A phrase caught my attention at church this Sunday. Pastor Matt Arden was preaching Acts 8. Peter tells Simon the Sorceror, who wants to “buy” the power to dispense the Holy Spirit, that he is “in the gall of bitterness” (χολὴν πικρίας). I looked up “gall.”
Gall: Yellowish-brown bitter secretion of the liver.
Χολὴν πικρίας is metaphorical, referring to a poisonous, corrosive bitterness but I can’t help but think of how bitterness works in my own life in a literal biological way.
In my worst moments I fall into an ugly mode of stewing on “what ain’t right” and see myself as a victim. I get jealous and fearful. It creates stomach acid that bubbles up and leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Χολὴν πικρίας!
However the metaphor is intended, it’s clear that bitterness is poison. It is caused by blindness to the grace of God which in the rest of Acts 8 is poured out freely, as a gift, never “bought” as Simon proposes.
I’ll take the rivers of living water to the gall of bitterness any day!
John 7:38 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος.
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ”