QUESTION: "WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT ANGER?
Study References: Ephesians 4:26-27, James 1:19-20, Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 22:24.
Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure or antagonism. Anger often leads to forceful, even violent, action directed at the source of real or perceived harm. Or it can be manifested in words—often strong ones!
We are living in an angry world! Incidents of "terrorism” make the news, Fans have been known to riot and destroy property when their favorite sports teams lose—and sometimes, even when they win! Far too often spouses batter their mates, and parents even abuse children in fits of rage.
Christian counselors report that 50 percent of people who come in for counseling have problems dealing with anger. Anger can shatter communication and tear apart relationships, and it ruins both the joy and health of many. Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. Everyone struggles, to varying degrees, with anger. Thankfully, God’s Word contains principles regarding how to handle anger in a godly manner, and how to overcome sinful anger.
Anger is an emotion that has been present since the beginning of humanity. The Bible reveals that the first human ever born (Cain) became so angry at God and his brother (Abel) that he killed his brother (Genesis 4:4-8). Anger has been with people from the start.
Anger is not always a sin. There is a type of anger of which the Bible approves, often called “righteous indignation.” God expresses righteous anger (Psalm 7:11; Mark 3:5, Hebrews 3:10, Psalm 145:8, Psalm 30:4-5), and believers are commanded to be angry but not to sin (Ephesians 4:26). Two Greek words in the New Testament are translated as “anger.” One means “passion, energy” and the other means “agitated, boiling.” Biblically, anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems. Examples of biblical anger include David’s being upset over hearing Nathan the prophet sharing an injustice (2 Samuel 12) and Jesus’ anger over how some of the Jews had defiled worship at God’s temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-18). Notice that neither of these examples of anger involved self-defense, but a defense of others or of a principle.
God is righteous and holy and in perfect control of His anger. He gets angry only slowly and stays that way only for so long as necessary for perfect justice and righteousness to prevail.
This sort of anger is not a sin. It is a product of the transforming Spirit of God at work in a person’s mind and character. Consider what the Bible says about anger in that light:
James 1:19-20 says; "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."
“‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).
“Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
“A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
One the other hand, anger turns to sin when, instead of attacking the problem at hand, we attack the wrongdoer. Ephesians 4:15-19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips.
Unfortunately, this poisonous speech is a common characteristic of fallen man (Romans 3:13-14).
Anger becomes sin when it is allowed to boil over without restraint, resulting in a scenario in which hurt is multiplied (Proverbs 29:11), leaving devastation in its wake. Often, the consequences of out-of-control anger are irreparable.
Anger also becomes sin when the angry one refuses to be pacified, holds a grudge, or keeps it all inside (Ephesians 4:26-27). This can cause depression and irritability over little things, which are often unrelated to the underlying problem.
We can handle anger biblically by recognizing and admitting our prideful anger and/or our wrong handling of anger as sin (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). This confession should be both to God and to those who have been hurt by our anger. We should not minimize the sin by excusing it or blame-shifting.
Each person has the power of choice to control anger and to express it only in righteous ways, instead of in evil ways.
Chronic and intense anger has been linked with Coronary Heart Disease, stroke, cancer and common physical illnesses including colds and flu, and generally poorer health; as well as increased risk-taking, poor decision-making and substance misuse.
God gives His Holy Spirit—which is His power—to those who obey and seek Him. That power leads to self-control and peace in the place of unrighteous anger. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, a person can increasingly control and overcome the sin of unrighteous human anger.