PROVERBS – Thoughts and a Sermon on Anger

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of listening to my favourite preacher preach on anger from the book of Proverbs. I would urge you to listen to it, but I thought I would share a few thoughts I had and quotes I found on anger.

The first place I want to start is actually the American Psychology Association who asked, “Is It Good To Let it All Hang Out?” — this is in light of the old notion that it is important to “lance the boil” of anger and let it all out. You might be surprised to read what this secular organisation had to say:

“Psychologists now say that this is a dangerous myth. Some people use this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that “letting it rip” with anger actually escalates anger and aggression, and does nothing to help you (or the person you’re angry with) resolve the situation.

It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.

Over on the Desiring God website, there is a great article, “Is It Ever Right to Be Angry at God?, which says:

” . . . when we get angry at a person, we are displeased with a choice they made and an act they performed. Anger at a person always implies strong disapproval. If you are angry at me, you think I have done something I should not have done.”

This is why being angry at God is never right. It is wrong — always wrong — to disapprove of God for what He does and permits. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). It is arrogant for finite, sinful creatures to disapprove of God for what He does and permits. We may weep over the pain. We may be angry at sin and Satan. But God does only what is right. “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments” (Revelation 16:7).”

Because of this definition of anger from Piper above, it becomes immediately clear why even our anger with other people is rarely anything other than sinful. Who are WE to say that we strongly disapprove of what someone has done? Are we God? Are we their Judge? If they have said something we found hurtful, how can we be so sure that they meant it the way we thought they did? What if they had said it innocently? How can we read their hearts? If they sinned, who are we to judge the severity of that sin given the upbringing they may have had? And most of all, what about the log in our own eyes? What gave sinners the right to suddenly be the judge and determine the guilt of another and so to disapprove of them strongly and angrily?

It is only to the extent that our anger is inspired and in line with the revealed anger of God towards sin rather than our own indignation at being slighted or let down that we can hope to be angry and not sin. We actually have NO RIGHT to be angry on our own account with another because the other person is answerable to God and not us!

Piper also says: “harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites the devil in.” We must make sure that even if our anger really is justified, we do not nurse it, as that will destroy us. Elsewhere in the same article Piper says:

“In marriage, anger rivals lust as a killer. My guess is that anger is a worse enemy than lust. It also destroys other kinds of camaraderie. Some people have more anger than they think, because it has disguises.

When willpower hinders rage, anger smolders beneath the surface, and the teeth of the soul grind with frustration. It can come out in tears that look more like hurt. But the heart has learned that this may be the only way to hurt back. It may come out as silence because we have resolved not to fight. It may show up in picky criticism and relentless correction. It may strike out at persons that have nothing to do with its origin. It will often feel warranted by the wrongness of the cause. After all, Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5), and Paul says, “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26).

However, good anger among fallen people is rare. That’s why James says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). And Paul says, “Men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Timothy 2:8). “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Ephesians 4:31).

Therefore, one of the greatest battles of life is the battle to “put away anger,” not just control its expressions. To help you fight this battle, here are nine biblical weapons . . .”

I will let you read the rest of the article for his biblical weapons. But I do want to leave you with one more thought of my own. Are we angry because God’s honor has been slighted? Even then that righteous anger should be tempered by the realisation that we, too, have angered God by our own sin.

Let’s call our anger what it is — sin. Remember, sin destroys relationships by the recriminations it prompts. Sin destroys people by the guilt they feel. Sin kills, steals, hurts, and divides. To Christian theology sin is something to be battled against in our own personal minds, and indeed this war never stops. John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

It is possible to be angry and not sin, but hard. Our own sense of our violated rights drives much anger. How often do we meditate on the wrongs we have done to others rather than the wrongs they have done to us? How much does anger contribute to sadness in the world? Recriminations and a tit-for-tat mentality lead to conflict in the home and on the world stage. Sooner or later someone needs to stop the cycle and forgive.

The sad truth is that sin produces wrath, partly because it should do. We are, in one sense, right to be angry at the damage sin has done. So is God. It is just for sin to be punished. So, a consideration of sin should leave us slightly despairing of ourselves. It should leave us aware that we deserve nothing but punishment from the hands of God.

God disapproves of what we have done wrong ourselves with the same righteous fury that He disapproves of the other party. Even if we feel the other one has got God’s anger coming to them first, we better realise we are not far off — unless we have truly hidden in the God who is a refuge from His own wrath.

Psalm 2:12
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, a writer, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he serves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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