer.
It was on that very spot that David wanted the temple of which he had dreamed to stand.
Here the highest purpose of his life was to be fulfilled.
A great man wanted to do a great thing for a great God.
The problem with many of us is that we have stopped dreaming of great things.
We are so cowed by the rush and apparent frenzy of our lives that the dream has died.
We are trapped by the possible, the feasible, and the practical.
You may laugh at Utopia if you wish, but I shall stand with him who said,
"It is the Utopias that make this world tolerable to us.
The cities and mansions that people dream of are the very ones in which they or those whom
they love will finally live."
What a shame that so many of us have lost the capacity for fantasy and dreaming,
and never can escape the present!
This limits human planning and is the ideology of the inert society.
It is the opposite of biblical faith.
Biblical religion is no sedative that lulls men into accepting the status quo.
It is the faith which dreams of the future.
In the Old Testament they dreamed of a Messianic Age.
In the New they looked forward to the coming of the Lord, and without fear
they marched out to conquer.
David dreamed of building a house.
You too must dream in order to plant any trees you know you will never sit under.
We desperately need to get off the treadmill of the present and dream about some tomorrows.
The man who will make a contribution in our time, either to God or to man, is he who
never looks back with reminiscence, nor around with cynicism or surrender,
but ahead with expectancy.
It was George Bernard Shaw who said, "Some men see things as they are and say, why?
I dream things that never were and say, why not?"
And the dream ought to be of a great thing.
Those who think our dreams of technology are enough to assure a great future need
to recall Henry Thoreau who watched men put up something they called telegraph wires.
When he asked what they were for, he was told they would make it possible for people
in Maine to talk with people in Texas.
Thoreau's famous observation was: "But what if the people in Maine have nothing to say
to the people in Texas, and the people in Texas have nothing to answer to the people in Maine?"
We can still have some tremendous means for some awfully small ends.
Many of our big plans are like the city slicker lawyer in the hands of the wily old farmer.
The lawyer wanted to buy a saddle horse.
The farmer agreed to sell one to him if he could catch him.
The lawyer brought his sons and together they chased the horse for three hours.
Finally, they caught him.
The sincerity and the sweat brought out a measure of honesty in the old farmer.
He said, "I'll still take your money for this horse, but before I do I want to tell
you two things about him. First, he's awful hard to ketch.
The second thing is, he aint worth a durn when you ketch him."
The dream ought to be of something only God can do.
The cause has to be great for a man to plant trees he will never sit under.
To Plant Trees You Will Never Sit Under Requires Sensible Humility
There are limits to what any one of us can do.
God said to David, "You are not the one to build a Temple unto the name of the Lord,
for you have made great wars and shed blood abundantly.
Your son, who will be a man of peace, will build this house."
David's wars, no matter how honorable and just, made him unfit for this kind of work.
God's house is not built by hands reddened by blood.
This is a thought so far in advance of David's time that it could have only come to him by revelation.
The work of the God of peace does not move forward through a man with a sword
in one hand and a trowel in the other.
Who built the true and only Temple?
The Prince of Peace.
And God's work never goes forward where there is division and strife.
Some things disqualify us for building for God.
But it is not always a matter of disqualification by our failure to have the character
it takes to build, for we are all limited in talents and opportunity.
The man who is interested only in what he is capable of doing is limited indeed in the good
he will achieve.
How much better to know that we are all wrapped up in the common lot of humanity.
If anything great is to be done, we must do it together.
I depend on you and you depend on me and together we build for God.
A lot of us would be healthier and more Christian if we could get over our sense
of being indispensable, if we could learn to share.
The man who responded to his friend's question, "How are you?" with the answer,
"I am fine; I have resigned as President of the Universe and the resignation
has been accepted," understood this.
Paul had the right idea.
He was never jealous that the churches he built be limited to what he could do,
not even when Christians were divided over him and other preachers.
Rather, he said, "I planted. Apollos watered. But God was causing the increase."
The change in verb tense shows what he meant.
I planted, Apollos watered.
Both did their work once and for all.
But God keeps giving the increase.
It is amazing what one man can do who does not care who gets the credit for it.
We are all limited by talent, by circumstance, by opportunity.
But if we are willing to do our part and humbly leave the rest for others
if we are willing to plant trees we shall never sit underthere is no limit to what
we can mean to God.
The secret to this is in the last thing I want to say.
To Plant Trees You Will Never Sit Under Requires a Sense of Priority
The thing that is important is the cause.
That cause must be big enough for me to want to go forward, far beyond my credit or my days.
David was interested in a House for God.
On the very spot where God heard his prayer and turned away pestilence from the people,
David wanted to build it.
The end of his life was not far away.
In perfect submission to the will of God, he gave up all thought of building and set himself
to preparation for something another would finish.
He gave his energy to the cause.
He set his servants to work cutting stones.
He prepared the nails for the doors of the gates.
He brought brass in abundance. He provided cedar trees in abundance.
He collected the most unbelievable amount of silver and of gold.
And after his hands could do no more, and after his body was cold,
the cause came to fruition.
The Temple rose to the glory of God.
The world has not yet surpassed it in its magnificence.
The stones were brought from Lebanon.
They were hewn in quarries, conveyed on rafts, and placed with humble silence
on one another, a fitting exaltation to the glory of God:
"No hammers fell, no ponderous axes rung;
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung."
The cedars of Lebanon were mixed with the gold and silver.
The tapestries were unbelievably beautiful.
The building was magnificent indeed.
And Solomon dedicated it with the commitment, "I have built Thee a house of habitation,
a place for Thee to dwell in forever."
And the Shekinah cloud of God's glory entered and filled the place.
David had built a house he never entered.
But he entered a better one, one not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
David had planted a tree he never sat under, but he found the shade of a better one,
the tree of God's good pleasure.
The cause was first.
And he did an incomparable work for God.
The application of this sermon must by now be apparent.
For example, we have our youth.
Who is willing to do something great with them, to make a contribution you will never live
to see brought to fruition?
Who will give to the cause he will never personally benefit from?
Here is the work of our Lord.
Who will fit himself into his place, by commitment, by self-forgetfulness,
by investment beyond his years, in the sure confidence that nothing done
for our Lord is ever finally lost?
I think it will take a Christian to plant trees you will never sit under.
It is the spirit of Christ.
It is He who is the cause.
"Dr. Clinard was my Professor of Homelitics, and I am so pleased that I could
share this great sermon.
He had a profound influence on my life and my ministry."
From Dr. Harold L. White