I have a large pine tree in my front yard. In recent days, a few of the limbs have broken off from the trunk of the tree. Thankfully, the limbs have not landed on my house and have been more of an inconvenience than anything else. My neighbor walked by one day as I was cleaning up one of the limbs and we talked about the health of the tree. He has a background in forestry and he informed me that trees will often take the path of least resistance when funneling nutrients from the soil to the branches. When this happens, the lower branches receive the majority of the nutrients because it takes less effort to supply those limbs with nourishment than it does to transport nutrients to the branches at the top of the tree. As a result, many of the limbs located higher up the tree trunk become weak and eventually break and fall.
I am certainly no forestry expert and I cannot comment on the validity of my neighbor’s theory, but it did get the thinking about my own life and the lives of others I know. We are tempted to take the path of least resistance in many areas of life and for a time we do not notice the impact of such decisions. However, over time weaknesses develop and the effects of taking the easy path begin to show.
In Joshua 16, the author notes that the people did not drive the Canaanites out of the land fully as they had been commanded. Instead, they allowed them to remain in the land as slaves. Rather than be completely obedient to the Lord, the Israelites chose the path of least resistance. Eventually, this failure to obey had negative consequences for the people in the land. Kenneth Mathews notes, “This concession leads to assimilating Canaanite religion (Judges 2:1-3). The consequence is their own undoing because they chose ease over obedience.”2 Sometimes God calls us to do hard things and as we contemplate how we will respond, we are tempted to choose ease over obedience. Eventually, such decisions will come back to haunt us. Ask God to show you areas of your life in which you are prone to choose ease over complete obedience. Ask God to help you believe that fullness of joy will only be found in walking in His ways and to empower you to choose obedience so that God will be glorified in your life.
2 Kenneth A Matthew, Joshua in the Teaching the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016), 135.
Joshua 16 (ESV):
The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to Bethel. 2 Then going from Bethel to Luz, it passes along to Ataroth, the territory of the Archites. 3 Then it goes down westward to the territory of the Japhletites, as far as the territory of Lower Beth-horon, then to Gezer, and it ends at the sea.
4 The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance.
5 The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, 6 and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, 7 then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans,9 together with the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages. 10 However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.