The Bitter Life

“If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don’t brag about being wise. That is the worst kind of lie.”   —  James 3:14

Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and both men spent their entire days keeping track of each other’s business. If one shopkeeper got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival.

One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask for, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Do you want to be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as rich. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?”

The man frowned, thought for a moment, then said, “Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!”

Bitterness truly is the most relentless enemy we can face. When it takes root in a man’s heart, it creates a life of its own. It has an insatiable appetite. It takes over a man’s thinking and his heart, hardening it to everything good in life. It takes over his decision making so that his desire to inflict pain and revenge orchestrates his entire life.

The apostle James tells us that jealousy, selfishness, and bitterness are from the devil and are therefore destructive to our lives, even our very souls. In short, bitterness can ruin an otherwise focused, productive life.

But the good news is that none of us has to allow bitterness to define our lives. Instead of living in bitterness, we can choose to “live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth” (James 3:13).

Bitterness or steady goodness? Which of these do you want to define your life?

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