Imagine yourself in a stressful situation. Perhaps your teenager was out past the time you told them they had to be home, and they walked through the door without so much as an apology or any acknowledgment that they had done wrong, and you just blow up.Maybe you feel that your husband has been ignoring you and you’ve finally had enough, so when he asks you what is for dinner you let him have a piece of your mind. Or maybe your wife is out doing the shopping and the kids just won’t keep quiet so that you can get some work done and you finally lose all patience and explode.
We’ve all seen it. We’ve all done it. For one reason or another, every one of us has succumbed to anger. Anger is so common that it is considered normal. But does that make it right?
We can debate about whether anger is healthy, or natural, or good for society, but ultimately what counts is what God thinks about anger. You might be surprised to discover that there are a lot of verses about anger in the Bible.
Anger issues are something that Solomon wrote a lot about in the book of Proverbs and our Lord Jesus considered anger so important that He addressed it directly. The apostles considered anger a serious enough matter that several of them taught about it in their writings.
Anger in the Bible
Here are a number of verses about anger in the Bible that span both the New and Old Testaments.
In this verse, Solomon contrasts two kinds of people. The one who is “slow to anger” is the person that Solomon says has “great understanding.” That is, this person knows who they are before God and they have insight into the real cost of anger and because of that, they maintain a slow fuse.
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. – Proverbs 14:29
Contrast this person with the person who has a “hasty temper.” The person who blows up at the smallest provocation is a person who (regardless of what they might say) displays and approves of foolishness or folly. Their lack of self-control is a mark of their true character.
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32
In the ancient world, being a great warrior was considered a mark of true manhood and warriors were often honored. In this verse, however, Solomon exalts the person who demonstrates control over their anger, proclaiming that they are better than someone who has prowess in battle. In other words, anyone can conquer other people, but it takes someone who has true strength of character to conquer themselves.
How many times does our anger stem from some real or perceived offense that someone has committed against us? This verse teaches us that rather than blowing up over every little thing that someone does to us, it is actually to our credit to overlook an offense.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11
This does not mean overlooking it from an attitude of pride (“I’m too good to take offense at such a small thing!”). Rather, it should stem from an attitude of good sense that sees oneself as having committed far greater sins against God. From this standpoint, it becomes easier to overlook the “small stuff.”
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. – Proverbs 29:22
This verse teaches us that a person who is characterized by anger does not merely affect themselves, but ultimately gets others angry as well. Furthermore, the angry person is said to bring about much sin – both in himself and in others.
This is not to say that there is never a right time to be angry – there is such a thing as righteous anger – but anger is not to be something that defines our personality. Rather, we are to be people who demonstrate peace and calm.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9
Solomon warns us in Ecclesiastes 7:9 not to get angry quickly. The reason for this is different than you might think, however. While he could have said that anger is a characteristic of hotheads, or the proud, or the scornful, what he actually says is that anger is the kind of thing that characterizes fools.
In the wisdom literature of the Bible, to be a fool is not something that is merely a bad idea. Rather, to be a fool is to act in a way that is contrary to the way that God created the world and contrary to how God told us to live in it.
To put it another way, to be a fool is sinful. What Solomon is saying in this verse is that anger is the kind of emotion that typifies the heart of someone who lives in rebellion against God and the created order.
Matthew 5:22 is a part of what is called the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus discusses the law and the behavior expected of Christians in the Kingdom of Heaven. After reminding His listeners that the Ten Commandments prohibit murder, Jesus drives right to the heart of the problem, which is anger in the heart.
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. – Matthew 5:22
Anger – which Jesus teaches is murderous by its nature – is such a serious sin that those who embrace it will be “liable to judgment” by God Himself (indeed, no human court could ever be able to judge the heart).
Some have suggested that anger is a mere symptom of some deeper issue, and while there may be a grain of truth to that, we must never brush past anger as if it were somehow okay. Jesus considered it a grave sin and condemned it.
Now the works of the flesh are evident…strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries…and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21
In this passage, Paul lists a number of heinous sins which he calls “works of the flesh.” “Works of the flesh” are sins which characterize the unsaved person. After listing such things as sexual immorality, idolatry, and sorcery, right in the middle of the list, Paul places “fits of anger.”
After listing a number of other gross sins such as envy, drunkenness, and orgies, Paul contrasts the entire list with what he calls the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) which includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These are the kinds of things that should characterize the life of the believer.
Anger is right in the middle of the list of fleshly sins and conspicuously absent from the Fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, we, as Christians must avoid anger.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger – Ephesians 4:26
Here, we have a passage that seems to at least open the door for non-sinful anger in certain circumstances. After all, the text says to “be angry” but not to sin, suggesting that it is possible for someone to be angry in a way that is not sinful – in other words, righteous anger.
This is not to suggest that it is at all easy. As the 17th century pastor John Trapp says of this verse, “anger is a tender emotion and must be cautiously managed. If anyone wants to be angry and not sin, let them be angry at nothing but sin.”
What’s more, we are not to “let the sun go down” on our anger. This does not necessarily mean that we are not to be angry past sundown but it does mean that we are not to hold onto our righteous anger and nurture it until it becomes something unrighteous, such as a grudge, or malice, or hatred.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. – James 1:19-20
Finally, we come to James 1:19-20 which instructs us to be “slow to anger.” In other words, we are to make the fires of anger hard to stir up within ourselves, and once stirred up, difficult to keep burning. This applies even to righteous anger because all types of anger are hard to manage and can easily burn out of control.
James further cautions us that our anger doesn’t “produce the righteousness that God requires,” meaning that our anger, as righteous as it might be, still falls short of God’s righteous requirements.
Are you an angry person? Do you suffer from serious anger issues? Is anger burning you up inside? Anger left undealt with can cause serious health issues as well as fracturing families and friendships, disrupting work relationships, and causing general disorder in a person’s life.
There is no sin too great for God to forgive or help you gain control over. If you can’t seem to gain the upper hand in your struggles with anger, the time to get help is now. Contact a pastor, mentor, or even a Christian counselor to help you get a handle on your anger problem. Get help today!
“Rage”, Courtesy of Aaron Blanco Tejedor, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Dove”, Courtesy of Sunyu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Breathe”, Courtesy of Max van den Oetelaar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sunset”, Courtesy of Ravi Pinisetti, Unsplash.com, CC0 License