DEALING WITH THE ROOT OF BITTERNESS
— Kay Taiwo
According to Rick Renner’s devotional, Sparkling Gems from the Greek:
Hebrews 12:15 tells us how to recognize bad seed when it begins to produce destructive fruit in our lives. It says, "...lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you...." The words "springing up" are from the Greek word phuoo. This word depicts a little plant that is just starting to sprout and grow. It isn't a large plant yet; rather, it's a small seedling that is just breaking through the soil and starting to peek out at the world. However, the very fact that it's peeking through the soil means there is a seed hidden in the soil producing this new life. This is a very significant picture. It tells us that bitterness doesn't overwhelm us all at once. Instead, it grows a little here and a little there until it finally becomes a huge, ugly growth that defiles our entire lives. Bitterness usually starts peeking up out of the depth of our souls in the form of negative thoughts about another person or a sour, sharp, distrusting, cynical attitude toward someone who has offended us. If the root is not quickly uprooted and removed, that bitterness will eventually become a full-blown tree that produces bitter, wounding, hurtful,and scornful fruit for everyone who eats of it."
What bitterness does to others:
“Looking diligently lest any fail of the grace of God, or lest any root of bitterness springing
up disturb you, and by it many are defiled.” Hebrews 12: 15 (MKJV)
See Hebrews 12: 15 in the New International Reader’s Version:
“ Be sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. See to it that a bitter plant doesn’t grow up. If it does, it will cause trouble. And it will make many people impure.“
“A hypocrite corrupts his neighbor with his mouth: but through knowledge the just shall be delivered.” Proverbs 11:9 (MKJV)
Proverbs 11:9 (in the New International Reader’s Version):
“With their words ungodly people destroy their neighbors. But those who do what is right escape because of their knowledge.”
To corrupt one’s neighbor is to cause that neighbor or neutral party to be contaminated with bias against someone you do not like or despise (even though the “neighbor” was not directly offended). How often we engage in character assassination! (James 1:26; James 3:5-6,8)“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” (James 3:9; NIV).
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.” (1 Peter 3:10; NIV).The issue of strife or unforgiveness is the result of a seed-thought that has germinated, found roots and manifests itself in one’s attitude or disposition.The above scriptures point to the characteristics of bitterness. The word introduced to eliminate any room for bitterness is the word, “diligently.“ Most of us are not diligent, thus, we fall into the trap of bitterness without opposing its alluring disguises. Talking about ‘traps’, notice Proverbs 11:9 (in the (New International Reader’s Version) mentions the word “escape” while the Modern King James Version (MKJV) uses the word “delivered.”To escape the allure of bitterness we are told to be people of “knowledge” of God’s word.
The passage seems to suggest that knowledge of what to do separates the righteous from
the hypocrite, the just from the unjust.
Proverbs 11:12-13 (MKJV):
“One despising his friend lacks heart, but a man of understanding remains silent.”
“One going with slander is a revealer of secrets, but the faithful of spirit keeps the matter hidden.”
Note: the one tempted to corrupt his neighbor has the ability to exercise restraint and by the application of knowledge he can avoid the spread of bitterness. They say “Misery loves company.” Well, so does bitterness.
Likewise, the “neighbor” on the receiving end can by wisdom resist lending his or her ear to seed-thoughts that corrupt or place roots of bitterness (into his or her mind and heart).
What bitterness does to You:
Instructional Method: The book of Proverbs utilizes a teaching method that I find to be rather effective. The approach used is what one could call the “compare and contrast” method. Often the book of Proverbs makes a distinction between the ‘wise’ and the ‘foolish.’ How? By pointing to an action taken and its impending consequence. In many cases, it will show the reward of the wise so that the reader unmistakably gains insight into what impact wisdom has on his decision making.
For instance, concerning a gossip, Proverbs 18:7-8 reads (MKJV):
Verse 7: “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”
Verse 8: “The words of a talebearer (that is one who gossips) are as wounds and they go down into the inner most parts of the belly.”
Notice: A fool in this context is a talebearer; and the consequence shown points to the impact it has on such an individual: destruction, snare (or trap), wounds (one translation states: self-inflicted wounds). Such compare and contrast is demonstrated with one of our main texts above: “With their words ungodly people destroy their neighbors. But those who do what is right escape because of their knowledge.”Proverbs 11:9 (New International Reader’s Version).
The lesson: We are shown how to identify a fool and also how to identify the one who does right. Now that we know the difference we must be wise by exercising diligence to do what is right and avoid bitterness at any cost.
James 3:13-17 (KJV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.