“Beware in case there is among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from Adonai our God to go serve the gods of those nations. Beware in case there is among you a root producing poison and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 29:17).

The Apostle Paul warned the Church in Ephesus to, “Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and quarreling and slander, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Why is it important that we uproot bitterness from our hearts? Paul gives us one of the answers above—it produces poison and bitter fruit. We can trace the effects of bitterness back to Cain and Abel. Scripture does not go into great detail about the relationship between the two brothers, but one can imagine that Cain didn’t kill Abel because of the one incident where God did not accept his offering. Though, that rejection could have either triggered or exacerbated bitterness within Cain. This may be why God said to him, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, it will lift. But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the doorway. Its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:6-7).

The roots of bitterness do not take long to plant, but if we nourish such bitterness it can quickly blossom into an out of control mess that affects us and the people we interact with. We see this dynamic at work in the lives of Isaac and his sons—”When Esau was 40 years old, he took as wife Judith the daughter of Be-eri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. But they caused a bitterness of spirit for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:34-35). Turn the page and you read of Rebekah helping Jacob to take Esau’s birthright through deception. Could Esau’s choice to marry Hittite women have created or exacerbated bitter roots in Rebekah who decided that she could not allow them the inheritance?

Bitterness can lurk in our hearts without us even knowing it, and by the time we become aware of it, it’s already a fully grown tree. We read in Proverbs 14:10, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”

So, how do we uproot bitterness? The Apostle Paul tells us the answer in his letter to the Ephesians—”Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other just as God in Messiah also forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is the tool, method, and application through which we can rid ourselves of bitterness. This is how we master it, tame it, and prevent it from producing poisonous fruit.

Today, if you are harboring unforgiveness you are nourishing a bitter root that can wreak havoc on your relationship with God and with others. Forgive those who have offended you and let the love of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) water your heart, your mind, and your spirit!