Have you ever been compelled to act because of your anger? Perhaps you saw something wrong taking place and it was your anger that caused you to take a stand. Or, perhaps someone attempted to argue with you over a key Biblical idea and anger gave you the fervor that you needed to really combat their arguments.
Indeed, anger motivates. Yet this motivation can be incredibly dangerous. While it may help us in the beginning, our attitude can suddenly take a turn that we don’t expect or that undermines exactly what we are trying to do. Just consider the way that the book of Proverbs approaches anger:
“A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).
When anger takes over reasonable judgment, the result is foolishness. Proverbs doesn’t qualify this at all — perhaps because it doesn’t need to be qualified. Regardless of the initial cause, when we give in to our temper, even if we are attempting to stand up for something noble, we bring foolishness into the situation. Truly, who really thinks that their decisions are better when they are angry? Thus, the next chapter goes on to describe the effect anger has on relationships — something that all of us have likely experienced:
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18).
Isn’t this exactly what we have seen with Cain and Esau? When we are mad, we stir up strife! In other words, we make the situation worse by creating disunity and further conflict! This is more sin! But isn’t that clearly obvious? What happens when we are angry? We yell, we argue, we accuse — we don’t encourage, we aren’t patient, and we aren’t loving! But, anger is tricky, it convinces us that we have to be angry in order to accomplish things and to stand up for God’s way. Yet, that doesn’t appear to be how God sees it. He doesn’t want angry peoplebecause those who give in to anger simply create more sin. As a result, Proverbs characterizes angry people as sinful people!
“Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction” (Proverbs 17:19).
Just put that together with the last verse — those who give in to their temper are those who stir up strife. And, those who stir up strife are those who love transgression! When we give in to our anger, we are giving in to our sin! And, when we become the kind of person who is angry all of the time or who enjoys being angry (because sometimes we just want to be mad or because that’s how anything is going to get done around here!), we become the kind of person who is full of sin or enjoying it!
“A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
So far, Scripture has been fairly straightforward. Anger is associated with the first murder. Proverbs clearly connects it with sin.
And yet, why then do we tend to think that anger can sometimes be a good thing? Instead of accomplishing things through anger, can’t we simply accomplish the same with love? Isn’t that what is truly meant to be our motivation? The love of Jesus constrains us to live for him, not the anger of Jesus.
But, that does create another question: the anger of Jesus is definitely something that occurs in Scripture, so if anger is such a terrible thing, then why did Jesus get angry? And why did God become angry?
We will adress these issues next time, God willing.
— Jason Hensley