As I sat on my couch this morning after a nice long nap, I decided to read the daily readings since I had slept through my opportunity to go to daily mass. Usually the readings are pretty short so it’s a nice way to start my day.
But this morning, if I hadn’t been sitting down, these readings would have knocked me right off my feet. I told a friend they were like a slap in the face. Sometimes reading the Bible can get kind of boring, but there are just some passages that you feel in your BONES. Today was the latter.
The gospel reading for today was Matthew 7:15-20. Jesus is talking to his disciples about how to know if someone is a false prophet, what kind of fruit do they bear? “… every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.”
But then here was the line that really hit me:
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire”
He’s talking about people. He’s talking about doing this to human beings. If you’re not a lumberjack or outdoorsman, let me break this down for you.
Tree trunks are composed of long tube-like cells that go up and down through it to distribute water all the way to the top. So the easiest way to split wood is to strike down the trunk to split those tough cells apart from each other.
But in order to cut down a tree that is still in the ground you’re swinging horizontal which means you are trying to break those cells in half. That is a lot harder and takes a lot more force.
From early science classes you know that F=m*a, force equals mass times acceleration. Since the mass of the axe isn’t going to change, that means it’s the acceleration. Acceleration is the change in velocity over time. So the real variable here is “how fast are you swinging that axe?”
So think of a 250lb man swinging a 3lb axe at a tree at a velocity of 75mph. That will make quite a dent in the tree, but the lumberjack will still have to make multiple swings. That is a LOT of force being applied to that tree!
Then the verse says that tree will be thrown into the fire. As a girl from small town Kansas I pictured a big beautiful bonfire. I’ve thrown lots of big branches and trunks into bonfires. Once those things get blazing, they get pretty hot. Some quick googling let me know that bonfires/campfires can reach temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit! To put that in perspective, the hottest anywhere in America has ever reached is 134 degrees F. The hottest hydrothermal vents are only 760 degrees F. The hottest planet in our solar system is only 860 degrees F (Venus). The surface of the sun averages 10,000 degrees, so a bonfire is 1/5th the temperature of the sun!!!