Lesson 4 - Overcoming Resentment

Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.


Because we still live on earth and are not in heaven yet, it is inevitable that someone will “rub us the wrong way” or say something to offend us, either intentionally or unintentionally. Definitely, there are times when our feelings are hurt by others. We may feel angry or sad, or maybe both. But if we allow our indignation to linger in our hearts, it will eventually turn into resentment. Resentment is a foothold for the devil in our hearts. The devil uses resentment to drive a wedge between relationships in the family or church. Because of resentment, small issues become bigger ones. Because of resentment, people will show bias or do other things to poison relationships. Eventually, resentment will turn into bitterness, which is the topic of another lesson.

The Bible teaches us to overcome resentment through reconciliation or by not being offended in the first place. We should also learn the causes of resentment so we can avoid resentment in ourselves and others.

Causes of Resentment

1. Uncontrolled tongue

Too often, people say overly harsh, sarcastic, or unkind words that hurt others’ feelings and cause resentment. We might say the right thing, but at the wrong time. We might speak the truth, but with condemnation instead of love. Or, we might just be really angry and say something to hurt the other person. The Apostle James says the tongue is a powerful instrument that can be used for godly or destructive purposes.

James 3:2-10, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be."

What we say with our mouths is very important. Words have power. We should speak godly words and encourage one another. We should aim to build people up, not tear them down. James also gives some important ground-rules for Christian speech: Be quick to listen, slow to speak. Don’t simply shoot back with harsh words!

First, listen carefully. Take time to think about the situation. Then, think about what you are going to say and control your speech. Don’t let your words flow out without any control whatsoever. If we control our tongues, we will prevent resentment in others.

2. Unforgiving attitude

Another cause of resentment is an unforgiving attitude. Unfortunately, it is all-too-natural for us to have an unforgiving attitude because our personal dignity demands justice. In our eyes, the other person is certainly wrong and should compensate for our hurt feelings.

Justice is certainly a good thing. We want our government to be just. In the courtroom, we expect the innocent to be set free and the criminal to be punished. But before we demand justice from others, we must first think of the forgiveness we have received from God. When God sent His son Jesus, He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. He did not judge us, but showed us mercy and forgiveness. In the same way, when we relate to others, we should not keep track of every small offense, but have a forgiving attitude.

If we insist on justice from people who offend us, how can we expect to be forgiven by God? Jesus illustrated this point in a parable where a master forgave his servant’s very large debt. But after the servant left his master, he met another servant who owed him a small sum. Instead of forgiving his fellow servant, the first servant demanded justice and had the other man thrown in jail. When the master found out about this, he punished the first servant harshly. Jesus told this parable to remind us we are all forgiven servants—how can we withhold mercy from others when God has forgiven us so much? Jesus said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” This is a very difficult teaching to practice, but it is at the core of Christianity.

Matthew 18:32-35, “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said. ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.’

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brothers from your heart.”

3. Insensitivity to other people’s feelings

Many times, we are unaware of the hurt we cause other people. Small offenses will eventually pile up and create resentment not because of the offenses themselves, but simply because of our insensitivity. In these situations, the person who is offended may not be able to pinpoint a specific action that makes them resentful, and we also may not think too much about it because we haven’t done anything too terrible. However, insensitivity to others’ feelings is a major issue. We should think about how other people feel and try to minimize hurt. Sometimes even small positive actions on our part can count for a lot. For example, if someone cannot attend a regular activity because of their work schedule, we should still make them feel welcomed by sending invitations. Otherwise, that person’s feeling of “missing out” may only grow.

Oftentimes, we are most insensitive to the feelings of those closest to us. For example, we may raise our voice with family members when we wouldn’t do that to someone outside the family. In a way, this is because we are comfortable with our family and ease up on social etiquette. But we should not take our loved ones’ feelings for granted, even in small things.

In terms of Christian ministry, we should remember that we are Jesus’ ambassadors to the world. Because many times people only know Jesus through us, we should make every effort to represent Jesus correctly. Paul tried his best not to put himself in the way of people knowing God. He didn’t want to be a “stumbling block” that prevented people from growing spiritually.

Romans 14:13, "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or
obstacle in your brother’s way."

Overcoming Resentment

1. Love

The only way to overcome resentment is to love those who offend us. If we can’t love people who do wrong to us, then it will be impossible to truly overcome resentment. Jesus commands us to love those who offend us.

Matthew 6:43-48, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

You may be thinking, “This is impossible!” Well, you are right. It is impossible if we try to love our enemies with a human love. But Jesus is not talking about a human love. He specifically says we are not to love others simply in the human way, which is to love those who love us in return. Instead, Jesus asks us to love people God’s way. God loved us even though we were sinners. He did not ignore our sin, but demonstrated His love for us by dying for us on the cross. This is what it means to love our enemies with God’s love: we should seek to bless them even though they may harm us.

This type of selfless love sounds crazy, but it is entirely possible. Each Christian has the potential to love others unconditionally. First, we have to realize this love does not come from our own sinful nature. Our sinful nature tells us to “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” God’s love cannot come from us it can only come from … God! We need to allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts so that we can love people with a perfect love. When we have God’s love, we will not be easily angered. And even if we are angered, then God’s love will help us forgive our enemies without keeping a “record of wrongs.” When we have God’s love, we will want to restore the relationship. To find a definition of God’s love, look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres … Love never fails."

The bottom line is that “Love never fails.” Love is the foundation by which we overcome resentment.

2. Understanding who we are in Christ

The way we view ourselves determines how we respond to offenses, and also keeps us from committing offenses against others. It shouldn’t matter that other people do not appreciate us or treat us with disrespect, because our self-worth does not depend on those people. We are servants who answer to one Master.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God."

What Paul was saying here was that he only looked to God for approval. He did not feel pressured to conform to human expectations—not even his own. Rather, he desired to know and obey God’s will. In Christian ministry, we may often feel the pressure to live up to expectations, but it’s important to take this lesson from Paul and remember God is our Master.

Romans 14:4, "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

But God is not only our Master, but also our loving Creator who cares for us individually. When we remember that God made us and loves us dearly, we will not depend on the acceptance or right treatment from others. Whenever we feel hurt by others, we should not sulk and feel bad, but come close to God and let Him reassure us. Recently, while watching my daughter sleeping, I realized God loves us so tremendously. I determined to always reassure her of my love and tell her that she was precious in my eyes no matter what. God loves and cares for us in the same way, but infinitely more. When you are hurt, allow Him to comfort and strengthen you.

1 John 3:1, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

When you have the right understanding of who you are in Christ, you will not be overly sensitive to hurts because your self-worth comes from God, not from people.

3. Reconciliation

Finally, the Bible says we ought to be reconciled to one another. Sometimes when someone offends us, we simply avoid that person in order to not stir up our own negative emotions—this is not reconciliation. Because we resent that person, we feel uncomfortable around them and begin to show bias. If unchecked, this type of resentment is deadly to the church because it destroys relationships between people and also hinders our relationship with God.

What does mean to reconcile with someone? It means that we “make it up” with someone, letting go of our mutual grievances. The Greek word used in Matthew 5:24 is Diallasso, which is different from the reconciliation between people and God through Jesus Christ (Katallasso). The first word means each side conceding something in order to make peace, but the second word goes further, denoting a change from hostility to friendship. In any case, in Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says that we should make every effort to resolve differences between ourselves and people who either have offended us or have been offended by us.

Jesus says the best way to reconcile with someone who offends you is to confront them personally, with the intent of restoring the relationship. If the other person is a fellow believer in the church, then we should also follow the steps Jesus lays out for fully resolving the situation.

Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

The key for us now is to determine to win our relationship back. After we have forgiven the person from our heart, we need to go to that person and try our best to patch up the crack in our relationship. Remember, Satan is looking for any way to break up the relationship between you and the other person because he knows it will also hinder your relationship with God. Don’t allow the devil to drive a wedge further.

Ephesians 4:26-27, "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Sometimes the other party is unwilling to reconcile. That’s unfortunate, but if God cannot control people’s stubborn will, then we certainly should not expect to. Our responsibility is to forgive, love, and not resent. In fact, we ought to deal with our enemy God’s way: by blessing them. Paul writes in Romans 12 that we should make every effort to live in peace, but that we should also go further and overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Paul writes that we ought to bless our enemies. When we repay evil with good, it will produce a powerful effect, like heaping burning coals on that person’s head. Our goal in doing this is not to prove we are better than them, but to demonstrate the powerful love of God through our actions. When we have been touched with God’s love, we are brought to repentance. Paul says we can expect a similar response when we demonstrate God’s love to those who offend us. In the end, our goal should always be reconciliation.


This lesson is mainly about preserving and restoring relationships. Resentment is the bad seed that eventually will grow up to destroy our relationships. We need to watch out for causing resentment in others, as well as watch out for resentment in our own hearts.

You are a new creation the old has gone, the new has come! You have been reborn spiritually. God has given you power to overcome strongholds in your life, including resentment. You are not a slave to the sinful nature any longer, but have been set free to do the perfect will of God. Therefore, you should have faith you can overcome resentment through the methods discussed in this lesson.

Discussion Questions

1. How do you plan to control your tongue?
2. Does Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant describe you? How do you plan to respond to offenses in the future?
3. Can you think of any actions that might be a “stumbling block” to others?
4. Can you love those who have offended you? Do you keep a record of wrongs?
5. Do you feel you are God’s special child?
6. Why do you think Jesus told people to reconcile?