• Overman & Parks, CPAs, PA

"Can't See the Forest For the Trees"

In 1546, a London publisher by the name of John Heywood distributed a collection of English proverbs. Most have passed by the wayside, but one particular proverb still stands out. It admonishes the reader who "Cannot see the forest for the trees." Have you ever heard it? Maybe even used it? Perhaps even lived it a time or two?


It seems a little ridiculous at first glance. After all, the forest IS trees. But the meaning of the proverb is simple enough – beware of focusing only on the small details and, in the process, fail to understand the larger plans or principles.


Let’s bring this up to a modern-day example. Have you purchased one of those unassembled pieces of furniture from Walmart or Target? Have you ever pulled out the pieces, assumed that you see how something fits and start putting that thing together? And of course, how many have had to take everything back apart after much frustration when your masterpiece looks nothing like the picture on the box that contained the individual parts? We all know, the particular pieces all fit together to make one larger entity when they are placed where they should be, in the order that they should be, in the way that they should be! A larger plan gives the individual parts meaning and usefulness.


In Matthew 6, Jesus is speaking to his followers – ordinary men and women like you and me – about the overarching plan of life that gives purpose and perspective to the day-to-day activities that we undertake.


The fact of the matter is this: there is a good God over all, sovereign and caring. His overarching plan (the forest, if you will) sees all and includes you and your service for Him and others and it all matters. What’s more, He cares for the everyday details of your life (the trees…) that are what we do day in and day out. Here’s where the rub comes – we worry and fret over these small details as if they are the big picture while forgetting that He cares and provides as it fits into the larger plan. Listen to how Jesus says it in Matthew’s Gospel:


“…Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will put on…” (v.25) “…Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (v.32) “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.” (v.33)


Can you hear it? We need food and drink. We need to put on clothes!! We are called to plan and provide for those needs. But we don’t need to obsess over them or feel that they are the be all and end all! We plan, He provides. It’s funny, as we focus on the forest (the kingdom of God), all of the trees (from food to finances, and everything in between) that make it up will be seen more and more clearly!


Credit: iStock