Are You Angry?

anger

Are you angry?

Are You Angry?

Anger! Wrath! Mad! Irate! Anger is a common emotion but have we ever taken a serious look at it from God’s standpoint?

Almost at the beginning of history, the sons of Adam and Eve came to present an offering to the Lord. Cain brought an offering of fruit of the ground, whereas Abel brought an animal of his flock. Scripture says that The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but he didn’t for Cain and his offering (Genesis 4:3-4).

We can imagine why Cain would become angry about this. Apparently God had made known His desire that an animal sacrifice should be given, or perhaps something else was involved. As Scripture says, “By faith Abel offering to God a better sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4a).

Whatever the reason for God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and His displeasure with Cain’s offering, the record says that Cain reacted bitterly in this situation. Scripture says, “Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5b). God then spoke to Cain and asked, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (vv. 6-7).

Maybe Cain was angry because he was in competition with his brother, Abel. Perhaps he was angry because of envy, wishing that God had accepted his offering. And maybe he was angry because of jealousy—a fear of being rejected by God while his brother and his offering were accepted. Whatever the nature of this anger, Cain had no acceptable reason to be angry. He should have done right and been accepted by God. He should have loved his brother and should have been pleased with Abel’s acceptance by the Lord. Anger was unacceptable!

 

anger

Are You Angry?

The Common Sin of Anger!

Just as Cain became angry, with no good reason, likewise people after Cain’s time also manifested this deed of the flesh. This sin is aroused by many different circumstances in life. God’s Word offers many examples of it. We might think of Esau and Jacob. As you might recall, Jacob deceitfully received his father’s “blessing” that Isaac (his father) had intended for Esau. When Esau discovered the trickery, he surely was angry with his brother (cf. Genesis 27:35-38). “Esau lifted his voice and wept” (v. 38b). Thus, “Esau bore a grudge” against Jacob and planned to kill him after his father died (v. 41). His anger must have been traced to Jacob’s cheating him out of the blessing. Do we ever have such an anger, aroused by jealousy or resentment?

Then there was the case of Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul’s “anger burned against Jonathan” his son because the latter was loyal to David, the man of God (1 Samuel 20:30). Saul looked on David with jealousy since he knew that God favored this young shepherd boy. Do we allow jealousy against another person to create anger in our heart?

Naaman, the Syrian officer, contracted a dread disease and went south to Israel to be healed by Elisha the prophet of God. Elisha told Naaman to do something that seemed demeaning. It was beneath his dignity to wash in the muddy Jordan, especially since Damascus had far better rivers. But the prophet commanded him to wash in the Jordan. There was no other way.  Because of this, Naaman “turned and went away in a rage” (2 Kings 5:12b). Only when he was willing to overcome his pride and humble himself did God heal him.

We might also remember Nebuchadnezzar’s command for all people to worship the image devoted to himself, but the three friends of Daniel (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) refused to offer worship to anyone other than Yahweh God. The king immediately condemned these three young Hebrew men, for “in rage and anger” he gave orders to throw the men into a super-heated fire (3:13). “Filled with rage,” the king cast the young men into the fire, but thankfully, God rescued these young and strong Hebrew men. Apparently the king’s pride was behind his expression of anger against the Hebrews who refused to worship the king’s image. Do we allow pride to arouse anger in our hearts?

As we come to the New Testament, we remember that Jesus spoke to the synagogue gathering in Nazareth, stating that God was quite willing to bless Gentiles. This was too much for the Jewish crowd before him. “All the people in the synagogue were filled with rage” as they heard the Lord Jesus proclaiming  God’s kindness to the Gentiles (Luke 4:28). They couldn’t accept the fact that God would show favor on their enemies. Do we have a spirit of pride or envy or jealousy that cultivates an angry spirit in our heart?

Consider one more example. Stephen denounced the Jewish people when he spoke in Jerusalem, but these men of the Jewish Council opposed his strong condemnation to the people. Were these leaders willing to listen to Stephen, humble themselves, and recognize God’s willingness to accept anyone who would repent? No, they were filled with rage, bitterness, and even murder (cf. Acts 7:54ff). Anger often leads to other sins!

Do You Express Anger?

Since the sin of anger is so common, have you been willing to look at your own life and ask whether this emotion has ever overtaken you? The wise person will surely take a long look at himself or herself to determine whether sin is found in one’s life.

Try to answer these questions:

  • Do you become angry when someone speaks against you?
  • Do you become angry when a person offends you by his speech or actions?
  • Do you become angry when you don’t get your way?
  • Do you become angry when your plans are frustrated?
  • Do you become angry at yourself when you are unable to live up to your expectations?
  • Do you become angry when you look at others and envy them of their station in life?
  • Do you become angry when you feel jealousy over someone’s efforts to take your place?
  • Do you become angry when someone turns away from you and leaves you alone?
  • Do you become angry when you don’t earn as much as you had planned and would like?
  • Do you become angry when you feel like life has left you behind?
  • Do you become angry when you can’t achieve like others can or have something that you would like?
  • Do you become angry when someone cuts you off in traffic?
  • Do you become angry when your spouse is rude, disrespectful, unkind, or unloving?
  • Do you become angry when your children don’t behave as you would wish?

Maybe by answering questions like these you can see that anger does fill your heart. Remember that “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). It is important that you identify such a sin in your life for if you can’t see it, you won’t be able to correct it.

 

anger

Are You Angry?

One Sin Leads to Another!

In our everyday life, we know that one problem often leads to another. If we fail to pay our mortgage bill, we may find ourselves losing our house! This is the way it works with sin. Scripture speaks of “the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13) and “the sin which so easily entangles us” (12:1). When we fail to overcome the power of anger, we may find our hearts, our character, our life contaminated by other sins. As Scripture puts it, “a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).

If you become unjustifiably angry, you may be led into the sin of bitterness (Ephesians 4:31; Hebrews 12:15). Anger often results in words spoken in anger, such as clamor or slander (Ephesians 4:31), or “abusive speech” from your mouth (Colossians 3:8). Anger may result in marital discord (Proverbs 21:19) and strife (Proverbs 29:22; cf. 30:33b). One who is angry may be “fierce” and “cruel” (Genesis 49:7; cf. Proverbs 27:4a).

You have seen this worked out in a practical way—either in your own life or that of another. When you are angry, you may do many foolish—and sinful—actions. You may lie about something, speak evil of someone, or try to “get even” with someone. You may drive too fast or recklessly, you may hurtfully respond to your wife or husband, and you may discipline your children unjustly. You may even take it out on your dog or cat! You may destroy a tool, harm the wall of your house, misuse your time on the job, play the wrong kind of music and play it too loudly. Anger may easily drive you to dangerous and unlawful drugs or it may result in drunkenness.

In a thousand ways, anger may be associated with many other sins. This shows that we must deal with the “root” problem of anger along with the other sins. When you are led to repent of the one sin, you should also repent of the other ones. When you confess the sin of anger to your wife or husband, your son or daughter, your father or mother, your working associates, or your neighbors, that is the time to also confess your other sins—of speech, of relationship, and of action. Confessing your anger and other sins is high priority in your life—and you should do so immediately (cf. Matthew 5:23-26).

God’s Condemnation of an Angry Disposition

One person pointed out that some people are on the “muddy road” to hell since many would say that sins like murder, fornication, adultery, or blasphemy indeed deserve God’s judgment. On the other hand, the person also pointed out that there is the “paved road” to hell, with sins that are more acceptable by society, such as lust, greed, envy, and anger. In reality, all sin leads to death! “When sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:15). This includes the sin of anger!

Notice a few scriptures dealing with how we are to look at the sin of anger. Jesus said, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (Matthew 5:22a). Apparently someone thought this teaching of the Lord was too rigorous, thus we find in the KJV the rendering, “angry with his brother without a cause.” It may have been “added by copyists in order to soften the rigor of the precept” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 13). The precept is rigorous—we must not exercise unrighteous anger at all. Most people would say that they have a “cause” to be angry—but do they?

Notice another statement in Scripture: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27). While anger is sometimes justified (notice later), it is generally sinful—“do not sin.” The devil uses this as an opportunity to reach us and lead us to sinful attitudes and actions. It is important to recognize that anger often does result in additional sins!

In the same chapter, Paul admonishes us: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (v. 31). Here sins of the spirit and mouth are combined and must be eliminated from our life. What is the difference between “wrath” and “anger”? “Wrath” is from the Greek thymos or thumos and mans “anger, rage, fury.” “Anger” is from orge and signifies “anger, wrath” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary). Notice this distinction:

Thumos, “wrath” (not translated “anger”), is to be distinguished from orge, in this respect, that thumos indicates a more agitated condition of the feelings, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation, while orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition or mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge. Orge is less sudden in its rise than thumos, but more lasting in its nature. Thumos expresses more the inward feeling, orge the more active emotion. Thumos may issue in revenge, though it does not necessarily include it. It is characteristic that it quickly blazes up and quickly subsides, though that is not necessarily implied in each case. (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary).

We must pay particular attention to our prayer life. Paul writes, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (1 Timothy 2:8). Wrath and anger do pollute the mind and make us unfit for prayer to God. Have you ever tried to engage in prayer while you were angry, bitter, or resentful against another person? Repent of the anger and then go back to prayer.

James also warns against anger: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). If we seek to experience the righteousness of God, let’s avoid anger and an angry disposition! Don’t make excuses for it but just repent of it and change your attitude to one of love.

Since anger is so pervasive and extensive, we must do all within our power to avoid it and overcome it. One proverb is especially pertinent here: “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (Proverbs 22:24-25). This says that we should not have close fellowship with angry or hot-tempered people. Why? Because their anger will have an influence on us. We will tend to become angry ourselves!

 

anger

Are You Angry?

The Tragic Result of Anger

It is one thing to point out instances of anger in the Scriptures, but let’s ask how serious this sin is. Somehow, most people don’t know (or refuse to face) the utter seriousness of all sin. Paul declares, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). We also read that “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Even in Isaiah 59:2a we read, “Your iniquities [lawless deeds] have made a separation between you and your God.” Those who die in their sins face a God of judgment and wrath, and will forever be cast into the lake of fire or hell (Revelation 21:8). So whether we speak of spiritual death, separation from God, the fires of hell, or God’s judgment, all unrepentant, unforgiven sin is utterly serious!

More specifically, let’s talk about anger. Someone may say that sin in general will send a person to hell, but anger is just a “little” sin and should not be judged too harshly. Is this the way God looks at this? Paul wrote to the Corinthians and spoke of their “angry tempers” that would condemn them (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). Yet we somehow “sweep” anger and angry tempers “under the proverbial rug”! God says that it is a matter of deep concern.

Consider also Galatians 5:19-21, where the apostle says that “outbursts of anger” is a sin that will keep a person out of the kingdom of God. Surely this is referring to anger that is not repented of and forsaken. Any sin may be forgiven if we are willing to humble ourselves and repent of it. But if we refuse to do this, God says that we will not be able to inherit God’s wonderful kingdom!

In another place Paul said that anger, wrath, and abusive speech from the mouth are sins that must be laid aside or forsaken. Why? He answers: “The wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:5-8). If we persist in our sinful spirit, attitude, and lifestyle, we must face the wrath or anger of God in judgment.

If we wish to enter the kingdom of God, let’s avoid the works or deeds of the flesh, including “outbursts of anger”! Let’s not be like the Corinthians who fell into sin, including “angry tempers”! Let’s lay aside anger for this is one of the sins that will bring God’s coming judgment. If we wish to experience God’s righteousness, let’s avoid anger! Don’t make excuses for this or think that just because others manifest this sin, God will overlook it.

 

anger

Are You Angry?

Is Anger Ever Justified?

With all of the examples and warnings against anger in Scripture, we must inquire whether anger is ever permissible or even demanded.  Sometimes people justify their anger by calling it “righteous anger” or “righteous indignation,” and we must admit that sometimes anger may be characterized in this way, but it is rare.

One example of anger used in a positive way would be Christ’s visit to the synagogue and His desire to heal a man with a withered hand. He knew that some of the Jewish leaders were present and wanted to accuse Him of healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-2). Jesus, of course, wanted to heal the lame man, but the Pharisees objected to His expression of compassion. In this context, Mark tells us, “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart,” He went ahead and healed the poor man anyway. The point we wish to notice here is that Jesus our Lord was “angry” and grieved about the Pharisees’ lack of compassion. It is permissible and right to become angry if this is directed against a clear expression of sin—or a violation of the principle of love (which Jesus said is the greatest of all commands). Thus this is a clear example of anger being the right response to a sinful situation.

Another instance would be when Jesus went to the temple at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:12ff). During a Passover in Jerusalem, the Lord “found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business’” (vv.14-16). Although the record doesn’t say that Jesus was angry, the description strongly suggests that his anger was displayed in this “cleansing of the temple.” Here is another case of Christ responding to a sinful situation with a rightful or “righteous” anger.

A similar incident happened at the end of Christ’s ministry and just before His death in Jerusalem. (John mentions the cleansing at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry, whereas the Synoptics mention another cleansing at the conclusion of His ministry.) Once again, the Lord drove out those who were making the temple into “a robbers’ den” instead of “a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:12-13; cf. Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). Although anger is not specifically mentioned, our Lord must have had a degree of anger over these greedy Jews who insisted on their own business instead of promoting worship in the temple for others, particularly the Gentiles.

The life of Paul also provides several incidents of anger in the face of outright sin and idolatry. The apostle openly opposed Elymas the magician on the island of Cyprus when the latter sought to turn the proconsul away from the faith that Paul was preaching (cf. Acts 13:4-12). Perhaps another incident displays the holy anger that Paul manifested. In Philippi, a slave-girl with a spirit of divination disturbed Paul and his preaching. The text says that Paul was “greatly annoyed” and cast the demon out of the girl (16:16-18). Was the apostle angry at this time? The evidence says that he was—but it was a “righteous” anger.

When Paul arrived in Athens, he discovered something that must have aroused his holy anger. The record says that while Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy to arrive, “his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16). The apostle was angry because of the wicked idolatry that filled this great learning center. It was an affront to the living God who created all things! Do we respond to false worship in the same way?

Later, in the city of Corinth, the text says that the Jews opposed him and his message. We read, “When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’” (18:5-6). Here we see that anger may be justified when someone openly opposes the blessed good news of Christ.

These and similar incidents lead us to conclude that not all anger is wrong. Some anger is right and should be expected, even demanded. Whereas the forbidden anger is coupled with such sins and motivations as selfishness, greed, impatience, bad language, and willfulness, this proper and right anger is a manifestation of a holy desire to glorify God, defend His cause, and oppose all sin that conflicts with the way of God. We should promote holy anger while repenting of all expressions of selfish anger. Since most anger is sinful, we must be very, very careful with any anger that might arise in our heart!

The Anger of God

We know that the Lord God, our Creator, is perfect in every way. He is the basis of holiness and righteousness, and whatever violates this holiness and righteousness is sinful. Jesus Christ is also sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). In regard to anger, we are assured that neither God nor the Lord Jesus ever committed sinful anger! On the other hand, we have found that the Lord did manifest a holy anger on occasion.

Further, we also read of “the wrath of God” (Romans 1:18), and this is a basic attribute of God’s holy character! There will be “a day of wrath” and “revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (2:5). It is only right that our Holy God respond to sin with a righteous anger.

A Righteous and Holy Anger!

Similar to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, we also should refuse to manifest a sinful or selfish anger, but we should cultivate a holy and righteous anger! We must distinguish between the two.

Let me ask you several questions to determine whether you have a holy anger as you should have:

  • Are you angry over the selfish and heartless murder of unborn babies in America and the world?
  • Are you angry over the widespread fornication or sex before marriage found in our society?
  • Are you angry about adultery within marriage or adultery committed after marriage through divorce and remarriage?
  • Are you angry over the sexual perversion of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transexualism?
  • Are you angry over the heartlessness and carelessness that most parents have for their children?
  • Are you angry over parents who feed their children junk food rather than good, nutritious, healthy food?
  • Are you angry over the dishonesty found on the job?
  • Are you angry over the sinful jobs that people will take in their grasp for more money?
  • Are you angry over the women who promote a feminist agenda and lifestyle?
  • Are you angry over the selfish and carnal attitudes that would promote drug use or abuse?
  • Are you angry about the drunkenness manifested by millions?
  • Are you angry over the immodest clothing that men and women will wear in public, displaying their bodies for others to see?
  • Are you angry over the selfishness or self-centeredness manifested by so many people?
  • Are you angry over the crude, sexual, demeaning speech of millions and over the unholy language that is common in our society?
  • Are you angry over the lies that the majority of people tell in their daily life?
  • Are you angry over the world religions that pervert the truth of God and His Word?
  • Are you angry over people who profess to be Christians but who greatly distort the ways of Christ?

These are only a few of the questions that should reveal whether we have this holy and righteous anger that is an expression of our own identification with our holy God. We should be angry over the sins in society—and the sin in our own heart and life! On the other hand, remember that most expressions of anger are carnal and sinful. The former should be promoted, whereas the latter must be repented of and forsaken! “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).

What about you? I encourage you to repent of all selfish and sinful anger. Turn away from this deed of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and begin to live a life of holiness, purity, and love (Galatians 5:22-23). This is the way to the Kingdom of God!

Richard Hollerman

 

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