June 11, 2023

Sins of the Spirit #2: Bitterness

Leonard Holt was a paragon of respectability. He was a middle-aged, hard-working lab technician who had worked at the same Pennsylvania paper mill for nineteen years. Having been a Boy Scout leader, an affectionate father, a member of the local fire brigade, and a regular church attender, he was admired as a model citizen in his community—until that image exploded in a well-planned hour of bloodshed one brisk October morning.

On that fateful day, Leonard Holt stuffed two pistols in his coat pockets and drove to the paper mill. He stalked slowly into his shop and began shooting with calculated frenzy. He hit several co-workers with two or three bullets apiece, firing more than thirty shots, killing some men he had known for more than fifteen years.

Puzzled policemen and friends finally found a train of logic behind his brief reign of terror. Down deep within the heart of Leonard Holt seethed with a profound sense of bitterness. His conventional exterior concealed the boiling hatred within. The investigation revealed that several victims had been promoted over him while he remained in the same position. The man was brimming with resentment—rage that eventually spilled over into murderous violence. Time Magazine ran a story about Leonard Holt titled: “Responsible, Respectable, and Resentful.”[1]

Very few people go on murderous rampages like Leonard Holt did, but many have feelings of bitterness and resentment similar to his.

A handful of NT verses mention bitterness:

Eph 4:31  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

Col 3:19  Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.

Hebrews 12:15  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;

The Bible contains several examples of bitterness: Cain against Able, Naomi (Mara) against God, Absalom against David.

Bitterness is one of those sins of the spirit that may be happening internally that no one else knows about. If we have a “root of bitterness” in our lives, we must make every effort to dig it up and get rid of it before it damages ourselves and others.

[1] Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989). Edited.

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