Today I was asked when it was right to be angry (to submit questions, you can go here). That was a very good question and a hard one to answer at that. But I did a little bit of research throughout the Bible and came up with a conclusion that some of you might not have noticed before. Having gone through the Old Testament, I noticed three main mentions of anger: 1.) the Lord’s anger, not to be questioned; 2.) mankind’s wrathful anger; 3.) mankind’s rightful anger. I would like to cover those main anger areas in the Bible and discover how we should respond if we should encounter anger in any situation.
1.) God’s Anger
Throughout the Old Testament (primarily) we see God’s anger displayed a lot. A great example of this are the Israelites. Exodus 32:10-11 says this: “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.’ But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” God sought to destroy the Israelites. Or did He? He did not seek to destroy the Israelites; He sought to destroy the wicked Israelites. This is what I’m getting at. God doesn’t want to destroy His people. Look at Numbers 14:18: “‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'” The Israelites the Lord was talking about were wicked; they had turned from God. This is God’s righteous anger – not that He has any other kind of anger. Notice that Numbers 14:18 says that He is “slow to anger”, yet we see the Bible mention God’s anger so many times in the Bible. Well, the Bible’s not lying; He is slow to anger. Yet we as humans fail so often that He is constantly provoked to anger. Deuteronomy 9:7: “Remember this and never forget how you provoked the LORD your God to anger in the desert. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the LORD” the Israelites provoked God to anger through their continuous rebellion against Him and His commands. And their actions had consequences. Numbers 20:11-12: “Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” Because Moses disobeyed God and Aaron did not stop him from disobeying God, they were not allowed to enter into the promised land. Those are severe punishments, but they are inflicted by our sinful actions. So basically, God’s anger is provoked by our rebellion and sins against Him and His commandments.
2. Mankind’s Wrathful Anger
Many people view “wrath” and “anger” as synonyms, but I do not believe they are. Anger is defined as “having a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed”, while “wrath” is “extreme anger”. Wrath is a lot more severe than regular anger, and thus takes on more severe consequences for the wrong usage. The original question was “When is it right to be angry?”. Anger is a very overused emotion. People indulge in anger way too often, and many people struggle with anger issues. King Henry (father of King Richard [the Lion Heart]) of England would often fly into a “black rage”, destroying things, cursing people, and implementing overly harsh punishments. It is in these outbreaks that he would do awful things he would later regret. It was during one such time that he unknowingly sentenced his best friend to death that very night. So, was he angry? No. He was wrathful. Anger is simply being very annoyed or upset, while wrath is the desire to make your anger “even” if you will. You want vengeance, you want to get even with someone (most of the time.) This is a very dangerous feeling to have, and often leads to dangerous consequences. The Roman Emperor Theodosius had an issue with wrathful anger. He once sent his Roman army to put down a riot, and “without regard to guilt or innocence, seven thousand men, women, and children were massacred” (Richard Hannula, Trial and Triumph, pg. 37). The book also said that he confessed his sin and promised to check his anger by sentencing himself to a 30 day cooling period before sentencing anybody to death. This was a wise action, as he was prone to respond wrathfully.
So basically, man’s wrathful anger leads to destruction, and sometimes death. A man with wrathful anger is to be shunned; he is nothing but trouble.
3.) Mankind’s Rightful Anger
I guess this is what I was trying to get to the whole time. When is it right for man to be angry? After a short study of the Scriptures, I’ve come to two reasons to be angry at something/someone.
Genesis 39:19: “When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger.” This is an example of (supposed) injustice. Potiphar’s wife claimed that Joseph sinned against Potiphar’s wife, and Potiphar “burned with anger”. Why? He trusted Joseph; he appointed him the highest position in his household. If Joseph truly had committed that deed, it would’ve been a just anger against injustice. This is one reason to be angry. Or is it? What about the little injustices, like somebody cutting in front of you? Isn’t that an injustice? Yes. But is it a good reason to be angry? Not at all. So, injustices are not a good reason to get angry. But what about the verse above? The supposed action in the verse above is sin. Cutting in front of somebody is sin. Kidnapping somebody is a sin. As I heard the other night, it’s good to be angry at what God is angry at. So then, I can come to the conclusion that there is one good reason to get angry:
2. 1. Sin
Sin is a very good reason to be angry. Jesus was often angered by mankind’s sins. Mark 3:5 says “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” Jesus was angered at the Pharisees who were trying to trap Him in his words. He was angered at their un-acceptance towards His words, trying to trap Him in everything He said. He was also angered by their unwillingness to change, or rather, their legalism. But that’s a topic that I will talk about another time, for sure.
So what is my conclusion? It is right to be angry against sin and injustice (just like Planned Parenthood, Kim Davis, and gay marriage – read my thoughts on it here). But it is not right to be angry about anything else. Look at the following verses:
“For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. ” – 2 Cor. 12:20
“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, ” – Eph. 4:26
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. ” – Eph. 4:31
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. ” – Col. 3:8
“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. ” – 1 Tim. 2:8
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” – James 1:19-20
The Bible says that we should drop all anger, all wrath, and instead lift up holy hands in prayer and focus on God instead of all of the things on the side that draws Christians away from studying the Scriptures and instead brings around arguing and division. Focus on Christ. Be slow to anger, just as God is, but know that it is right to be angry under the correct circumstances.