"See to it...that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble,
and by it many be defiled."
See to it, take charge, pay attention. This is not talking about chopping down bitterness that springs up like weeds, but taking out the root! Have you ever worked in your garden? It is that time of year. We're giving a go again of planting our tomatoes in pots. Didn't work last year, but it does cut down on the weeding. That was my job, one I don't mind retiring from.
But as far as heart issues, I find my bitterness weeds spring up in the middle of the night when I wake up to less than clear thought processes and am tempted to go down hog trails that I ought not to go down. I have to go after the roots by praying instead of worrying and giving it back to God.
Speaking of heart issues around our house right now, talk of the heart process is prevalent as my husband just spent two days in the hospital having every test possible on his heart. Then after another visit to his doctor this week, it appears that it is an electrical issue: one chamber of the heart is not getting the signal to pump correctly making him a candidate for a pacemaker. Yep. The heart of the matter is that you don't want incorrect signals goin' on. Likewise, the root of bitterness causes trouble, heart trouble.
If bitterness is not rooted out, it will grow back. Bitterness causes trouble. Bitterness does not just affect the person who has bitterness, but it affects many--the family first then others. Bitterness is ugly. It defiles. It is a black heart, not a healthy heart.
Andrew Murray defines it in part as,
"being led by the carnal reason more than by
God's word or Spirit; giving way to sin."
Adam Clarke says, "A root of bitterness signifies a poisonous plant. The Hebrews call every species of poison a bitter...The root of bitterness is here used metaphorically for a bad man, or a man holding unsound doctrines, and endeavouring to spread them in the Church."
He goes on, "This (that which may 'trouble you') alludes to the effects of poison taking into the body: the whole animal system is disturbed; sometimes violent retchings, great disturbances through the whole alimentary canal (which is a 1700's description of the workings of the body), together with the most fatal changes in the whole sanguineous system, are the consequences of poison taken into the stomach. The blood itself (the principle, under God, of life) becomes putrescent; and probably to this the intelligent apostle alludes when he says, and 'thereby many be defiled,' corrupted or contaminated. Bad example and false teaching have corrupted thousands, and are still making desolation in the world and in the Church."
Hmm. I have always thought of this warning as if it was to individuals. But this interpretation enlarges the meaning to say that theology--man's ideas about God--are vitally important to be understood so as to prevent false doctrine. The Apostles were charged with getting and keeping the Early Church on the right footing. Sadly now, the average Christian is a lazy Christian excusing themselves of not having to be informed of theology. It has created a vacuum in Christian teaching that has invited into the majority of American churches a lie about the truth of God's word. An English holiness evangelist, one of our dearest friends, called it the biggest lie that ever Satan perpetrated. "Indeed, has God...said?" He was referring to Calvinism (once-saved-always-saved-isms, that God can't see our sin (a "sinning Christian"--that we are all sinners and will be until heaven), that only the elect can make it to heaven leaving the rest of the world condemned to hell, rather than "whosoever will" shall be saved).
This isn't a popular notion to contradict in churches where it is hard to tell a Christian from the world, seeing to their own comfort than caring for the weaker brother. Well, Jesus has promised at the final harvest to separate the wheat from the tares.
It is interesting that our theology teaches that God can pull out sin by its very roots. It's the only way to have that heart of flesh instead of stone, a new heart of purity, of perfect love. That is the way to have victory in Jesus--a Victory Garden! So, "see to it," pilgrim. Get down on your knees and pull up those poisonous plants by their roots with the help of God. Don't let those troubling weeds grow up and defile those you love in your home and in your church.
"Let all bitterness
and wrath and anger
and clamor and slander
be put away from you,
along with all malice."