The Collins Dictionary defines anger as a feeling of great annoyance or antagonism as a result of some real or supposed grievance; the strong emotion you feel when you think that someone has behaved in an unfair, cruel, or unacceptable way.
Providing a definition is no doubt unnecessary for 99.9% of the world’s population, as anger is so a part of our human make-up that we experience the emotion regularly, if not several times a day in varying degrees of intensity.
The Bible is not quiet about it either, and there are many Scripture verses about anger that we can turn to to see God’s view on the subject. Here are five that look at various angles on our anger issues, which ultimately we want to overcome in the way the Lord has shown us to.
Anger? Yes. Sin? No.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27
In these Bible verses about anger in Ephesians, the first direction references Psalm 4:4 and boldly acknowledges that we will feel angry! Anger itself is not the problem, although there are different kinds of anger.
“Righteous” anger is appropriate in the face of evils, such as abuse, racism, child trafficking, etc. As Christians, when we hear about these sins, it is right to feel incensed. Both David and Nehemiah were angry because of ungodly people or activities, and Jesus expressed anger at the hard-hearted Pharisees (Mark 3:1-5) as well as the turning of the temple into a marketplace (Matthew 21:12-13).
These moments of righteous anger are, however, most likely outnumbered by the moments of irritation and rage we feel when our personal agendas have in some way been thwarted. And, even if we have got the “right” kind of anger, there are parameters around how we respond; the Scriptures on anger make it clear that we should not respond in a sinful way.
An instruction that follows closely after not sinning in anger is that of resolving your anger issues quickly; before the day is done. As Psalm 4:4 says, “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”
By searching our hearts, the Holy Spirit will help dissolve our anger as opposed to our flesh’s desire to let is fester and take root; which is exactly what the devil is after in his quest to bring division and destroy.
Taking It Slow
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. – James 1:19-20
There is much wisdom in the age-old “take a deep breath and count to ten before responding” technique to calming oneself down when vexed. Even if you’re convinced of your “right” to be angry, it’s worth asking yourself if you want to be right or righteous. We can easily enjoy being right in our righteousness!
Other Bible verses about anger mirror the advice to practice self-control when faced with an antagonising situation: Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Clearly, we need to be very sure of our response; as hot-headedness does not produce righteousness; rather it is a characteristic associated with foolishness.
As we live out our lives to love and serve God, we need to take these verses about anger to heart, striving to make His desires our desires, and tempering our gut response in order that we might reflect Christ-likeness to those around us.
Gently Does It
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
In addition to when we respond when riled, scriptures on anger also tell us how to react, with Proverbs highlighting the power of a gentle response in quelling agitation, on both sides. Gentleness has nothing to do with personality but is about having a sensitive disposition and showing kindness prompted by love. It is a behavioural trait that develops over time, reflecting what’s in our spirit.
Gentleness is power under control. It is Jesus calming the wild storm, healing the sick and loving everyone. If a gentle word can calm a harsh response; it surely holds great power against the raging fire that is the tongue, destroying hopes and dreams in an instant. Gentleness is knowing when to speak and when to stay silent, and being okay with both. Being gentle is not saying what we want to say, no matter how much we want to say it, or how true it is.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. – Colossians 3:8
In Paul’s address to the Colossian church, he gave a command for believers to “put to death” sins and ungodly behaviours in their own lives. He specifically listed sins such as sexual immorality, lust, and jealousy. He now adds to this list, adding five more areas of spiritual failure, the first two pertaining to anger issues.
Paul says that outbursts of uncontrolled anger are not to be found in the life of a Christian. He does not give an explanation of why, simply expressing that this is a habit that needs to be removed – believers are not to be known for living the same lifestyle as they did before believing in Christ.
Secondly, he addresses wrath. While we tend to use anger and wrath interchangeably in English, they are really two separate ideas. Anger is an emotion, while wrath is an action. In this context, it suggests the idea of revenge, and is sometimes translated as “rage”. In Romans 12:9, Paul taught that believers ought to leave wrath to God and not seek revenge on their own terms.
In His Grace
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. – James 4:1-2
Of course, it’s one thing to read Bible verses about anger, and how it is not to be prevalent in our lives, but quite another to put that into practice. While the James verse above does not mention anger exactly, it does take us to the heart of the matter, showing our selfish nature, which desires to get what it wants, at any cost.
As we take time to recognise how utterly sinful we are in our angry moments, surely we can do nothing but fall towards the cross, confessing our desperate need for a saviour, and we will be amazed by His abundant grace, as the Holy Spirit takes our anger and replaces it with every good fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness and faithfulness.
“Angry”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Man in Plaid”, Courtesy of Nathan Cowley, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Man Alone”, Courtesy of Lisa Fotios, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “A Calm Faith”, Courtesy of Garon Piceli, Pexels.com; CC0 License