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December - January 2023

Lighting the Darkness


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BROWN ON GREEN | Don't Cut Down the Fruit Trees


Deuteronomy is a practical book about how the Israelites were to live. For example, Deuteronomy 6 includes the famous passage about passing our faith to the next generation. In chapter 20, Moses gave the Israelites instructions for waging war. Verses 19 and 20 detailed how they were to lay siege to a city. Moses instructed them to choose trees carefully when building the siege works, and he specifically warned them not to cut down the fruit trees.

The olive tree was vital to life in the Middle East. Not only did they eat olives, but they also used olive oil for many purposes. Like many fruit-producing trees, an olive tree requires time before growers can expect a harvest. Olive trees take eight years to produce a reasonable harvest of olives, but once they start, they can produce for centuries. In fact, some 2000-year-old olive trees still produce fruit.

I’m afraid our denomination has cut down many fruit trees over its 300-plus year history. We tend to think of ourselves as producing fruit for the Kingdom during our lifetime, or when we are actively working. The truth is, we all have the potential to produce fruit long after we have gone to our reward. How? By simply tithing on our estates. If we fail to leave an endowment gift in our estate plan, we are, in effect, cutting down our own fruit tree.

The Harvard endowment has $53 billion (that’s with a b). Based on a 5% spending policy, their endowment produces $2.65 billion a year, covering more than a third of their annual operating expenses. It makes it possible for bright students to attend Harvard on scholarship, who would not have the financial capability otherwise. Why does Harvard have $53 billion in the endowment fund? To be honest, they have many very wealthy alumni! However, it is also true they have been building the endowment for almost four centuries.

Free Will Baptists are a little behind, but I challenge each of us not to cut down our own fruit tree but to tithe on our estates, leaving a portion to ministry. The Foundation is here to help as we offer estate planning services. Please contact us today. We will help care for a fruit tree that will continue producing until the Lord returns.

About the Columnist: David Brown is director of Free Will Baptist Foundation. To learn more about the grants program, visit


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