The “root” of the problem

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

We used to live in a very nice house which had some live plants near the driveway. Most were nice, but there was one plant in particular that we absolutely hated: a volunteer elm, some called it. Sure enough, we saw that thing getting bigger—but we didn’t want that to happen. It was out of place!

Somehow, we had a can of some kind of “pruning paint”. The idea was that if you cut off an “offending” branch, you could spray that paint on there and that would stop the tree from growing back at that location. I can’t say if it really worked in other places, but we did notice something strange about that volunteer elm.

Sure enough, the next spring (I cut and sprayed the top in the fall), the black paint was still preventing the tree from growing back at that location. To my surprise, though, I saw that the tree had simply started growing from the side! It had simply begun to grow like another branch—I know, it’s hard to communicate this with words, but I hadn’t killed that tree!

I hadn’t done away with the roots.

And as long as the root is strong, generally speaking, the tree will continue to grow.

We read in Hebrews 12:15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”. The writer warns us about this root, with a tendency to spring up again, and again, apparently as often as the root gets a chance. Had I tried to get rid of the root, I would have been rid of the plant. I simply stopped one avenue of growth, but the root kept providing nourishment to the plant so that it was able to just keep on growing.

Sin, including bitterness, is just like that root. The more we let something grow, the stronger the root grows, and the harder it is to overcome. It can be done, but unless the root is gone, it won’t be easy.

What roots, still growing under the surface, are in my heart? Even more sobering, what will I do with what that root produces?

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