Summary: Trying to receive the blessings of God while we harbor a Root of Bitterness is like trying to drink after eating lemons. The flow is restricted because we are all drawn up inside.

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Sucking Blessings Through a Straw

#13 in the Book of James Series

By Pastor Jim May

James has just completed dealing with the power of the tongue to destroy and to bless. Now we will see why the tongue is often put to such terrible use when it is used to destroy a life or a reputation. Most of the time it is because a root of bitterness, envy and strife have entered into a relationship. When we are hurt, our first and immediate reactions are to defend ourselves and then to strike back.

This kind of action doesn’t heal the situation though. It only serves to fan the flames of passion and the root of bitterness grows ever deeper.

Have you ever been hurt, deeply hurt, by anyone? Has the pain that you felt never completely healed?

Is it difficult for you to forgive? To let the past be the past? It is for a lot of people.

1) Perhaps you’re like the elderly woman who lived to see her beloved Richmond, Virginia occupied by Union troops after the Civil War. She was walking down a Richmond street when she tripped over a step and fell. A Union soldier stopped and gently helped her up.

She did notice the soldier’s kindness, but the bitterness in her heart wouldn’t allow her to fully thank him. Instead she said very coolly, “How very kind of you, young man, If there is a cool spot in hell, I hope you get it.”

2) There’s an African tribe that has figured out what real forgiveness is all about.

When a tribe member acts irresponsibly or unjustly, the offender is taken to the center of the village. All work ceases and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then the tribe bombards the rejected person with praise!

One at a time, friends and family enumerate all the good the individual has done. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with some detail and accuracy is recounted. All their positive attributes, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. Finally, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the outcast is welcomed back into the tribe.

What a beautiful ritual of restoration! They replace hurt with happiness; pain with peace. Once again they are family. The rejected one is restored and the village is made whole. (Is that the way it is on your job; or in your home?)

James 3:14, "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth."

Now bitterness isn’t always expressed by words. The tongue can be the instrument of hurt but sometimes we manage to hold our tongue, but then we turn loose the daggers in our eyes, and we have definitely learned to turn an icy cold shoulder.

Sometimes bitterness is the product of envy because someone has something that we don’t have. Maybe they have a Hummer and you’re driving a two door Yugo, or if it has four doors it’s a Wego. Maybe they can sing like an angel but your voice sounds like a frog with a frog in its throat. Maybe they have a real talent for art while your stick people don’t even look like good sticks much less people. Maybe they can play a musical instrument extremely well but you can’t even play a kazoo. There are many sources of envy in life and any one of them can be a source of strife. If envy is in your heart, it will come out and it usually comes out through the mouth and makes the tongue really wag a lot when you are around other people.

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