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Ripping Out The Bitter Root

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; Hebrews 12:14-15 (NKJV)

A few years back a friend stopped by after a road trip to Twin Falls, Idaho. They shared how they had gone down this one section of town and how they noticed the name of a street — it was called, “Bitterroot Street.”  My friend proposed a metaphorical question to me with a grin saying, “Don’t you just wonder who lives there?”

It got me thinking— every one of us could probably have lived on this street at one point in our lives. Truth be told, if there were such a place set up for people with bitter roots within their hearts, there would be a great assortment of people living there. Some would move there for a short time, and decide to move on. Some would choose to live there for years, while still others would live there for their entire lives.

When I think about a bitter root, I immediately think of someone who has been hurt in a relationship in one way or another, because this is usually where the temptation to be bitter starts.  It’s when we choose to continue to hold another person accountable for an action, and we are unwilling to let it go and forgive.  And much like a case of cancer, it eats away at our life until certain death occurs.  

We see the writer of Hebrews speaking of this, as we are told to pursue peace with ALL people…looking carefully, or “diligently” as some translations state it, lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (Heb. 12:14-15).   

This is a sharp warning for every Christian believer.  Each of us would be wise to be attentive to the temptation of bitterness—making sure we don’t become bitter when others hurt or offend us.  We need to identify any potential bitterness within us immediately, lest it cause us to stumble in our faith. When this happens, we can sometimes continue to go through the motions in our Christian walk, even attending studies and church, but our heart is far from true worship and praise. Instead, we can become cynical, bitter, and pessimistic, causing our fellow brothers and sisters to stumble and to lose hope in the process. 

The ultimate result of a bitter root is that it will defile the body of believers, as it continues to pollute one person at a time—ruining their testimony and the ministry God has allowed them to be a part of.  Some will choose to leave the church as a result of having a bitter root, while others will burrow in much like a tick, not content to simply leave, they choose to infect the whole body. 

One more thing we need to know about bitter roots is they don’t always come about over one offense — they can culminate over a series of events where we may have feel wronged by someone.  The problem is that if we don’t learn to forgive and move on, our bitterness will eventually erupt over something otherwise insignificant. 

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 (NKJV)

I want to encourage you today to think for just a few minutes about any bitterness you may be holding onto.  Ask God to reveal any bitterness you may be harboring against an old friend, or coworker—against anyone.  Holding on to bitterness negates the blessings God has for us—it hinders our prayer life, and we are limiting our effective witness as a disciple of Christ.  

STUDY QUESTION: According to the Scriptures contained within this devotional, what could we learn about bitterness, and our responsibility to deal with it?

PERSONAL INVENTORY: Are you harboring any bitterness towards someone because of a past hurt?

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Make a choice to always let bitterness go.  If you find that you are harboring bitterness then repent and choose to forgive those who may have offended you.  God will give you a great blessing of peace.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Father, thank You for Your forgiveness.  Thank You for showing me how to forgive.  Thank You for Your amazing mercy and grace upon my life.  Help me to see any area where I have developed a bitter root.  Help me to tear these roots out of my heart. In Jesus’ precious name, amen…


May the Lord bless your day abundantly, Scott




Copyright ©2017 by Pastor Scott Wright.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Bible text from the New King James Version is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000