Posted by: Pastor Terry Hagedorn | January 29, 2009


Hebrews 12:14-16 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”


This passage is not teaching that one is saved by practicing holiness–as some erroneously purport. Rather, it teaches two things: that having a right relationship to men and to God is essential for people to “see God” in you–your testimony; and, your bitterness will defile you and many others.

“Bitterness” comes from the Greek word, “pikria” (literally or figuratively) acerbity, anger, harshness, discontentment, and irascibility. Bitterness results from unresolved or unrequited frustration over anger or envy. The key word is “frustration”.

Bitterness not only destroys your testimony–it defiles others! “Defile” is from the Greek “miaino”; to sully or taint, i.e. to contaminate (ceremonially or morally): i.e. it makes one unable to properly worship, fellowship with and serve the LORD.

Bitterness starts as a “root”. It starts as a little tiny root; therefore, it is very hard to detect. The root of bitterness is not large or on the surface where it can be easily detected; rather–like a cancer–it does its insidious work deep down in the marrow of your soul. Only after it has metastasized do symptoms surface in bitter words, bitter thoughts, and bitter deeds.

Bitterness is rampant in our families, society, and our churches. Children are bitter towards parents. Parents are bitter toward children. The divorced are bitter toward their former spouses. Children of divorce are bitter toward their parents for divorcing. Siblings are bitter over rivalries for parental affection and inheritances. Many loving families have been destroyed by the bitterness that came from the reading of a will.

There is bitterness in the work place. Co-workers resent each other and their supervisors There is class envy between employees and business owners.

There is bitterness in the church. People are bitter toward their pastor. And, sadly, many pastors are bitter toward church members. Bitterness between Christians over hurtful words, deeds, or attitudes are deadening and dividing churches.

Worst of all, some are bitter toward God, His Word, and His Church. Bitterness will come out! Every cancer eventually manifests itself.


Do you suffer from a root of bitterness? Examine yourself. Do you have the symptoms–the Ten Warning Signs of Bitterness?

When a person who has offended you walks into a room, how do you respond?

1) Do negative feelings immediately overcome you causing you to put on a hypocritical happy face?

2) Do you intentionally turn away to ignore and avoid him or her?

3) Does the mere mention of his or her name leave a “bitter taste in your mouth”?

4) Does thinking about him or her “make you sick”–give you a bitter stomach?

5) Do you have a similar negative reaction when you just hear his or her name mentioned?

6) Do you resent his or her success–hearing any good report about him or her?

7) Do you secretly desire misfortune or failure–or worse–to come his or her way?

8 ) Does the person who offended or hurt you come to mind often?

9) Do you mentally argue with them–i.e. dream or daydream about “putting him or her in their place”?

10) Do you feel the need or do you see a tendency to talk to others about the failures or shortcomings of those who have hurt or offended you?

If you have any of these symptoms, you have–at least–a root of bitterness!

Has that someone said or done something that offended you? And, did you fail to deal with it Scripturally (Matthew 18:15-19)? Did bitterness take root then? Did someone earn–or were they given–something that you wanted or felt you deserved?  Is someone else–a brother or sister–being shown affection or attention that you feel that you are being denied?

Did you allow a bitter seed to germinate in your soul and spirit? Is it affecting you physically (other things can cause this symptoms)–high blood pressure? (NOTE:  Not all Hypertension is caused by bitterness–but, more is than believed by most!)  Insomnia? Indigestion? Is your home suffering because of that bitterness? Are others defiled because of you? Are your children infected? Could that be where their bitterness and rebelliousness comes from? You do reap what you sow!

Bitter pastors make bitter people. Bitter spouses make for bitter marriages.  Bitter parents make for bitter children.  Bitter children destroy and defile families.  Have you unintentionally contaminated others with this insidious spiritual disease? Brethren, do not err! When bitterness takes root–many are “defiled”! Hearts, homes, and churches have been destroyed! We need a cure for bitterness! The Bible gives us the cure.



Psalm 129:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

As one great preacher has said, “No doubt! The problem is with you.” Either you have been wrong in word, thought, or deed, or you have been wrong in your reaction toward those who have offended you.

Have you asked God to search you and to cleanse you from the sin of bitterness. I wrestled with bitterness against some of the people in my church. Five families left our church in 1983. I became bitter toward them. This root of bitterness grew in me. I had many of the Warning Signs of Bitterness in my life. In 1985, my appendix ruptured and I suffered peritonitis–massive infection of my abdomen. The Doctors removed the poison from my body. And, the Lord used that experience to remove the bitterness from my spirit. If we would judge ourselves–we would not be judged.


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

If the Doctor told you that a benign looking little mole on your arm was actually a melanoma–the most virulent form of skin cancer and that melanoma can spread to your liver, lungs, or brain, would you say, “Oh, let’s just let it grow.” Or, would you want to have it removed–immediately? Why then will you let a little root of bitterness remain in your spirit?

“For, if we would judge ourselves–we should not be judged!” I Corinthians 11:31


Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (Matthew 18:15)

After you have considered YOURSELF and after you have confessed YOUR sin, then–and only then–confront with compassion and Christlikeness those who have offended you. Tell him his fault privately.

Many Christians have never realized that they have wronged someone else. Have you ever hurt someone and not known it? I have. Give them the benefit of the doubt–it’s the Christian thing to do!

A sincere Christian–“A good man is a reasonable man!”–will be quick to make things right.


If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18 )

Notice Matthew 18:15 says, “If he shall hear thee…” Some people do not repent.

If they do not do right, then they are wrong; HOWEVER, if you have done all that you should do, then you can comfort yourself in the fact that you have done what is right! There is nothing more that you can do. Don’t worry about it! It is the offender’s problem now.


And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Forgive–to be forgiven! Forgive like Christ would forgive. Love like Christ would love. Walk like Christ. Talk like Christ.

Would Christ harbor a root of bitterness? Why do you? Are you a Christian? May God purge out any root of bitterness in our lives!

(c)2009 Terry Hagedorn  All Rights Reserved


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