by Melvin Newland
The story is told that in the latter 1800’s, Alfred Lord Tennyson invited a Russian nobleman to his estate. And early one morning this nobleman took off with dogs & guns & servants to go hunting.
At mid-day he returned & Lord Tennyson asked him how he did. He answered, “Not very well. I shot two peasants.” Lord Tennyson thought for a moment & then said, “No, we pronounce it with a ‘ph’ here. It is ‘pheasants.’ You shot two pheasants.”
“No,” the nobleman replied, “I shot two peasants. They were insolent towards me, so I shot them.”
Now we smile in disbelief at a story like that. But last year a driver in Philadelphia shot another driver on the highway. There was a construction blockage on the road, narrowing traffic down to only one lane, creating long backups as cars from each direction took turns getting past the blockage.
Well, this driver patiently waited his turn. But just as he was about to get past the blockage, a car came up fast on the shoulder, passing all the waiting cars, & crowded just in front of him. Then after doing that, the driver turned around with a smirk on his face & made an obscene gesture.
Well, that infuriated the first driver. So when traffic was stopped at the next construction bottleneck, he got out of his car, took out his gun & shot the man in front of him to death.
That happened in Philadelphia. But stories like that have popped up all over the country.
Now, of course, we wouldn’t do anything like that. But have you ever lost your temper? Do you ever do things you wish you hadn’t done, or say things you wish you had never said?
Well, the Bible has something to say about overcoming anger. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience. It is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
Now there is the secret, isn’t it? If someone offends you, & if you are a man of wisdom (God’s wisdom) then you can overlook it, & not allow the situation to become a major event that overwhelms you.
As I studied the Bible this week about the subject of anger, I discovered that there are 4 types of anger dealt with in the Bible.
First of all, there is sudden anger. The Bible says that sudden anger is to be controlled.
Secondly, there is sinful anger. The Bible says that sinful anger is to be condemned.
Thirdly, there is stubborn anger. Stubborn anger is to be conquered.
Finally, there is sanctified anger. And sanctified anger is to be channeled.
So this morning, let’s look at each of those 4 types of anger.
I. SUDDEN ANGER IS TO BE CONTROLLED
First of all there is sudden anger, & the Bible says that sudden anger is to be controlled.
Proverbs 14:17 says, “A quick-tempered man does foolish things.” We already knew that because we’ve experienced that in our own lives. We may blame our quick temper on our red hair. Or we may blame it on our heritage. After all, we’re Irish or something like that. We may even be proud of it.
But the bottom line is, if we have a short fuse, we’re going to do a lot of foolish things. When we lose our temper we’ll say things we know we shouldn’t have said, & do things that we’re going to be sorry for later on.
Next, Proverbs 15:18 says, “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension.” That simply means that if you have a short fuse, if you’re always losing your temper, if you’re walking around with a chip on your shoulder, if you’re just looking for somebody to say something that will irritate you, then you’re going to leave a trail of hurt feelings & unhappiness behind you.
Will Rogers said, “Whenever you fly into a rage, you seldom make a safe landing.” And he is right.
Chuck Swindoll said, “I got so angry that I gave him a piece of my mind. And it was a piece that I couldn’t afford to lose.”
The writer of Proverbs said, “A hot temper stirs up dissension.”
Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening – that is his folly & his shame.” He is talking about jumping to conclusions. We hear just a little bit of what is said, & we instantly jump to a conclusion, & oftentimes it is the wrong conclusion.
Have you heard about the dog named “August” who was always trying to chase a mule named “Conclusion?” One day he jumped at Conclusion & bit him, & Conclusion kicked back at August. And that was the last day of August. Think about that for a moment.
Sometimes we jump to conclusions, & Solomon says that it is to our folly & our shame.
Proverbs 19:19 says, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty.” We’re being told that almost every day. Doctors tell us that losing our temper consistently brings about high blood pressure, dryness of mouth, & a fast-beating heart. It could even bring pre-mature death.
A hot temper could also mean loss of family & friends. The penalties of losing our temper are many.
So the Bible says, “If you have a sudden temper, then you need to control it.” But how can we do that?
You say, “Why, I just can’t control my temper. It gets away from me.” But you can. Have you ever found yourself engaged in a heated discussion with your voice getting louder & your words becoming more rapid? Then the telephone rings & you say, “Hello.” Sure, you can control your temper.
So we need to recognize that we have a problem with temper. As long as we deny it, as long as we blame it on heritage or short-fuse or whatever we choose to blame it on, we’ll never improve.
Then we must confess our problem to God & ask for His help. “Lord, I’m beginning to lose my temper, & I’ve done it many times before. Please help me see what is causing it to happen, & then help me to overcome it.”
The Bible teaches that when the Holy Spirit guides our life, that one fruit of the spirit is self?control. And if you have a sudden temper, you need to control it.
II. SINFUL ANGER IS TO BE CONDEMNED
The second type of anger discussed in scripture is sinful anger. Not all anger is sinful, & we’ll talk about that in just a minute. But some anger is. So let me give you some tests this morning to help you determine whether your anger is sinful or not.
In Matthew 5:21, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, & anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
Now that passage tells us some things about anger that should help us realize when our anger is sinful & when it is not.
Notice first of all that it says, “Anyone who is angry with his brother.” Now if you’re a brother or sister to someone it indicates that you are a member of the same family, whether a domestic family or the family of God.
If we’re brothers & sisters, we ought to be lifting each other up, supporting & helping each other. We should not spend our time being angry at one another.
The King James Version speaks about being angry at your brother “without a cause.” If we are angry & don’t have a legitimate reason for being angry, then this tells us that our anger is sinful.
Then if you’re angry at your brother, that indicates that you are focusing your anger on a person. We should never focus our anger on people, but rather on the sins they commit.
Jesus was never angry at people, but He was angry at their sins. So look beyond the person. We must love the person, but hate their sin.
So if you’re angry at your brother, if you’re focusing on a person, then that means that your anger is sinful.
Now in Romans 12:19 Paul says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: `It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
So the third test of our anger is this: Is it anger that seeks revenge? Are we always trying to get even? The Bible teaches that God is the one who has the right of vengeance. Not us. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. We don’t have the right to repay anyone. But rather, turn that over to God.
So if our anger is geared towards seeking revenge, then it is very definitely sinful anger.
If it is vengeful, then most likely it is also an anger that is cherished.
Remember what Jesus said to the man who was by the pool, waiting to be healed, & he couldn’t get to the water soon enough? Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” Important question!
There are a lot of people who enjoy being sick because of the attention it gets them. And there are a lot of people who love being angry. They’ve been angry for years. Inside of them there is a boiling mass of anger.
So if anger is cherished, it most certainly is sinful anger.
If it is a cherished anger it will also be an anger with an unforgiving spirit. And the secret to getting rid of anger is to be able to forgive. But if you can’t forgive, if you can’t release it, then it is a sinful anger.
So here are the 5 tests to tell whether or not our anger is sinful anger.
1. Is it anger directed towards a person?
2. Is it anger without a justifiable cause?
3. Is it anger that seeks vengeance?
4. Is it anger that is cherished?
5. Is it anger that has an unforgiving spirit?
If any of the answers to those questions is “yes,” then our anger is a sinful anger. And the Bible says that it is to be condemned.
If it is sinful, then we need to repent, to turn away from it, & allow God to forgive us of it so that we can become forgiving people, too.
III. STUBBORN ANGER IS TO BE CONQUERED
The third type of anger is stubborn anger. It is an anger that just stays there, day after day after day.
One of the classic passages that deals with anger begins in Ephesians 4:26. The KJV says, “Be ye angry, & sin not. Let not the sun go down on your wrath.” And the next verse says, “And do not give the devil a foothold.”
One day you go home & you’re angry. You’re carrying a chip on your shoulder, just waiting for someone to knock it off.
Then your wife says something you don’t particularly appreciate, & soon heated words are being exchanged. It really doesn’t amount to much, but you’re determined to get your way, & she is determined to get her way. So the argument continues.
The sun goes down & nighttime comes. Then in bed she faces that way & you face this way, & you both make very sure that you don’t touch each other.
Do you realize what has happened? The Bible says that you have opened the door, & said, “Mr. Devil, come right on in. We’ll make you welcome here.”
Then in vs. 31, Paul mentions what happens when Satan begins to do his dirty work.
The first result is “bitterness.” You begin to think about all the bad things people do & say to you, all the insults, all of the inconsiderate things that go on.
Then Paul says, “After bitterness comes rage & anger.” “Rage” is bitterness boiling & bubbling inside of you. And “anger” is rage being expressed. It is no longer just inside you. Now you begin to kick the cat, & hit the wall. Now you begin to say all kinds of things, until finally it becomes “brawling,” which means “shouting loudly,” & “slander” or “insults.”
“Look at this house. It’s a pig sty. I come home every day & these kids are dirty. You don’t know how to take care of them. What makes you think you’re a homemaker?” And on & on it goes, back & forth.
And the end result of it all, Paul says, is “malice.” And “malice” means that you really desire to harm. That’s why we’re always reading about someone shooting his wife & turning the gun on himself. Because the ultimate end of stubborn anger is malice.
Paul said, “Here is the way to get rid of stubborn anger. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” Vs. 32 says, “Be kind & compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
So first of all, there is sudden anger. And it must be controlled.
Then there is sinful anger. And it must be condemned.
Then there is stubborn anger. And it must be conquered.
IV. SANCTIFIED ANGER MUST BE CHANNELED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION FOR GOD
Finally, there is Sanctified anger. And that must be channeled in the right direction for God. Remember, Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be ye angry. . .” It is okay to be angry, but do not sin.
Let me read to you from Mark 3:1-5. This is a passage that deals with a situation in the life of Jesus that I think is very revealing. It says:
“Another time he went into the synagogue, & a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. And Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, `Stand up in front of everyone.'”
“Then Jesus asked them, `Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.”
“He looked around at them in anger &, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts. . .” You see, the focus of His anger is their hearts. He is angry because of their stubborn hearts & their stubborn anger. The sun has gone down. The sun has come up. And the devil has established a foothold in their lives. And Jesus is angry at their stubborn anger.
Then Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, & his hand was completely restored.”
The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in all points, even as we are tempted, but He never sinned. So this passage teaches that Jesus became angry but it wasn’t sinful anger. It was sanctified anger, channeled anger, anger that has the right focus, & the right object.
Maybe an infusion of anger is the very thing that the church needs. To become angry at the corruption of the world. To become angry at the forces of evil. To become angry at pornography that reaches into every segment of society.
To become angry at the millions of abortions. To become angry at the increase in crime & murders & rapes. To become angry at the abuse of alcohol & drugs in our society. To become angry because there are millions of people who are dying & going to Christless graves.
It is time for the church to become angry, with a sanctified anger, a holy anger, that is channeled in the right places.
There are all kinds of anger. And if you are wrestling with them, God promises to give you victory, if you’ll let Him.
So be angry, but don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath. Don’t allow the devil to have a foothold in your life. But channel that anger so it can begin to accomplish victories for Jesus.
We offer His invitation this morning. He stands ready & willing to come into your heart & into your life. If you’ll confess your faith in Him, & repent of your sins, & be faithful to him in Christian baptism, He has promised to forgive your sins.
If you are already a Christian, an immersed believer in Jesus, then we invite you to join with us in the ministry that God has given us here. Whatever your decision, we offer the invitation of Jesus.