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The Trouble a Root Can Cause

Thirty-eight years after I began to study the Bible, I continue to be constantly amazed at its insight into the human heart and condition. In the words of Hebrews 4:12-13, it pierces and penetrates more deeply than any other instrument can go. As it does so it "discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart," leaving all things "naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." As someone astutely observed, we don't just read the Bible – it reads us! In Hebrews 12:15, the Holy Spirit gives a particularly blunt reading of what goes on inside some human hearts and minds — "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." Fascinating if fearful words. Christians are admonished that every effort must be made to root bitterness completely out of the heart. Why? If not, it resides deep inside, out of sight and out of mind, but not without a defiling effect. Like a poisonous root, it grows and entwines itself deeper and deeper into the spiritual heart and attitude. Some offensive or unjust word or treatment from a day or two ago or a year or two ago or a decade or two ago is allowed to live on in the mind, replayed repeatedly until it festers and strengthens as time goes by. Like a root, it winds itself deeper into the soil of the soul, becoming more and more difficult to dig out and dislodge with each passing day. Then, suddenly, like some noxious root, it *springs up and causes trouble." Second Samuel 13 records a tragic example of the destructive and defiling power of bitterness when it finally springs forth, even after being buried and out of sight for years. The story records how it came to pass that Absalom's beautiful sister Tamar is raped by their half-brother Amnon. Second Samuel 13:22 says ominously, "And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar." The following verses reveal that two full years later Absalom arranges for and participates in the vengeful murder of Amnon. Much heartache and grief sprang from these sorry and sordid events as King David's family was quite literally ripped apart. Bitterness rarely affects only the person who is embittered. As a root grows, it can crack a foundation or break a water pipe. As bitterness spreads, it cracks marriages, breaks homes, poisons hearts, alienates friends, splits churches, and damns some souls to a devil's hell.

Roots sometimes go very deep. Roots of the desert mesquite shrub have been found growing 175 feet deep near Tuscon, Arizona. Ever tried to pull up a dandelion by the roots? Not easy to do. God's Holy Spirit tells us in Ephesians 4:31, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice." I know that doing that is a whole lot harder than sermons usually make it out to be. But the word of God, human experience, and modern medical research make clear not getting rid of bitterness is hardest of all on those who harbor it. Tree roots may cause trouble around your house, but bitterness is a root that will cause trouble in your heart and soul. Root it out before it springs up.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ