The bible clearly differentiates between righteous and unrighteous anger. Anger can be the correct response or a dangerous emotional reaction. The nature of anger is defined by the motive and the condition of the heart. Anger over issues that anger the Lord such as crime, abortion, pornography, abuse, oppression, and so on, is justifiable and can cause positive action. If anger sparks prayer and a Christ-like stance, it can be productive. Martin Luther said, “When I am angry, I can pray well and preach well.”
The focus of this article will be on destructive anger. Prisons are at capacity levels because of anger. Men and women rage at their children because of anger. Families are destroyed because of anger: “Anger worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). We’ll never walk fully in the will of God when anger controls us.
For most, the act of killing an unborn child is unthinkable, yet, the sad reality is that anger is killing our children relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and, in some cases, physically. Josh McDowell once stated that the reason so many young people are losing ground in the area of spiritual truth is because their parents are providing poor examples. He continued, “One of the most common questions I get from young adults is, ‘How could we live for Christ, when we don’t want the Christ that our parents have?’”
Anger causes children and spouses to walk on eggshells to avoid triggering a brewing volcano of angry emotions. Children and spouses should feel safe and secure in their own home. God makes no excuses for anger. We are to repent of this deadly sin.
Anger can also prevent Christian leadership. Titus and 1 Timothy clearly say that elders, pastors, and leaders must not be angry, short tempered, or hot-headed, but rather, be gentle, kind, and not easily angered. Additionally, although wives cannot qualify a man for pastoral leadership, they can indirectly disqualify him if anger is an issue in her own life.
In Genesis 4, God asked Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Anger “waits at the door” ready to lunge and devour.
Moses was not able to enter the promised land because of anger. Jacob cursed two of his sons, Simeon and Levi, because they were hot-headed men, “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel” (Genesis 49:5-7). Because of David’s anger and adultery, Uriah was killed in battle at David’s request to send him to the front line. Saul became enraged at David’s promotion and sought to kill him. Anger is not a little character flaw, it is the flame that fuels a raging fire that can consume everything, and everyone, in its path. History is filled with angry men and women who derailed their destiny. Do we, then, believe that we are exempt from the consequences of our anger?
With that said, let’s briefly examine a few causes of anger:
Selfishness can be defined as, “Seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” Selfishness fosters anger in adults the same way it does in children. The resulting effect is angry temper tantrums. They are manageable at 4 years old, sad at 14, and embarrassing at 34. James 3:16 states that where envy and selfish ambition exist, there you will also find disorder and every evil practice…including anger.
Jealousy stirs anger. Gossip springs from jealousy. We can offset anger by rejoicing in positions and promotions of others; be glad when the Lord blesses them. James 3:14-15 says that bitter jealousy is not of God, but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
Pride is the root cause of anger: “A proud and haughty man, ‘Scoffer’ is his name; He acts with arrogant pride” (Proverbs 21:24). Pride is often a catalysts for criticism, division, and anger. By holding on to anger, we jeopardize our health and the health of our family—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and physically. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Ask, “Are my words going to build the other person up or tear them down?” Angry words expressed to others can play an enormous role in shaping or reshaping their lives, especially when it comes to what we say to our spouse and children.
Addiction clearly leads to anger; it controls, influences, and provokes. 1 Peter 2:11, “I urge you…to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Addiction can be packed in pills, porn, alcohol, food, and so on. Addiction, to caffeine, for example, is a powerful stimulant that often fuels angry temper tantrums and explosive outbursts. Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders lists caffeine-related disorders such as caffeine intoxication, caffeine-induced anxiety disorder, and caffeine-induced sleep disorder. All can lead to angry outbursts and extreme irritability. Don’t rationalize and make excuses for addiction. By excusing actions, we deny responsibility. Take responsibility and make the needed changes.
Guilt (not doing what we know is right) causes anger. Proverbs 13:15 says that “the way of the transgressor” is hard, but 1 John 1:9 offers hope: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Acts 3:19 adds, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out (so that times of refreshing will come).” Repentance frees us from shame and guilt and keeps anger at bay.
Are there any areas in your life (such as anger) that need to be dealt with before emotional and spiritual health can be fully restored? If so, I encourage you to seek forgiveness and repentance today. James 4:6 says that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. Its our choice.