Green Mountains, Firewood, and Faith
There was once an old man who had two sons, the older was named Green Mountain and the younger was named Red Mountain. Shortly before he passed away, the old man divided his property among his sons, leaving the east mountain to Green Mountain and the west mountain to Red Mountain. The west mountain had very dense forests, which Red Mountain labored each day to cut and sell. For all of his hard work, Red Mountain became very wealthy. After a few years, all of the trees had been felled, and Red Mountain planted crops in their place.
Shortly thereafter, a massive storm hit, devastating the crops that Red Mountain had so painstakingly planted. Now with nothing to eat, Red Mountain sought the assistance of his older brother Green Mountain to the east.
The east mountain only had a few trees at first, but Green Mountain planned carefully. He cut down the trees that would not grow into useful timber and planted many saplings. At the base of the mountain he grew crops and raised farm animals. During this time, Green Mountain lived poorly. But after a few years, the trees grew, the crops took root, and his herds of animals multiplied.
When the storm hit, the trees on the east mountain shielded the crops and animals, so Green Mountain was unharmed. Red Mountain thought it was strange when he saw that the east mountain was in such great shape, so he asked his older brother for some advice. Green Mountain told him that if you exploit rather than cultivate the land, at some point you will come to the end of the rope. But if you cultivate the land before using it, the land will prosper.
This story gave rise to an idiom, “As long as the green mountains are there, one need not fear a lack of firewood” 留得青山在，不愁没柴烧 . It now means that as long as there is a foundation or root, harm or setbacks will not affect the overall situation. If there is life, there will always be hope and a way out of difficulties.
In Sunday’s gospel reading, we heard the story of Jairus, the synagogue official who pleaded with Jesus to rescue his daughter who was at the point of dying (Mark 5:22-23). By the time Jesus arrived at his home, his daughter had died (5:35). Rather than wring his hands in worry, Jesus said to the Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (5:36). Jesus called on the girl to rise, which she did. All were astounded as she walked about (5:41-42).
Jesus was saying that faith is the antidote to fear. In other words, the opposite of faith is not disbelief, but rather, the opposite of faith is fear. There is only one way to alleviate the fear we have about the setbacks we face or what the future may hold, and that is to turn to Jesus in faith. He is already in our future as he was in our past. If God can create and control the universe, he certainly has control over our lives. As long as we recognize this truth, we are fortified to withstand the storms that come our way.
We can work against God by cutting down the resources he has given us, selling them, and trying to forge a way on our own. Such a lifestyle will be short lived. Alternatively, we can work with the gifts that God has given us, cultivate them in a spirit of faith, and our blessings will multiply (Matthew 13:8). In walking by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we enjoy God’s hedge of protection (Psalm 91). Green Mountain understood that a barren mountain could be cultivated into verdant forests and abundant farms. Against that background, there was no place for fear to take root. We can use our foundation of faith to build our lives according to God’s will, knowing that we will never suffer lack and always come out ahead.