Do you have problems with anger? Most of us do in some form or other. People can do many foolish things when they are angry. I have seen people yell, act very animated, slam doors, and jump in their car and zoom away. I am confident that anger is behind what we call “road rage”, when one driver does terrible things to another driver. Anger often leads to fights, both verbal and physical. Anger is an emotion that can arise quickly within us. What causes people to get angry? My observation is that people get angry when they think that their rights have been violated. We can also get angry when we take the offense of someone else and get angry for them. An example of this is when we see a child injured by someone more powerful than they.
But the Bible says, Ephesians 4:26-27 “’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” The big problem with anger is that it can motivate us to sin, and I believe the first sin we can commit is taking vengeance. “You violated my rights, you hurt me, I’m angry and I’m going to get you back.” But the Bible clearly states that we should not take vengeance. Romans 12:19 “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (See also Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 32:35). The clause “but rather give place to wrath” may make us think that instead of anger, we can have wrath. I believe a better translation is “but leave it to the wrath of God” – ESV. God is the one who rightfully can have wrath and take vengeance. Wrath can be a synonym for anger or it can be anger in action – “I am angry with you, so here is what I do to you!”
Another sin that we can commit when angry is that we repay evil with evil. The apostle Paul stated: Romans 12:17a “Repay no one evil for evil.” When angry, we may use curses or swear. We may be rash and say things that we later regret. It seems to me, that when we are angry, our judgment is clouded and we don’t think clearly. Our main thought seems to be – “my rights have been violated and I want to make things right!”
Some think that Jesus was angry when he cleansed the temple. You remember that he saw people buying and selling sacrificial animals in the temple. Matthew 21:12-13 “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’ but you have made it a den of thieves.’” Perhaps Jesus was angry, but if he was, he did not sin. As the Son of God, he had the right to cleanse the temple of his Father. He did not say or do anything evil. Some people call this “righteous indignation”. It points out that we can be angry and not sin.
The second half of Ephesians 4:26 states “do not let the sun go down on your wrath”. I understand this to imply that even though we get angry, we shouldn’t stay angry, but let the anger go before the sun goes down. Bitterness is retaining bad feelings toward another. In a similar manner, we can retain anger for long periods of time. Both bitterness and retained anger must be flushed from our lives. If not, they will destroy us spiritually and physically.
The last phrase of the passage (Ephesians 4:26-27) is “nor give place to the devil”. The devil wants us to sin. As stated earlier, anger can cloud our judgment so that it seems more important to satisfy our anger with vengeance than to remain righteous. In this way, we give place to the devil. I submit that when we are angry we need to recognize that we may be extra vulnerable to sin and by doing so, we would give place to the devil.
Brethren, be angry and sin not!