Ephesians 4:24-27 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. (26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (27) Neither give place to the devil.
Ephesians 4 deals with the new nature and the new walk of the believer. We are to “put off” the old nature and “put on the new man.” Part of this change is that the Christian is to speak truth (vs. 25). Lying in any of its forms should not be a part of the Christian life. Truth is right, and lying is wrong. This is clear cut. Then, Paul tells us to “be ye angry, and sin not.” This tells me that there is an anger that is attached to the old nature (sinful), and an anger that is attached to the new nature (not sinful). However, many professing Christians do not seem to know the difference between the two. In fact, I have heard some (including, I’m ashamed to say, some preachers) justify their sinful, harmful, wrathful anger by comparing themselves to the Lord Jesus, John the Baptist, or the Old Testament prophets. More on that in a minute.
In 1 Samuel is a great illustration of anger and sinful anger:
1 Samuel 20:30-34 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?… (32) And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? (33) And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him… (34) So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.
Saul and Jonathan were both very angry – but only Saul’s anger was sinful. Saul’s anger caught on fire and raged out of control, burning those closest to him. His anger was rooted in his own selfishness, jealousy towards David, and insecurity, and exploded forth in harsh words, insults, and violence. His anger was without any righteous basis – David and Jonathan had caused him no harm except inadvertently through his ego. They were loyal subjects – his own son and son-in-law!
Sinful anger is usually accompanied by wrathful outbursts. Saul insulted his son and his own wife in his anger. He called Jonathan’s mother a terrible and shameful name. When someone starts calling others names to vent their wrath, they are exhibiting sinful anger. I have heard (or read) angry people do all that they could to tear down another through their words – insulting their character, questioning their eternal destiny (even declaring that the object of their wrath probably is not even saved), insinuating things about the condition of their hearts, and implicating them in things that they have never been a part of.
This kind of anger often produces more verbal abuse than physical abuse. Physical abuse leaves bruised bodies – verbal abuse leaves bruised souls. The most horrible things are said as the kindled fire anger spreads to the tongue. The things people say when they are angry! Angels must hide their faces – and surely the Holy Spirit within is grieved by such vicious verbal barrages against people who, 99 times out of 100, did not even do us any real harm. Only Satan could enjoy it.
Saul’s sinful anger affected his judgment. Later, he might have regretted it. People who throw temper tantrums often cannot believe that they said and did the things that they did in their anger. One husband was advised to record or video tape his wife’s outbursts and to let her see herself in her angry glory. I don’t know if he ever did – but if she had seen herself, it might have changed her behavior!
Saul’s sinful anger then lashed out in violence, hurling a spear at his own son. Can you picture this javelin quivering in the wall inches away from the heart of Jonathan? Yes, some can – because they have been on the violent receiving end of sinful anger when fists or objects began flying. God help the wife or child (or even the husband, for once I knew a man whose wife had choked him unconscious) who is subjected to such sinful anger.
Saul’s anger was not justifiable. He could not say, as some do after their tantrums, “Jesus called Pharisees serpents, and so I can call my wife a perverse rebellious woman. John the Baptist called them vipers, so I can insult my son by implying he had an illegitimate birth. Jesus chased the priests from the temple with a scourge, so I can throw a javelin in my anger.” Such words would be well-nigh blasphemous when connected with Jesus. Jesus was meek and lowly in heart, and those who love to talk about the cleansing of the Temple should read about another incident in Luke 9:52-56.
Jonathan was angry – but his anger was not sinful. His anger was “fierce,” but it was not sinful. His anger was justified. His father was playing the fool, and his mother and best friend had been unjustly insulted. However, instead of responding to cursing with cursing, or spear for spear, he simply left the table. He did not break his relationship with his father. He did not rebel. He did not even hold a grudge.
- When you are soon angry. This man “flies off the handle.” He explodes! (Prov 14:17) “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.”
- When you are always angry. (Prov 22:24) “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:”
- When your anger stirs up strife and sin. (Prov 29:22) “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.”
- When your anger is hasty, or not based on all the facts. (Eccl 7:9) “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”
- When you are angry at God. This is ALWAYS sinful. (Jonah 4:1) “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.”
- When you are angry without a cause (he has done you no HARM; hurt egos don’t count) and this anger leads to harsh character judgments or hurtful name calling. (Mat 5:22) “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
- When anger rests in the heart for long periods of time (more than one day). (Eccl 7:9) “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”
Dealing with anger is part of the new life in Christ. It is unfortunate that many would rather pervert scripture to justify their angry outbursts instead of bringing their behavior into conformity to their Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit can help us to overcome our anger management issues but not until we acknowledge our errors and lean upon His strength to overcome.
Thank you for reading this lengthy post. God bless.