Anger Management

Bible Book: Ephesians  4 : 26-27
Subject: Anger; Resentment; Bitterness
Series: Dealing With How Your Feeling

"'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27, NKJV).

A lady once came up to the great evangelist, Billy Sunday, and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. "There's nothing wrong with losing my temper," she said. "I blow up, and then it's all over."

"So does a shotgun," Sunday replied, "and look at the damage it leaves behind!"

Likewise, getting angry can sometimes be like leaping into a wonderfully responsive sports car, gunning the motor, taking off at high speed and then discovering the brakes are out of order.

If you have not noticed, anger is a boiling sun that is burning hotter than ever before over our contemporary culture. In fact, angry family members commit more than 60 percent of the homicides in America.

We are living in a world that is enraged. And this kind of anger is both disrespectful and detrimental. Dr. Redford Williams, director of Duke University's Behavioral Medicine Research Center, has affirmed, "The hostility and anger associated with Type A behavior is the major contributor to heart disease in America." [30]

Furthermore, people who have problems with anger are five times as likely to suffer coronary heart disease as the average person. [31] Obviously, there is a difference between anger and exasperation.

Once a father wanted to illustrate to his son the difference between "anger" and "exasperation." He looked up the phone number of a pompous fellow commuter whom he knew only by name and reputation, and he dialed the number. When the man answered the call, the father asked, "Is Adolph there?" "There's no Adolph here. Why don't you get the right number before bothering people this hour of the night?" roared the man on the other end. "Now that," said the father as he put down the phone, "was simply annoyance. We'll wait a few minutes, and then you'll hear something." After a decent interval, the father dialed the same number and again asked, "Is Adolph there?" This time the other party literally screamed into the phone, "What's the matter with you, are you crazy? I told you to look up the number and stop bothering me!" Then the receiver at the other end was slammed down. "Now that fellow was angry," said the father. "In a few minutes I will show you what I mean by exasperation compared to anger." After fifteen minutes or so, the father dialed the same number for the third time, and when the same man answered at the other end, the father said almost cheerily, "Hello, this is Adolph. Have there been any messages for me during the past half hour or so?" [32]

The Word of God gives some very explicit principles on how to manage your anger. At some time or another in your life, whether younger or older or both, you either will have, have had, or even now are having trouble with anger.

I. Vicious Anger Is Avoidable

The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry, and do not sin." And so there is a kind of anger that is vile. There is a kind of anger that is an awful, atrocious, abysmal, appalling sin. This kind of anger is clearly condemned in God's Word. Therefore a question needs to be raised and answered. When is anger sinful?

A. Sinful Anger Is Deceptive

Anger is sinful if you are angry with another person; and however, if the truth were told, you do not know why. Jesus said, "Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause...shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22, NKJV). If you are angry with somebody but cannot identify sensibly, realistically, and logically why you are angry with that person, then your anger is sinful.

Have you ever had a disagreement with your spouse or with another person, and after a particular amount of time passed, you could not even recall what you were disagreeing about? It is at that moment that anger becomes sinful because you are angry without a cause.

B. Sinful Anger Is Diverted

Anger is always to be aimed at a problem, and never a person. We may be angry at the sin, yet we are to love the sinner. There is a crucial distinction between being angry with a person over what they have done, and being angry toward a person despite what they have done. Anger is to be aimed at sin, not the sinner.

C. Sinful Anger Is Distorted

If your anger brings you to the point that you want to even the score with someone, then it is sinful. If your anger brings you to the point where you want to hurt someone else, if you want to do to him or her as they have done to you, then your anger is sinful. Romans 12:19 declares, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,' says the Lord."

If you are so angry at someone that you either secretly or candidly have made up your mind not to forgive that person, or at any rate not to forgive that person until you have upset them, retaliated, and avenged yourself, then your anger is sinful.

D. Sinful Anger Is Definite

The Bible exclusively expresses that all anger is to be limited. That is why Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath." In Paul's day the setting of the sun was the conclusion of one day and the start of the next day. In the same way, by the end of every day you should not be angry toward anyone for any reason.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "I have no more right as a Christian to allow a bad temper to dwell in me, than I have to allow the Devil himself to dwell there." He was right because that is precisely what you do. When you allow anger to sit and to expand and to rankle in your heart, you are setting aside a room in your life for the devil. That is why Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 4:27, "nor give place to the devil." You need to understand that you are never to make any part of your heart a sitting room for the devil; nevertheless, that is just what anger does.

Husbands and wives ought not ever go to bed angry at one another. That great thinker, Phyllis Diller, once said, "Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight." Now that is somewhat humorous, but actually she was half right. You ought not go to bed mad, but then again, you ought not stay up and fight. You should stay up and make things right, and then go to bed.

Of course, when you permit anger to sit and swell and saturate your heart, you build a nest for the devil to hatch his foul eggs of mischief. And this begins on a series of events, which leads to a literal explosion.

D. Sinful Anger Is Dangerous

Ephesians 4:31 provides the series of events which detonates the blast of a lost temper. "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice." The first phase is bitterness. As we discussed in an earlier chapter, bitterness is that "somebody done me wrong" feeling. Hebrews 12:15 speaks of the "root of bitterness." Anger starts when the seed of bitterness is planted in the soil of your heart. If that bitterness is not ripped up and then rooted out, it will develop into wrath.

The word wrath is derived from a Greek word, which actually means, "to burn." Have you ever seen someone do a "slow burn?" That is just what anger is, a slow burn. In essence, it is when you get all hot under the collar. Wrath is like a fire that rages in your heart, eager for any type of fuel to fan it into an angry inferno.

If the wrath is not restrained, it will then be converted into anger. Anger is merely wrath twisted inside out. Wrath is what we experience internally. Anger is what people notice externally. It is when the eyes contract, the veins protrude, the skin tightens, the jaws clinch, and you are about to have a literal  spell.

Anger then changes to clamor. That word clamor means, "loud quarreling." It is what we call down south "hollering." It is at this point that the detonation is just about to go off because clamor becomes evil speaking. The Greek word for evil speaking gives us the English word blasphemy. This is when you begin to say things that you really don't mean. It's when you start to say hateful things that you  wish right away you had never said.

But then finally, evil speaking turns to malice. Malice means wickedness. This is when verbal heat transforms into bodily harm. This is when that husband hits his wife, or pushes his children, or kicks his dog. This is when the attitude within turns into an outward act that can devastate a marriage and destroy a life. Benjamin Franklin suitably wrote, "Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame."

It is an irrefutable truth that when a person's temper gets the best of them, it exposes the worst of them.

II. Virtuous Anger Is Reasonable

Notice carefully Ephesians 4:26 again. "Be angry, and do not sin." That verse directly advocates that there is a difference between anger and sin. In other words, it is quite possible to be angry but not sin, seeing as not all anger is sin. Have you ever heard someone make a statement to this effect: "You know, he was really good and angry?" Did you know that the Word of God teaches it is possible to be both good and angry? Anger is not in essence a sin, however it is hard to prevent anger from becoming a sin.

Dr. David Seamands has concluded, "Anger is a divinely implanted emotion. Closely allied to our instinct for right, it is designed to be used for constructive spiritual purposes. The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, it's very questionable whether you really love righteousness." And so, anger is a God-given emotion. Anger is like a fire. When a fire is used properly it can warm you, it can heat your home, or even cook your food. However if left to itself, even a small fire can become a furious blaze annihilating everything in its path. In the same way, anger can be good or bad. Yet it all hinges on the situation.

So again, it is not always a sin to be angry. If it was always a sin to be angry, then Jesus was a sinner because we know from studying the Bible that Jesus became angry. Nevertheless we know the scriptures also teach that Jesus was without sin, but He was not without anger.

As a matter of fact, there were at least three different instances where we find that Jesus became angry. First of all, Jesus was angry with people who had cruel hearts. Mark 3:1-5 says, "And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. Then He said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Step forward.' And He said to them, 'Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they kept silent. So 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."

What angered Jesus was not what somebody else had done to Him. He was angry because these Pharisees wanted to hurt someone else. These Pharisees weren't concerned one bit about this man with the withered hand. They simply wanted to some way ensnare Jesus. They just wanted to criticize Jesus. They wanted to find some reason to find fault with Jesus and harm the reputation of his entire ministry.

Secondly, we find that Jesus was angry with people who had conceited hearts. Mark 10:13-16 states, "Then they brought young children to Him, that He might touch them, but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them."

The word displeased in verse 14 means "to be moved with indignation." Jesus was angry, reasonably angry, because the disciples in their ridiculous arrogance, was attempting to keep children clear of Jesus. They had the idea that Jesus should see only the so-called "elite" people. He ought   to be hanging around with people who could do something for him. But what they neglected to understand was that no one is more important than children, because it is children that illustrate to us the kind of spirit that is required to enter the Kingdom of God. Even today, Jesus gets angry with those who attempt to keep others from Him, whether it is because of race, sex, creed, or color.

Jesus also was angry with people who had corrupt hearts. Mark 11:15-18 says, "So they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching." This is a well-known story that is perhaps familiar to most of us. Jesus had walked into the House of God, which was to be a house of prayer and worship, and had seen how these religious counterfeits had converted the church into  a profitable rumpus. They were more interested in gold than they were God; more interested in luxury than they were the lost; and more interested in riches than they were righteousness.

Again, all anger is not sin, although we can see from the life of Jesus that sometimes it is a sin not to get angry. Psalm 97:10 insistently declares, "You who love the Lord, hate evil!"

As James Merritt affirmed is his book, Friends, Foes, & Fools, there are some things today we ought to be angry over:

We ought to be angry over baby-killing abortionists who value the life of a dog more than they do the life of an unborn baby.

We ought to be angry over a sex-crazed, profanity-filled movie industry that is polluting the minds of young and old alike.

We ought to be angry over gutless politicians who do what is politically expedient instead of what is morally right.

We ought to be angry over a liquor industry that is killing more people, wrecking more homes, and ruining more lives than anything else in America.

We ought to be angry over prejudice and injustice done to others just because of the color of skin.[34]

I have shared with you how to identify anger when it is sinful. But, in contrast, how do you identify anger when it is not sinful? Just remember the words of the old Puritan, Thomas Watson, "The anger is without sin that is against sin." [35]

III. Victorious Anger Is Manageable

Perhaps some of you are reading this book and thinking to yourself, "I just cannot control my anger." However, that is just not true. Proverbs 16:32 says, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is sovereign over your human spirit. In fact, Galatians 5:23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is "self control." You can manage your anger when you want to. Have you ever been in a heated argument at home, either with your spouse or one of your children? You are shouting at the top of your lungs and going at it tooth and tongue and about that time the telephone rings, and immediately you pick it up the receiver and politely say, "Hello. May I help you?" You just proved that your anger can be managed and your temper can be controlled. Therefore, let me convey to you three necessary steps on how to manage your anger:

A, Recognize It

When you sense anger beginning to rise up inside you, call it what it is. Confront that anger directly. Recognize precisely what is happening the second your temper rears its ugly head.

Before losing your temper, keep in mind what God says about a quick temper. He says, first of all, a quick temper is foolish. Proverbs 14:17 says, "He who is quick-tempered acts foolishly. And a man of wicked intentions is hated." If you are a person with a bad temper, then you are a fool. Incidentally, if that makes you mad, you just confirmed it.

The Word of God also says a quick temper is fierce. "A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention" (Proverbs 15:18, NKJV). If you will show me a person who has a quick temper, who will get all hot under the collar over the least little thing, I will show you a person who relentlessly stays in a brawl, a quarrel, or a dispute.

A quick temper is also futile. Proverbs 19:19 declares, "A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you deliver him, you will have to do it again." If you lose your temper, eventually you are the one that will be chastised. It will cause you to lose your friends. It will cause you to lose your family. It will cause you to lose your fortune. It will cause you to lose your fitness.

The 18th-century British physician, John Hunter, who was a pioneer in the field of surgery and served as surgeon to King George III, suffered from angina. Discovering that his attacks were often brought on by anger, Hunter lamented, "My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion." These words proved prophetic, for at a meeting of the board of St. George's Hospital in London, Hunter got into a heated argument with other board members, walked out, and dropped dead in the next room. [36]

There is great wisdom in the adage, "When you are angry, count to ten before you speak." However, someone in recent times added to that, "If you are real angry, count to a hundred and then don't say anything."

That is sound advice because those are the characteristics of a wise individual. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said, "The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression" (Proverbs 19:11, NKJV). Likewise, James wrote in his New Testament epistle, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20, NKJV).

B. Repent Of It

If you sense that you are getting angry, don't try to cover it up, don't try to justify it, repent of it. Repent of it, first, to the Lord. Just simply confess to Him, "Lord, I am becoming angry. First of all, help me to make certain that I ought to be. Secondly, if I ought not be, help me to control it." Then if possible, try to repent of it and confess it to someone else. Tell someone you can depend on. Tell someone who really cares about you. However, let someone know that you are getting angry. It might be that a third party, with an open mind and a gentle voice, can help you prevent making a heartbreaking mistake.

C. Restrain It

To begin with, limit the span of your anger. Again, Ephesians 4:26 said, "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath." So no matter what is causing you to be angry, deal with it immediately. Then limit the scope of your anger. In other words, be angry at the problem, not at the person. And lastly, limit the scale of your anger. That is, never ever blow your top.

Have you ever taken into consideration that a fire department never fights fire with fire? We all know that they fight fire with water. Now that is one of the best ways to manage your anger. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Nevertheless there is one other aspect to be mentioned. At least eighteen times, the Old Testament speaks of "the anger of the Lord." Psalm 7:11 makes one of the most astounding declarations in the entire Bible: "God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day." That word angry in the original Hebrew language actually means, "to foam at the mouth." Do you realize how angry  someone has to become to foam at the mouth? But God is just that angry at the wicked. The word wicked in that verse denotes anyone who does not worship, honor, and adore the Lord God.

When you deny God's grace, God's love, God's Son, and then decline God's offer of salvation, He has every reason to be angry. However, if God's anger is great, His love is even greater. God loves you so much that He sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins as well as the sins of the world. Jesus came that you would never have to be subjected to God's anger, that you would never have to suffer God's wrath, that you would never have to face God's judgment. Jesus came so that you could be saved, have everlasting life, and experience God's love eternally.


[30] Bill Webber, "Conquering the Kill-Joys" (Waco: Word Books, 1986), 30. [31] The Atlanta Journal/Constitution, 11 May 1989.

[32] Ralph L. Woods, "The Modern Handbook of Humor" (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), 3-5. [34] James Merritt, "Friends, Foes, & Fools" (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997), 75.

[35] John Blanchard, ed., "Sifted Silver" (Durham: Evangelical Press, 1995), 7. [36] "Today in the Word" (8 June 1992).