“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.”
— Ephesians 4:26,27
Around the turn of the century, the Church was graced with an array of great preachers, but none were more tenacious and outspoken than Billy Sunday. He seemed to have a way of driving home a point. It is said that a woman once approached him after one of his meetings who was well known for her bad temper. She sought to defend her actions by saying: “But Mr. Sunday, although I blow up over the least little thing, it’s all over in a minute.”
The evangelist looked her straight in the eye and said, “So is a shotgun blast!! It’s over in seconds, too, but look at the terrible damage it can do.”
God created us with a wide range of emotions, each of which serves a purpose. Yes, even anger can be good. Contrary to popular opinion, anger itself is not sinful. Notice how the apostle words his above statement, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” In essence, Paul is saying that we are well within our rights to be angry over an injustice or unrighteous circumstances.
The recent debate over “partial birth abortion” is a good example. We should be incensed by “abortion” in general and horrified by “partial birth abortions” in particular. Any procedure (usually performed at 7 or 8 months gestation) that allows the infant’s head to remain in the birth canal while the abortionist forces a surgical instrument into the base of the skull to suction out the little one’s brains is nothing short of first degree murder. Here a righteous anger is perfectly justified. In fact, there are scores of times in the Old Testament where the anger of the Lord is said to be kindled against His enemies (Num. 25:1-9; Jer. 12:13).
Surely our Lord is a prime example that anger itself is not necessarily sinful, for He knew no sin. Thus the Lord was well within the boundaries of godly behavior when He exhibited a righteous anger toward those who had made His Father’s house a den of thieves (John 2:13-17). In the future Tribulation Period those who reject God’s anointed and worship the beast and his image, “the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 14:10).
Carefully note, Paul adds to the phrase “be ye angry” a warning, “and sin not.” Unbridled anger can easily turn into a fit of uncontrollable rage which normally leaves a path of destruction in its wake. Unchecked, anger that overflows into resentment almost always results in some form of retaliation. This may take the form of verbal attacks, threats, or even physical abuse.
In a worst case scenario, it is much like a volcano that builds pressure over a period of time and finally erupts. Whenever you watch a news report of a lone gunman who enters his former place of employment with a semi-automatic weapon and kills his supervisor and three other fellow workers, you are witnessing the eruption of pent-up anger. Another example is the believer who allowed his anger to get the better of him and shot an abortion doctor outside a clinic down south. With one pull of the trigger, this young man disgraced the name of Christ, labeled all Christians as radicals in the eyes of the world, destroyed his personal testimony, and ended up with life in prison. These are both cases where anger spun out of control with tragic results.
How to Deal with Anger
We are living in a day when philosophy says, “express yourself openly,” “tell it like it is,” “open up,” “let it all hang out.” However, the Scriptures counsel us to exercise restraint.
The fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23). As we walk by grace through faith, temperance will enable us to keep our anger under control. But how does this work out in a practical sense? Those who fly off in a fit of rage permit their anger to take control of them. Consequently, the energy emitted from this emotion is usually misdirected at someone or something. Sinful anger tears down. Thus, in the heat of the moment things are often said and done which cause irreparable damage to relationships.
Paul adds here in Ephesians, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” We should never allow our anger to simmer overnight. This will only cause it to become more deeply seated. “Neither give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). You see, if you fail to handle things in the proper manner, you may well be giving Satan an opportunity to drive a deeper wedge in your relationships with others. Surely, we are not ignorant of his devices. Always remember, Satan is an opportunist.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.