Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

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Your Roots Are Showing

In my favorite movie Steel Magnolias, Ouiser Boudreaux tells Clairee, “Have your roots done!”

If someone tells you to “have your roots done,” or worse “your roots are showing” you may immediately get on the defensive regarding your hair coloring.

There may be another way to interpret those comments.  Perhaps someone telling you that your roots are showing is referring to the roots of your character.  These could be positive or negative characteristics.

If you are a cynical person, you are rooted in negativity. Your cynicism will show.              If you are a joyful person, you are rooted in positivity.  Your optimism will show.

If you are an untruthful person, you are rooted in distrust.  Your lies will show.                  If you are a trustworthy person, you are rooted in integrity.  Your truth will show.

If you are a gossiping person, you are rooted in meanness.  Your ugliness will show.          If you are a humble person, you are rooted in concern.  Your heart for others will show.

Deep roots of our childhood, our present circumstances, our education, or our faith make up who we are.  Those roots will show eventually.  Both the positive and the negative.  The good news is that with Christ in our heart, we can overcome the negative roots and strengthen the positive roots.

Life with Jesus is much like a tree.  It must be deeply rooted in order to continue to grow and produce fruit for the kingdom.  In Jeremiah 12:2 (NIV) God promises goodness for us if we dare to grown deep roots for Him; “You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit.  You are always on their lips, but far from their hearts.”

In the parable of the seed, Jesus warns of the danger of having shallow roots that are not deeply developed.  “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Mark 4: 5-6 (NIV).

We need to have deep spiritual roots.  We need those strong roots in order to improve our churches, our marriages, our families and our communities.  Deep roots take an effort to develop.

If you are willing, you can develop strong roots through prayer, Bible studies, and serving others.  Share the Gospel, practice grace, work for others to know Christ.

When someone tells you that your roots are showing…be confident that they are strongly developed, deep roots in Christ that are showing.

~Emily

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