What Does the Bible Say About Bitterness?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 8, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Last week, I wrote on what the Bible says about anger. This week’s topic is closely related to that: what the Bible says about bitterness.

What’s the difference between anger and bitterness? Generally speaking, anger is the reaction to a hurt that is presently going on, whereas bitterness is how we feel about past hurts that we can’t (or won’t) let go of. Anger can often go away quickly, while bitterness is a lingering emotion. We can control our anger and how we react to it, but when we let bitterness take hold of us, it controls us. We often act on our anger, but bitterness generally festers more quietly.

So what does the Bible say about bitterness? Primarily, it tells us to get rid of it. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Note how bitterness is linked to the need for forgiveness; bitterness happens when someone angers us and we don’t forgive them. Jesus tells us how many times we should forgive someone in Matthew 18:21-22: essentially, as many times as they wrong us.

We see that if we hold on to bitterness and don’t forgive those who have wronged us, God will not forgive us. Jesus tells us about this in Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25, and Luke 17:3-4.

Note that in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, we see that love keeps no record of wrongs. Keeping track of how someone has wronged you generally leads to bitterness, because you’re holding onto the times they have made you angry.

To keep bitterness out of your life, follow the words given to us in Hebrews 12:14-15: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 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.” Be on guard against the danger that bitterness can have on your life; if left untreated and unforgiven, it will lead you and others astray from God’s Word.

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