Anger in itself is not sin. But it can give rise to dangerous emotions that hinder our walk with God.
Anger is something we all experience. No matter how patient a person you are, no matter how closely you walk with God, you will still get angry. Moses, the prophet Jonah and even king David all got angry. You can live in the most perfect house in the most peaceful village and be surrounded by the most caring friends, and you will still get angry.
But did you know it is not a sin to be angry? The Bible says that when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus, “he looked at them in anger” (Mark 3:5, NIV). Anger cannot be inherently sinful because Jesus got angry but He was also sinless. David expressed this truth when he wrote the admonition, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ps. 4:4, NKJV).
Even God the Father experiences the emotion of anger. We read of “the anger of the Lord” no fewer than 18 times in the Old Testament. In fact, it seems God was almost always mad about something, and, in fact, Psalm 7:11 tells us He gets angry with the wicked every single day.
Our anger is sometimes justified, just as God’s is. When the poor are mistreated, when the pride of racism threatens our progress, when the powerful take advantage of the weak, when politicians sacrifice their consciences on the altar of public opinion, and when the culture bombards our children at every turn with immoral images and behavior, we should be shaken with holy indignation.
But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to be angry whenever we want, however we want, with whomever we feel deserves it. Aristotle said, “Anybody can become angry; that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way; that is not within everyone’s power, and that is not easy.”
He was right. Though anger may not be evil in itself, it is only one letter short of “danger”—so we must learn to manage it.
If you have ever had a friend betray you or a spouse walk out on you or a family member embarrass you in front of people you respect, then you know that managing anger is not easy. But it is possible. We run into trouble not so much when we experience anger but when we run into the evil spawn hiding in the belly of this dangerous emotion.
Anger’s Unstable Son
The Merritts have tempers; we can’t deny it. If we are not careful, a simple moment of disagreement in our home can quickly escalate into a very intense and heated argument. Having become aware of this, our family has learned to be watchful and avoid falling prey to anger’s unstable son, “Temper.”
Temper is anger’s type-A eldest son. If Temper is in the room, you can bet he is looking for a chance to get in the middle of even the most harmless situations. And you can never let your guard down. Just when you think he is gone for good, he will drop by unannounced and overstay his welcome.
The Bible gives us two good reasons not to lose our tempers. First, it is unwise. King Solomon said, “Short-tempered people do foolish things” (Prov. 14:17, NLT).
We all have experienced the truth of this statement. Giving our anger full vent often causes us to yell or scream at others, insulting and wounding them. In a moment we can destroy long-lasting relationships.
Second, it may have serious consequences. Proverbs tells us, “A hot-tempered person starts fights” (15:18). When you lose your temper, you can become aggressive and hurt others physically. There are people who are on death row at this very moment because they lost their tempers.