“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.” Psalm 37:8 (NLT)
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-temperated exalts folly.” Proverbs 14:29 (NASB)
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (ESV)
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)
WHAT GOOD PURPOSE DOES ANGER SERVE? The Bible is filled with admonition against human anger, while it promotes God’s righteous wrath.
So, what’s the difference? Why is it okay for Almighty God to be angry, but not us? Perhaps the key is not who is getting angry but why the person is angry.
Let’s take a look at God’s anger.
Theologian J.I. Packer says that God’s anger, as described in His Word, “is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing” that often marks human anger but “a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.”
God hates human sin. He gave us His commandments to steer us in the right direction. The first four tell us to love and honor God; the remainder tell us to love and honor one another. He gets angry — and rightly so — when we fail to do that.
Pastor Paul David Tripp notes that God is angry when man rebels against God’s laws, whereas humans become angry when someone violates our personal laws. “You cut me off in the parking lot”; “You’re late, and I’ve been waiting for a half hour:” “Turn that TV down. I can’t hear myself think.” The list, unfortunately, goes on.
THE GOSPELS GIVE AN ACCOUNT of Jesus clearing out the moneychangers in the Temple courtyard and overturning their tables. Quoting from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, he convicted them of turning God’s “house of prayer” into “a den of robbers.”
Moreover, the commerce was being conducted in that part of the Temple reserved for Gentiles to meet in prayer, so Jesus was outraged that His outreach to non-Jews was being shortchanged.
That’s righteous anger. That’s pointing out human sin; to name just three—greed, selfishness, and bigotry—and to condemn it as interfering with His plan for salvation.
How does that compare with our list? What were you angry about yesterday, or last week, or just this morning? Did someone, in your opinion, interfere with God’s plan to redeem repentant sinners — or did someone step on your foot?
We’re going to react in anger or irritation or pique to a lot of things that happen, even when no one means any harm to us. It’s how we react to our reaction that God is speaking to. How do we decide to respond to our feelings?
GOD GIVES US SOME GOOD ADVICE on how we should respond.
We can start with 1 Corinthians 13. In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he wrote some of the most beautiful language — inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit; that is, God Himself — on the subject.
Paul tells us that Chapter 13 would be really important, because he introduces his chapter with these words: “But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31-1Corinthians 13:1 NIV).
Then he launches into a chapter on love that defines this oft desired but elusive trait as “patient” and “kind”; that love does not envy or boast, is not rude or self-seeking; that it does not take delight in falsehood and evil. Also, this: “It is not easily angered” (v. 5).
So, God is telling us that His anger is based on righteousness, but our anger is based on a whole host of traits that have nothing to do with love.
THE BIBLE LISTS SO MANY warnings against human anger, far more than can be listed here, but we can close with a few items to encourage us:
- A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 NASB)
- But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. (Col. 3:8 BSB)
- The LORD is slow to anger but great in power. Nahum 1:3 (NIV)
- The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalms 145:8 ESV)
- Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19 NET)
- Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9 (HCSB)
PRAYER: O gracious and loving Father. We are so unworthy to come before You in prayer except for Your gift of access through Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Lord and Savior. We confess our sin to You. Too often, we are arrogant and prideful, and we defend our kingdoms against all insult at the cost of poorer health, broken relationships, lost opportunities, and — at times — broken laws. Forgive us, O Lord, and pour Your love and healing into our hearts that we might be slow to anger and quick to forgive. AMEN
On a personal note about Bible verses quoted in this blog. Readers have noticed “strange letters” after some quotations, like NET or CEV or BSB. The author believes the teaching mode includes learning from the vast array of translations available to us. Having said that, readers are invited to offer their opinions, either in favor or opposed. The author’s preferred translation is the NLT.