The English word “bitterness” means “extreme enmity; sharpness; severity of temper; biting sarcasm; painful affliction; deep distress of mind.”

In the New Testament, the word “bitterness” is translated from the Greek word pikria. This term denotes the spirit of a man who harbors resentment about the past. Instead of reconciling differences and restoring relationships, he prefers to nurse the grudge.

There is an obvious problem with harboring resentment and nursing grudges: they will never go away. In fact, they will actually become stronger and more destructive; eventually poisoning or consuming the bearer’s heart (Acts 8:23). Not content with conquering one heart, bitterness will eventually spread to others.

The Bible warns against developing a root of bitterness: “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” (Heb. 12:15; see also Deut. 29:18). Notice that a root of bitterness will spring up and cause many to be defiled. Harbored resentment and nursed wounds will not remain under the surface. Like a weed, they will eventually spring forth and spread.

We have been growing a garden for three years now. The problem with developing a new garden spot is ridding the soil of weeds. Every year we till the ground and plant the seeds. The freshly planted garden looks so clean, but beneath the surface are the root systems of the grass that used to be a part of the lawn. Soon the plants sprout, but so do the weeds. When weeds pop up, we can break them off at the surface, but they are not really gone. To truly get rid of the weeds, we have to pull them up by the roots. If we fail to do so, the weeds will take over the garden. Each year we eventually reach a point at which we give up on pulling the weeds and determine to do better next year.

Try to picture the soil of our heart containing a root system of bitterness. We may keep it looking nice on the surface (what we allow others to see in us) but we are fooling ourselves if we think it is harmless to harbor resentment and nurse grudges. Bitterness is a poison in our heart that eventually contaminates our entire life. Like weeds, bitterness attempts to spread itself to others.

Like other sinful attitudes, a feeling of bitterness (distress and resentment, despair and hopelessness) can spread to others. A person who has a sour attitude about the government, economy, local sports team, local church, etc., can easily find an audience and infect others with his negativity.

However, the destructive nature of bitterness is not only that the negative feelings are spread to others, but the harbored resentment and nursed grudges eventually lash out at others. The English word “bitter” comes from an Old English word that literally meant “to bite.” This is a good description of the effect of bitterness, which often lashes out at others with “biting” words (Ps. 64:3; Rom. 3:14).

Let’s keep bitterness out of our heart.

written by Heath Rogers

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