Anger is a destructive emotion that has led to every kind of sin, including murder, as when Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:4–8). The elder brother of the prodigal son “was angry, and would not go in” (Luke 15:28). Paul wrote, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). It is possible to be angry without sinning, but very difficult.
When Jesus saw the moneychangers cheating people in the temple, He made a scourge and drove them out of the temple, saying, “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise” (John 2:16). Jesus acted out of righteous indignation. Undoubtedly He was angry, but He did not sin because He was zealous for God’s glory. Every child of God ought to be angry when the glory of God is challenged, and it is a tragedy for Christians to be so tolerant that nothing makes them angry.
James gives a simple prescription for dealing with anger: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of
God” (James 1:19–20).
To be “swift to hear” means to be a ready listener. Often we are angered because we do not have enough information. When we listen carefully, sometimes even “reading between the lines,” we may find that concern replaces anger. Anger is often simply an emotional reaction.
To be “slow to speak” means to control the tongue, which is a difficult task. James said, “ The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Solomon said, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20). Hasty words spoken in anger will almost always be regretted.
To be “slow to wrath” is also difficult. We can slow the anger process by counting to ten. Prayer is also helpful, as is the realization that we can control our reaction to a problem.
The “new man” in Christ lays aside worldly anger. “Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man” (Colossians 3:8–11).