envy

Don't Let Bitterness Take Root

The social and political world we live in doesn't tend to promote peace or godliness. It grieves me to see the contentious banter expressed in social media and in network news media.

I'm really grieved by the vitriolic exchanges between Christian believers who have differing opinions. None of that honors God and it certainly doesn't make being a Christian attractive to non-believers.

It does take effort to live at peace with others and to live a life that honors God. But the secret isn't more discipline and self-effort, although self-control is an attractive and valuable virtue.

The transforming power of God's grace or kindness is the key. God's grace at work in our hearts keeps things like bitterness, envy, and greed from corrupting us. A holy life is one that chooses God as the ruler of our life rather than emotions or circumstances.

Scripture

Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord. Make sure that everyone has kindness [grace] from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you. [vss 14-15]
Make sure that no one commits sexual sin or is as concerned about earthly things as Esau was. He sold his rights as the firstborn son for a single meal.
You know that afterwards, when he wanted to receive the blessing that the firstborn son was to receive, he was rejected. Even though he begged and cried for the blessing, he couldn’t do anything to change what had happened. [vss 16-17]
(Hebrews 12:14-17 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

Make sure that everyone has kindness [grace] from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What two things are we to try and do? How do you think this is possible?

  • What is needed to prevent bitterness from taking root and growing in our lives?

  • How does the example of Esau's remorse illustrate what two things we are to avoid?

  • Is there a difference between remorse like that of Esau and true repentance?

Reflection...

Relationships are always important. Our priority is to have a genuine relationship with God through faith [trust] in His Son. And Jesus made it clear that our relationships with others are a vital priority in our relationship with Him.

This is why we are to live at peace with one another, to be gracious and not bitter with one another. Nor are we to be greedy or selfish because these attitudes damage our relationships.

A holy life is one dedicated to the Lord and His purpose for our life. It's not about being good but allowing God's grace and goodness to transform our hearts. This is how God brings change in our life that others see.

Repentance is not the same as remorse. A remorseful person feels sorry for themselves and the consequences of their actions. Repentance requires a change of heart and turning to God to seek out His grace and goodness and restoration.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How are the first two exhortations related to the issue of bitterness taking root and growing in our heart?

  • What is needed to keep bitterness from growing in our hearts towards God and others?

  • What do you find most difficult in dealing with bitterness in your heart?

  • Are living at peace with others and living a godly life personal priorities for you?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Curse or Contentment?

I grew up in a beautiful area along the Pacific Coast of Southern California. I lived in an area of immense wealth, even though our family was not wealthy. We rented, while my friend's families owned their homes.

If I wanted what my friends had, I worked for it. I valued what I had even though it was much less than what my friends enjoyed.

I've lived overseas in SE Asia and seen the great disparity between the "haves and have-nots." It's a big gap. And yet, I've seen greater contentment and happiness among the poor than among the wealthy.

This isn't to say the poor don't long for a life of ease and wealth. They do. And yet, their lives are often filled with more peace and contentment than those they envy. It's ironic.

Scripture

Whoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. [vss 10-11]

Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep. I have seen real misery here on earth: Money saved is a curse to its owners. They lose it all in a bad deal and have nothing to give to their children. [vss 12-14]

People come into this world with nothing, and when they die they leave with nothing. In spite of all their hard work, they leave just as they came. This, too, is real misery: They leave just as they came. So what do they gain from chasing the wind? All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow, and they end up sick, defeated, and angry. [vss 15-17]

I have seen what is best for people here on earth. They should eat and drink and enjoy their work, because the life God has given them on earth is short. God gives some people the ability to enjoy the wealth and property he gives them, as well as the ability to accept their state in life and enjoy their work. They do not worry about how short life is, because God keeps them busy with what they love to do. [vss 18-20]

(Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 NCV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 5]

Key phrase—Those who work hard sleep in peace...But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep.

[bctt tweet="Those who work hard sleep in peace...But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scripture text above as you answer the following questions—

What are two or three specific things said about those who have and love wealth?

Who seems to enjoy rest and sleep more—those with much or those with little? Why?

What is the status of all people at birth and death? What is the pursuit of wealth likened to?

What seems to be the key to enjoying life regardless of their status in this life?

Reflection...

Americans enjoy a high standard of life, especially compared to much of the world. Even our poor, especially those on government assistance, enjoy a higher standard of living compared to most of the world's population.

And yet, with all we possess and have access to, some very simple things seem elusive. Americans spend millions, maybe billions, on supplements and drugs to help them sleep, calm their nerves, and lift their spirit.

Sleeplessness, anxiety and depression are plague-like conditions for millions. Why? As a nation, we seem unable to attain satisfaction or contentment. Perhaps we need to stop chasing after what we don't have, and enjoy what we do have, along with enjoying what we do in daily life.

As mentioned in Ecclesiastes, like a dog who chases its tail, we need to stop "chasing the wind."

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions—

What in particular causes you to lose sleep? Do you realize what causes you anxiety or worry?

When was the last time you had a good night sleep? Do you experience more inner peace or stress?

Have you ever gotten something you longed for only to be disappointed with it?

How do you escape or deal with the cares and desires of your life? Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way?

Why Do We Work So Hard?

Many of us chase the elusive carrot-on-a-stick. What we desire or want is just out of reach. We are motivated by discontent.

Once we're hooked by this motivation of discontent, it takes on subtle changes. There's the ubiquitous "Sale!" and BOGO lure. If I just spend a little more money, I can get so much more! After getting more, we need to rent a storage unit to warehouse all we have. We even shop at warehouse-type stores to get better deals on more things.

We put off vacations and personal leave, even sick days, to work a little harder, get more done, get a promotion, or gain greater status. But at what cost?

Scripture

Then I thought, “Why do people work so hard?” I saw people try to succeed and be better than other people. They do this because they are jealous. They don’t want other people to have more than they have. This is senseless. It is like trying to catch the wind. Some people say, “It is foolish to fold your hands and do nothing. If you don’t work, you will starve to death.” Maybe that is true. But I say it is better to be satisfied with the few things you have than to always be struggling to get more. [vss 4-6]

Again I saw something else that didn’t make sense: I saw a man who has no family, not a son or even a brother. But he continues to work very hard. He is never satisfied with what he has. And he works so hard that he never stops and asks himself, “Why am I working so hard? Why don’t I let myself enjoy my life?” This is also a very bad and senseless thing. [vss 7-8]

Two people are better than one. When two people work together, they get more work done. If one person falls, the other person can reach out to help. But those who are alone when they fall have no one to help them. If two people sleep together, they will be warm. But a person sleeping alone will not be warm. An enemy might be able to defeat one person, but two people can stand back-to-back to defend each other. And three people are even stronger. They are like a rope that has three parts wrapped together—it is very hard to break. [vss 9-12]

(Ecclesiastes 4:4-12 ERV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 4]

Key phrase— ...better to be satisfied with the few things you have than...struggling to get more

[bctt tweet="...better to be satisfied with the few things you have than...struggling to get more"]

Digging Deeper...

What seems to be the motivation for working so hard? What is this likened to?

What is stated as a better alternative than working and struggling to get more?

What question does the single person who works hard never seem to ask themselves?

In what ways are two people better than one? What do you think this is emphasizing?

Reflection...

When we are driven by ambition or jealousy, we'll never be satisfied or content. Greed and envy are terrible tyrants who will never be appeased.

(US) Americans, more than any other western people, are driven by insatiable appetites, and it's made us unhealthy. God established the Sabbath rest for a reason. We need caffeine and other drugs to keep us going, then we need other drugs to slow us down and sleep.

The carrot remains out of reach. Why? Life in many parts of the world revolves around people and events, not work. And, in general, it's a healthier, more content lifestyle.

When will we see the need to get off the treadmill or hamster wheel, to enjoy a simple and contented life?

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What motivates you in your life and work? Are you content with your work and life?

What place do people play in your life? Are relationships more of a priority to you than work? If not, why not?

What do you enjoy most in your life? Why?

Who is important in your life? How do these relationships benefit you in your daily life?

The Problem with Pleasure

We live like millionaires. I don't have a million dollars, nor am I expecting to any time soon. But compared to the majority of the world's population, the average American lives like a millionaire.

Fifty years ago, flight travel was uncommon for most Americans, not anymore. Looking back to the sixties, the average home was smaller than today, cars were bigger, gas was way cheaper, and salaries were a lot smaller.

Unless you've traveled to under-developed nations—what I call MOTROW—the idea that you live like a millionaire may seem hard to accept. But if you ask those who want to immigrate to the US, you might start to understand.

And yet, with all that we have and is available to get, we still want more. King Solomon, who was beyond wealthy and able to pursue as much pleasure as he wanted, realized the problem of pleasure.

Scripture

I thought to myself, “Now I want to experiment with pleasure and enjoy myself.” But even this was pointless. I thought, “Laughter doesn’t make any sense. What does pleasure accomplish?” I explored ways to make myself feel better by drinking wine. I also explored ways to do [some] foolish things. During all that time, wisdom continued to control my mind. I was able to determine whether this was good for mortals to do during their brief lives under heaven. [vss 1-3]

I accomplished some great things: I built houses for myself. I planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself. I planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I made pools to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves. In addition, slaves were born in my household. I owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.[vss 4-7]

I also gathered silver and gold for myself. I gathered the treasures of kings and provinces. I provided myself with male and female singers and the pleasures men have with one concubine after another. So I grew richer than anyone in Jerusalem before me. Yet, my wisdom remained with me.10 If something appealed to me, I did it. I allowed myself to have any pleasure I wanted, since I found pleasure in my work. This was my reward for all my hard work. [vss 8-10]

But when I turned to look at all that I had accomplished and all the hard work I had put into it, I saw that it was all pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. I gained nothing [from any of my accomplishments] under the sun. [vs 11]

(Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 2]

Key phrase— What does pleasure accomplish?

[bctt tweet="What does pleasure accomplish?"]

Digging Deeper...

What is the spokesman's (Eccl 1:1) intended pursuit? What was his conclusion afterwards?

What does Solomon say was a constant guide to him? How was it helpful?

What are the things Solomon did and what did he acquire in his pursuit of pleasure?

What was his (Solomon's) realization, and what helped him arrive at it?

Reflection...

Way too many of us fantasize what it would be like to be really rich and powerful. Do you think not? Look at who and what we venerate. Athletes and entertainers make outrageous amounts of money, and live at a level we can only imagine. CEO's receive huge salaries and bonuses, and act as if they deserve it, even when their companies lose money.

Even within the church, many pastors and leaders of ministries receive well-above-average salaries, while churches claim to build bigger and better buildings for the kingdom. This tells me we haven't learned from the wisest and wealthiest king of Israel. The problem of pleasure, and wealth, is that it's never enough.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you secretly (or not so secretly) wish you could win the lottery, or get rich some other way?

What are the things you find yourself daydreaming or fantasizing about?

Do you envy or resent people whose lives seem better than yours? Or, do you envy and resent them?

What do you think is key to being content with the life you already have?