Anger – is it wrong to be angry?

One thing which is common to most people is that at some time we have lost our temper. For some people, this may happen a lot, for others it may only occur on rare occasions. But what does the Bible say about this? Is it wrong to lose your temper? Is it wrong to be angry at all?

Jesus and anger

The Bible tells us that Jesus became angry. At two different times Jesus cleared the temple in Jerusalem of people who were selling animals and changing money. The first time he did this was near the start of his time as a teacher. The second time was just before he died. Both times were at the Passover time.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." John 2:13-17 NIV
A model of the 1st century temple in Jerusalem

Under Jewish law it was permitted to trade goods in the buildings near the temple. During the busy feast times, trading was also allowed in the outermost court of the temple area known as the Court of the Gentiles. However, on the occasions where Jesus became angry it seems that the trading had entered into the holy area of the temple.

From the description of the scene recorded in the Bible it seems that on both occasions when he cleared the temple he had become very angry. These are not the only times we are told he became angry.

And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Mark 3:5

In this verse we are told that he was angry with the Pharisees because of their stubborn hearts. Anger itself is not wrong. It depends on what makes us angry and what we do with our anger. Many people unfortunately show their anger in selfish and harmful ways. Jesus didn’t do this – he showed his anger by correcting a problem (healing a man’s hand). So it is up to us to use our anger to find constructive solutions rather than pulling other people down.

So we can see that there were a few times that Jesus became angry, yet we are told elsewhere in the Bible that Jesus never sinned. So the only conclusion we can come to is that Jesus was not sinning when he became angry. There is a place for righteous indignation. We are right to be upset about sin and injustice and should take a stand against them.

God and anger

God is described as “slow to anger”.

And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, Exodus 34:6

He is also described as “restraining his anger”.

But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; Psalm 78:38

Yet despite this, there have been many people who have suffered as a result of God’s anger towards them. In the future there will be many more who will suffer from His anger.

The apostle Paul wrote these words to the people of Rome:

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, Romans 2:5-8

God’s anger is directed at sin. Why is God angry at sinful people? Because they have replaced the truth about them with a fantasy dreamed up in their own imagination. They suppress the truth God has revealed with anything that supports their own self-centred lifestyles. God cannot tolerate sin because his nature is morally perfect. He wants to remove the sin and restore the sinner. But his anger erupts against those who persist in sinning.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans Ch.1 : 18 – 25
When does anger become sin?
Losing your temper can mean losing control of your emotions

What happens quite often when someone gets angry is that they lose their temper. When someone loses their temper, they lose control of their emotions and it makes it much easier to sin.

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,… Proverbs 14:17
An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression. Proverbs 29:22
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 NIV

We are being told in each of these verses that being angry is dangerous because you are more likely to sin when angry. Despite this the Bible does not say that anger itself is a sin. In relation to this, the apostle Paul wrote these words:

"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:26

So it is best to control our anger and put it aside very quickly. Do not let it linger on over a long time.

Anger and you

Are you one of those people who gets angry very quickly? Or do you let your feelings of anger continue for a long time? When you are made angry by someone else do you want to get even with that person? If your answer to any of the above questions is yes, then you need to approach God in prayer, tell Him your problem and ask Him to help you overcome this in the future.

The Bible tells us to avoid anger.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm. Psalm 37:8
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Colossians 3:8

If we deliberately sustain anger then we are acting like someone who has no Christian beliefs. If we push aside the anger quickly we then are adding to our character a worthy Christian virtue.