See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

—Hebrews 12:15

What is meant by the terms bitter root or root of bitterness? Why does the author of Hebrews use these words to warn readers to be on guard? The best way to understand this verse is to look at a

real life illustration.

Imagine this scenario. From as early as you can remember, you had a life plan which included school, friends, college, extra curricular activities, spouse, children, church, ministry, and more. Life is good. Your thankfulness to God is constantly on the tip of your tongue. In your joy, you vow to serve Jesus all the days of your life. But then, out of nowhere, you are blindsided by an email from a long time friend who accuses you of mistreating her.

At first, it causes sadness, as memories flash across your mind. Tears well up, but are held back by a growing resentment. As days go by, you can't forget the email. Her words continue to pour through your mind and heart like boiling water. Eventually the sadness turns into hatred. Your family starts asking questions like, "Why does Mommy yell at us all the time? Mom doesn't smile as much anymore."

Well, I think by now you probably get the picture. Hurt can turn to anger, which can eventually affect all areas of your life. This is what happens if we don't immediately cut, chop, or pull a bitter root.

Let's examine the garlic plant. Garlic is a wonderful addition to an herb garden. Its presence protects against harmful insects. But by nature, it is an aggressive, invasive plant. A gardener can expect a garlic plant to attempt to take over the whole garden. It spreads by producing seed heads that fall to the ground and sprout new plants. Its roots suck the nutrients out of the soil leaving a hard, clay like clump, which is of no use to the other plants around it. It must be controlled.

Just like a gardener controls the spread of the garlic plant, we must allow the true gardener, God, to have control of the seeds and roots growing in our spiritual lives. We must give God access to cut, chop, or pull the bitter roots that desire to take over and rob us of our joy.


Ask God to reveal any bitter root that is sucking the nutrients from your spiritual life. Allow the Lord to be your gardener and cultivate your life for His glory. Prayer cuts and destroys the roots of anger. Be steadfast in your prayers. Ask others to pray over this area of your life. Also, when given the opportunity, stand in the gap for others. Remember… See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. —Hebrews 12:15