April 20, 2011


“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the Grace of God—lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you and thereby many be defiled.”

Hebrews 12:15

Its memory is long and its passion runs deep, but the one who has one is never able to rest in God’s Grace.

“The bitter root.”

Toxic fumes.  That’s what this sinful taproot puts off in the life of one who has one.  Although its origin may differ from person-to-person, the fact remains that it grows in the soil of pride and unforgiveness.  And, unless it’s brought under the control of the Head Gardener (Holy Spirit), it will obsess and possess its owner, rendering him/her ineffective in God’s service.

How does it begin?

With the seed of resentment.  An unkind word or deed.  Physical, emotional and/or mental abuse.  And, how does it grow?

In a heart’s “hotbed of hatred” whereby one “pitches his tent on his resentment” and “nurses his hurt” through a continual rehashing of the injustice. . .seeking others’ sympathy and support…playing the victim or martyr’s role. . .and feeling justified in doing so.

Yes, the bitter root’s fumes are both toxic and intoxicating.

In fact, a bitter person is often (ironically) energized by his passionate desire to “get even” or inflicting pain on the one who hurt him.  Quite often they’ll be overheard saying “What goes around comes around” or “One of these days he’s going to get his.”

But, the problem with all of this is that it is in direct opposition to Jesus’ Life and Teachings.

Repeatedly, throughout His Ministry, He talked about “praying for those who mistreat you” (Lk. 5:43-48) and forgiving others even as He has forgiven us.  And, our failure to do so has grave consequences which we can ill-afford to ignore (Lk. 6:14-15).

We also read that a bitter root can “trouble the one who has it, while also defiling those around him/her.”  The Greek word “enochleo” is used here for “trouble” and also means “to crowd in, agitate, irritate, annoy, harass, mob, etc.,” while “miaino” is used for “defile” and basically means “to sully, taint, contaminate, make ceremonially unclean, etc.”

Thus, it’s clear the bitter root is a spiritual blight—especially in the life of one who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

It’s impossible to have “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4) if we have unconfessed and unrepented of sins in our lives.  Likewise, it’s impossible to draw near to God in such a condition (Ps. 24:3) and to have our prayers answered (Is. 1:15; Jer. 14:12; Amos 5:21-24).

What about your heart, Pilgrim?

Is it clean and pure before God?  Or, are you harboring unforgiveness and a bitter root within over something that happened to you years ago?  Remember:  Bitter roots both contaminate and corrupt—one’s relationship with God and others.  Why not spend some time right now asking the Holy Spirit to search your heart (Ps. 139:23-24)?  Then, quietly listen as He tells you what He finds.  What do you think He’ll say?