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Godly Anger Management

 

We've all witnessed examples in day-to-day life of angry people under many different circumstances. We see examples ranging from the simplest of children having "temper tantrums" when they don't get their way to even the most complex of adults scheming for years to develop intricate plans of revenge in order to act out their hatred against their enemies. Some people hold their anger within until something happens to set them off in a pent-up outburst of violence. Some people seem to erupt with outbursts of anger very easily when only mild irritations come their way. All the while, there are still other people who always seem to keep their cool, no matter what frustrations come their way. Why is there such a difference in how people handle anger? Is proper anger management only a genetic inheritance over which we have no control or is it a learned behavior that we each can regulate?

God has much to say about the subject of anger. In the history of mankind unveiled in the scriptures, the first example of uncontrolled anger is displayed in Genesis 4:3, where Cain was upset with his brother Abel for having "bested" him with the proper offering that he brought to God.

(Gen 4:3-8 NASB) So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. {4} And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; {5} but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. {6} Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? {7} "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." {8} And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Cain brought the wrong type of offering to God and it's no wonder that God didn't have regard for Cain's offering. It's evident that Cain had rebelled against God's instructions regarding the proper offering he desired. Abel, on the other hand, obeyed God's instructions and brought the proper offering which God desired. Cain's anger, however, grew against his brother despite God's warning to Cain to control himself. As the anger grew within Cain, he devised a scheme to unleash that anger when they were alone in the field.

In verse five, we read that Cain "became very angry." In the King James Version of the Bible, the phrase is "became very wroth." The Hebrew word translated "angry" or "wroth" is charah. It is Strong's number 2734: charah, and it means to glow or grow warm; to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy.

In another example, though the reason might have been understandable, in Genesis 34, we can see how the actions of a well-devised scheme ended up in life-long sin and penalties for two of the sons of Israel. It was their revenge for the raping of their sister Dinah.

(Gen 34:1-7 NASB) Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. {2} And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. {3} And he was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. {4} So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young girl for a wife." {5} Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. {6} Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. {7} Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

Notice in verse five how Jacob controlled his anger by keeping silent but it wasn't so with the sons of Jacob. Their anger grew within them and they devised a plan of revenge. Continue in verse 12.

(Gen 34:12-17 NASB) "Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage." {13} But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor, with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. {14} And they said to them, "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. {15} "Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, {16} then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. {17} "But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go."

Look at verse 13 again: "But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor, with deceit…" They had devised a plan of revenge for the rape of their sister. They didn't depend upon God for righteous judgement. They devised their own scheme for their own justice to be administered to the offender. That's not what God tells us to do. Keep your finger in Genesis 34 for a minute and look at Deuteronomy 32.

(Deu 32:35-36 NASB) 'Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.' {36} "For the LORD will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants;

Go back to Genesis 34 and continue in verse 24.

(Gen 34:24-30 NASB) And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. {25} Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. {26} And they killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem's house, and went forth. {27} Jacob's sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. {28} They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; {29} and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses. {30} Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have brought trouble on me, by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I shall be destroyed, I and my household."

 

Loss and Forfeiture because of Anger

Now notice in Genesis 39, an example of how anger resulted in a rash action of haste which voluntarily gave up the prosperity and blessings of God because of belief in a lie. Through the plan of God, Potiphar, the Egyptian officer who was captain of Pharaoh's bodyguard, had been enabled to purchase Joseph as a slave of great worth.

(Gen 39:3-6 NASB) Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. {4} So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. {5} And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD'S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. {6} So he left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

After many unsuccessful attempts at seducing Joseph, the wife of Potiphar, through a lie, made her husband's anger cloud his judgment such that he voluntarily disposed of Joseph from serving his household.

(Gen 39:19-20 NASB) Now it came about when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, "This is what your slave did to me," that his anger burned. {20} So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.

The Hebrew word used here for anger is aph. It is Strong's #639. aph and it means a nostril, nose, face, or anger. It is from the root word anaph. That is Strong's #599 anaph, and it means to be angry.

Look at what Potiphar voluntarily gave up. He lost the blessings God was providing to him through the services of the overseer or manager of his estate. Just think of it. From the time Potiphar arose in the morning to the time he went to bed at night, the only thing he had to concern himself with was the food he ate. He didn't have to worry about the functioning of his household or his other slaves or the crops in the field or his income or his expenses. All of those were managed by Joseph and, with the blessings of God, all of those prospered and grew, without any effort by Potiphar. Then in a moment of rage and anger, it was all gone and the burden of daily management was probably back on the shoulders of Potiphar. Now without the blessings of God, the success of his estate was probably at a lower level with much more effort needing to be expended by the one who former had very few concerns. What a loss due to uncontrolled and misdirected anger!

Earlier, we read of the anguish the sons of Jacob brought on their father by deceiving and brutally killing the men of Shechem after the rape of their sister, Dinah. Now look, years later, at what they lost because of their anger and rash actions. At the end of his life in Genesis 49, Jacob dispensed blessings and prophecies of things to happen to each of his sons' families at the time of the end.

(Gen 49:1-2 NASB) Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come. {2} "Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father.

It was standard procedure for the firstborn son to receive the bulk of the blessings and estate of the father at the time of the father's death. We can even see the scriptural direction for that in the book of Deuteronomy. It was called "the right of the firstborn." Keep your place in Genesis 49 for a moment and go to Deuteronomy 21: 15.

(Deu 21:15-17 NASB) "If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him sons, if the first-born son belongs to the unloved, {16} then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the first-born before the son of the unloved, who is the first-born. {17} "But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the first-born.

The firstborn blessing received by Jacob from his father Isaac (though out of order) was the type of blessing that should have been given to Reuben. We can read that for ourselves in Genesis 27.26.

(Gen 27:26-29 NASB) Then his father Isaac said to him, "Please come close and kiss me, my son." {27} So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, "See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed; {28} Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; {29} May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you."

Back in Genesis 49:3, we can see that Reuben was the natural firstborn son of Jacob through Leah. He should have received the choicest of the blessings that Jacob was about to dispense. By his former actions though, we can see that he forfeited the "right of the firstborn."

(Gen 49:3-4 NASB) "Reuben, you are my first-born; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. {4} "Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father's bed; Then you defiled it-- he went up to my couch.

We can read of the incident for ourselves in Genesis 35:22. It's another example of uncontrolled passion influencing misguided actions.

(Gen 35:22 NASB) And it came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard of it.

John Wesley writes the following in his Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible,

"A being thou shalt have as a tribe, but not an excellency. No judge, prophet, or prince, are found of that tribe, nor any person of renown only Dathan and Abiram, who were noted for their impious rebellion. That tribe, as not aiming to excel, chose a settlement on the other side Jordan. The character fastened upon Reuben, for which he is laid under this mark of infamy, is, that he was unstable as water. His virtue was unstable, he had not the government of himself, and his own appetites. His honour consequently was unstable, it vanished into smoke, and became as water spilt upon the ground. Jacob charges him particularly with the sin for which he was disgraced, thou wentest up to thy father's bed - It was forty years ago that he had been guilty of this sin, yet now it is remembered against him. Reuben's sin left an indelible mark of infamy upon his family; a wound not to be healed without a scar."

The next sons in the family line were Simeon and Levi. When Reuben forfeited his right of the firstborn, the natural succession would have gone to the second or third born sons. In verse five, however, we can see that their former actions of uncontrolled anger disqualified them, as well.

(Gen 49:5-7 NASB) "Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence. {6} "Let my soul not enter into their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly; Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen. {7} "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.

Notice how Jacob actually pronounced a curse on their anger in verse seven. Because of the fierceness and cruelty of their anger, they incurred the penalty of being scattered in the nation of Israel.

Messrs. Keil and Delitzsch have this to say about Simeon and Levi in Genesis 49 in their Commentary on the Old Testament.

"Simeon and Levi are brethren:" emphatically brethren in the full sense of the word; not merely as having the same parents, but in their modes of thought and action. "Weapons of wickedness are their swords." … Such wickedness had the two brothers committed upon the inhabitants of Shechem, that Jacob would have no fellowship with it… "For in their wrath have they slain men, and in their wantonness houghed oxen." to sever the houghs (tendons of the hind feet), - a process by which animals were not merely lamed, but rendered useless, since the tendon once severed could never be healed again, whilst as a rule the arteries were not cut so as to cause the animal to bleed to death. In Genesis 34:28 it is merely stated that the cattle of the Shechemites were carried off, not that they were lamed. But [it shows] the sons of Jacob were more concerned about revenge than booty. Jacob mentions the latter only, because it was this which most strikingly displayed their criminal wantonness. On this reckless revenge Jacob pronounces the curse, "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I shall divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." They had joined together to commit this crime, and as a punishment they should be divided or scattered in the nation of Israel, should form no independent or compact tribes. This sentence of the patriarch was so fulfilled when Canaan was conquered, that on the second numbering under Moses, Simeon had become the weakest of all the tribes; in Moses' blessing in Deut 33 [Simeon] was entirely passed over; and it received no separate assignment of territory as an inheritance, but merely a number of cities within the limits of Judah. Its possessions, therefore, became an insignificant appendage to those of Judah, into which they were eventually absorbed, as most of the families of Simeon increased but little; and those which increased the most emigrated in two detachments, and sought out settlements for themselves and pasture for their cattle outside the limits of the promised land. Levi also received no separate inheritance in the land, but merely a number of cities to dwell in, scattered throughout the possessions of his brethren. But the scattering of Levi in Israel was changed into a blessing for the other tribes through its election to the priesthood… But though Jacob withdrew the rights of primogeniture from Reuben, and pronounced a curse upon the crime of Simeon and Levi, he deprived none of them of their share in the promised inheritance. They were merely put into the background because of their sins, but they were not excluded from the fellowship and call of Israel, and did not lose the blessing of Abraham, so that their father's utterances with regard to them might still be regarded as the bestowal of a blessing.

 

Paradise Lost

In Numbers 12:3, Moses is called "very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth" but, as we will see, even Moses did not control his anger at all times. In the first incident of Moses bringing water out of the rock for the children of Israel to drink, Moses obediently followed God's instructions to strike the rock with his staff. In Numbers 20, however, in the second incident of Moses bringing water out of the rock for the children of Israel to drink, Moses' anger got the best of him and he did not precisely obey God's instructions.

(Num 20:1-11 NASB) Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there. {2} And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. {3} The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, "If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! {4} "Why then have you brought the LORD'S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? {5} "And why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink." {6} Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; {7} and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, {8} "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." {9} So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; {10} and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" {11} Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.

That might seem like a small difference to you. Moses struck the rock as he had done in the first incident years before but that was not what God had commanded Moses to do this time. You can see the signs of Moses' anger overriding his humble obedience to God in verse ten when he said, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" It's true, they were rebelling against God in longing to go back to Egypt. What Moses said next, however, was not true, "shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Moses took to himself the glory and credit that belonged to God alone. The penalty from God was swift in verse twelve.

(Num 20:12 NASB) But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."

One small fit of anger (even though it was probably understandable under the circumstances) kept Moses out of the Promised Land.

 

Paradise Almost Lost

There are also positive examples in God's word of men and women who controlled their actions that might have developed into sin by controlling their anger. One of those instances was actually nurtured by a God fearing woman positively influencing the one who would become her husband. In 1 Samuel 25, we see the events unfold.

(1 Sam 25:1-8 NASB) Then Samuel died; and all Israel gathered together and mourned for him, and buried him at his house in Ramah. And David arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. {2} Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel [now, that's not Mount Carmel on the coast - rather, it is a small town near Hebron in Judah]; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel {3} (now the man's name was Nabal, and his wife's name was Abigail. And the woman was intelligent and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite), {4} that David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. {5} So David sent ten young men, and David said to the young men, "Go up to Carmel, visit Nabal and greet him in my name; {6} and thus you shall say, 'Have a long life, peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. {7} 'And now I have heard that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us and we have not insulted them, nor have they missed anything all the days they were in Carmel. {8} 'Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Please give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.'"

David and his men had been fleeing from the persecution of King Saul and had been in various parts of the Negev wilderness and Judea. In their days on the run, they had not arbitrarily taken supplies and provisions from the shepherds of Nabal as do most militia bands or armies when away from home. Instead, they had protected the persons, animals, and property of Nabal. What David was now asking of Nabal was a reasonable request. After all, David was well known as the national hero of Israel who had slain the arch-enemy Philistine champion Goliath just a few years previous. Continue with the events in verse nine.

(1 Sam 25:9-11 NASB) When David's young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in David's name; then they waited. {10} But Nabal answered David's servants, and said, "Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master. {11} "Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?"

How absurd! Nabal was rightly named "foolish." Everyone in Israel knew the name David. He was their national champion over their Philistine oppressors. Nabal was simply claiming ignorance to get out of any obligation for the services of David's men.

In their Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Messrs. Jamieson, Fauset, and Brown write:

"Nabal's answer seems to indicate that the country was at the time in a loose and disorderly state. David's own good conduct, however, as well as the important services rendered by him and his men, were readily attested by Nabal's servants. The preparations of David to chastise his insolent language and ungrateful requital are exactly what would be done in the present day by Arab chiefs, who protect the cattle of the large and wealthy sheep masters from the attacks of the marauding border tribes or wild beasts. Their protection creates a claim for some kind of tribute, in the shape of supplies of food and necessaries, which is usually given with great good will and gratitude; but when withheld, is enforced as a right. Nabal's refusal, therefore, was a violation of the established usages of the place."

David's reaction of great anger upon hearing the news can be plainly seen in verse 13.

(1 Sam 25:13 NASB) And David said to his men, "Each of you gird on his sword." So each man girded on his sword. And David also girded on his sword, and about four hundred men went up behind David while two hundred stayed with the baggage.

Before his anger turned into regretful actions, David was soothed from sinning by the generous actions of Nabal's wife, Abigail in verse 14.

(1 Sam 25:14-35 NASB) But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, saying, "Behold, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, and he scorned them. {15} "Yet the men were very good to us, and we were not insulted, nor did we miss anything as long as we went about with them, while we were in the fields. {16} "They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep. {17} "Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him." {18} Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. {19} And she said to her young men, "Go on before me; behold, I am coming after you." But she did not tell her husband Nabal. {20} And it came about as she was riding on her donkey and coming down by the hidden part of the mountain, that behold, David and his men were coming down toward her; so she met them. {21} Now David had said, "Surely in vain I have guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; and he has returned me evil for good. {22} "May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him." {23} When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David, and bowed herself to the ground. {24} And she fell at his feet and said, "On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. {25} "Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. {26} "Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, since the LORD has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies, and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. {27} "And now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. {28} "Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you all your days. {29} "And should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. {30} "And it shall come about when the LORD shall do for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and shall appoint you ruler over Israel, {31} that this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the LORD shall deal well with my lord, then remember your maidservant." {32} Then David said to Abigail, "Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, {33} and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed, and from avenging myself by my own hand. {34} "Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male." {35} So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and he said to her, "Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request."

Abigail saw the big picture, with God in control at the top. She knew that God would fulfill his promises and set David on the throne ruling all Israel. In the mean time, Abigail had the vision to see that she could help in restraining David from sinning even if he was duly provoked. We read earlier that Abigail was "intelligent and beautiful" or, as the King James Version renders it, she was "a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance." It is evident that her "good understanding" was based on the firm foundation of God and his promises. In due time, she was rewarded for her pre-emptive actions when Nabal died and Abigail was able to become David's wife.

 

Godly Anger Management

We've seen several examples in scripture today of poor anger management, as well as good anger management. What does God instruct us to do, though, when we find ourselves in positions of trial and frustration? Are we entitled to exact retribution for wrongs done to us? Earlier, we read that God says, "Vengeance is mine." In Deuteronomy 32:41, he says it again.

(Deu 32:41 NASB) If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.

In quoting the book of Deuteronomy in Romans 12:19, the Apostle Paul takes it a step further.

(Rom 12:19-21 NASB) Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. {20} "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul wasn't the only one with that admonition. In James 1:19, we can read similar advice from James, the brother of Christ.

(James 1:19-21 NASB) This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; {20} for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. {21} Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

Some might say, though, that the doing of good is just a New Testament teaching. Let's look at the words of wisdom given by the prophets and preachers of the Old Testament, beginning with the book of Proverbs in chapter 14 and verse 17, this time in the New Revised Standard Version. We can see foretold the way of life that accompanies those who don't control their anger.

(Prov 14:17-18 NRSV) One who is quick-tempered acts foolishly, and the schemer is hated. {18} The simple are adorned with folly, but the clever are crowned with knowledge.

Again in verse 29, we see the ongoing lifestyle and the difference between those who do and those who do not control their anger.

(Prov 14:29-30 NASB) He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. {30} A tranquil heart is life to the body, But passion is rottenness to the bones.

Just a few verses later, look at Proverbs 15:1.

(Prov 15:1 NASB) A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

In verse 18, we see even more.

(Prov 15:18 NASB) A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention.

So, clearly, smoothness and tranquility is a good way to control anger. As we just saw in verse 18, slowness to anger is also expounded in Proverbs 16:32.

(Prov 16:32 NASB) He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city

It's one thing to control our anger. Proverbs 17:14 shows that it's also important to avoid placing ourselves in situations that may lead to outbreaks of anger.

(Prov 17:14 NASB) The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

Proverbs 22:24 also shows that we should even avoid placing ourselves among angry people.

(Prov 22:24-25 NASB) Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, {25} Lest you learn his ways, And find a snare for yourself.

Look at Paul's direction in Ephesians 4:26.

(Eph 4:26-32 NASB) BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, {27} and do not give the devil an opportunity. {28} Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. {29} Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. {30} And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. {31} Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. {32} And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Paul specifically states that it is acceptable to become angry; but there is a proper time and place and intensity for anger. There is also a proper duration for anger when he states, "do not let the sun go down on your anger." We should all dispense with our anger by the time of sunset. Whether that is just a few minutes or a few hours, it should never be more than twenty-four hours.

As Paul admonished us to control our anger and temper it with the proper degree, time, and duration, so the prophet Habakuk pleaded with God to temper his righteous anger in Hab 3:2.

(Hab 3:2 NASB) LORD, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O LORD, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.

So, even God who certainly is well within his rights to express anger at unrighteousness, is petitioned by the prophet to temper his dispensing of wrath with compassionate mercy.

Again in Colossians 3:1, we see that our behavior is to be in line with the righteous standards of God.

(Col 3:1-10 NASB) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. {2} Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. {3} For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. {5} Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. {6} For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, {7} and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. {8} But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. {9} Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, {10} and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him

Finally, we see the same standard of God's righteousness upheld by the words of Christ in Matthew 5:22. This time, we'll read from the Literal Translation of the Bible by Jay P. Green.

(Matthew 5:20-24 LITV) For I say to you, If your righteousness shall not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of God, never! (21) You have heard that it was said to the ancients: "Do not commit murder!" And, Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the Judgment. (22) But I say to you, Everyone who is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to the Judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the sanhedrin; but whoever says, Fool! shall be liable to be thrown into the fire of Hell. (23) Then if you offer your gift on the altar, and remember there that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar, and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then coming, offer your gift.

Our standard of conduct is to be in line with God's standard of righteousness. We should shun anger and evil in our lives and do good; but not just any good by any definition. The good we are to do is to be good that's measured by the righteous laws of God. Keep your nose buried in God's word so that you know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

 

Sermon by Philip Edwards

June 16, 2007


Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards

 

 

 

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