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Raging fury!! Good and bad anger. What does God say about anger?

Updated on June 4, 2017
David Winters profile image

David Winters has been a pastor 22 years. He has a BA in history from Taylor and an M-Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Anger building on the horizon


What makes you angry???

Your favorite team loses. Your boss asked you to help someone else do their job. Your spouse didn't thank you for cleaning the bathroom. Someone left the lid up. Someone made fun of you. Someone has a different viewpoint than yours.

What makes you angry? Is it right for you to be angry? Is your anger good or evil?

Bad anger...anger that is destructive, self-centered, manipulative, punishing. Good anger...anger that is right, life-giving, sin-defeating, justice bringing, and therapeutic. Anger can be a great evil. Anger can be a slave-master to some. And anger can be a catalyst for great good.

You Mad Bro?


Bad Anger

Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself. Proverbs 22:24-25

Some people are simply angry people. People are cautious around them because you never know when the angry person will detonate. Some people are proud of their anger and take perverse pleasure in the fact that people around them fear their explosive anger. Some people use their anger as a means to control others. This is the angry person. Maybe they know why they are angry or maybe they don't. Perhaps they are angry over the way their life has turned out. Perhaps they are angry all the time with a person they blame for ruining their life.

The Bible says to physically avoid the person who is always angry about something. Don't hang out with people who are like a minefield always ready to go off about something. Don't admire such a person. Avoid them not because you don't love them but because you don't want to catch what they have. Keeping company with an angry person will rub off on you, don't catch the disease of 'bad anger.'

21“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus says bad anger = murder. Lashing out at people in anger is a type of murder. Anger can be deadly and destructive. Anger that manifests itself in insults, putdowns, cursing is similar to murder in the eyes of God. Such anger is driven by a desire to harm, hurt, punish, or get revenge. Proverbs 18:21 says, 'Death and life are in the power of the tongue.' Bad anger is so harmful it's worthy of hell.

26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil....30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4

When you blow your anger on someone and feel sorry act quickly and ask forgiveness. Don't yield to your pride and resist asking forgiveness. Don't give up and simply believe you are an angry person and those around just have to live with your anger. Don't let the sun go down on your anger or you are giving the devil an opportunity to put down a root of anger in your life. And once the root of anger is there it can be hard to dig up out of your life. Not at all anger is bad, but anger can't be given a chance to permanently take up residence in your life.

Bad Anger always isolates us from people


Good Anger

Not all anger is bad anger. Anger can be good and necessary. Good anger is a catalyst for action. Good anger leads us to take action against sin and evil.

And David said to the men who stood by him, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? 1 Samuel 17:26

David came to the battle front bringing supplies to his brothers and saw the giant Goliath come out mocking and taunting Israel and the Lord. The Hebrew soldiers were filled with fear but David was filled with anger, they focused on Goliath and felt hopeless but David focused on God and felt furious. David was angry about the inaction and unbelief of the people of God. David was angry that God was being dishonored. David was angry because he believed any warrior who trusted in God would be able to defeat the giant, even himself. David was angry because the "living God" was being defied, insulted, and dishonored, and it was more than he could take. Young untested David boiled with anger while the seasoned warriors quaked in fear. Good anger caused David to take a huge step of faith and run to meet the giant in mortal combat. His anger led to an incredible victory for God's people and catapulted him into the national spotlight. David's faith on display that day against David is timeless and unforgettable and it began with anger rising in his heart.

Another example of good anger is found in John 2, when Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem and found greedy merchants making high profits off the people of God coming to worship. And what did Jesus, the Prince of Peace, do...

15And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:15-17

Jesus got angry. Why did Jesus get angry? Because His Father's house was being used by merchants, not for worship, but to make high profits off people coming to worship. Jesus' anger drove him to action. He made a whip and drove the merchants and animals out of the Temple. Jesus got angry for God and cleared the Temple. You can be sure there were many Jews who knew the trade was wrong but wouldn't buck the system. Notice, He is angry on behalf of his Father, "do not make my Father's house a house of trade." Another time Jesus gets angry is in Mark 3...

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Mark 3:5

On this day Jesus was in a synagogue on a Sabbath. The Pharisees were watching and waiting to see if Jesus would extend his healing touch to the man with the withered hand. The Pharisees were concerned over Jesus possibly violating their interpretation of God's law to not work (heal) on the sabbath. The Pharisees were not concerned or compassionate toward the man with the disfigured and perhaps painful hand. The Pharisees were more concerned about their laws and rules than the welfare of a human being made in God's image. This is why Jesus was angry and deeply distressed. Jesus cared about the man and saw the higher law of God's desire to heal sabbath or no sabbath. In anger Jesus spoke up, not caring what the Pharisees might say or do, and said, "stretch out your hand."

Another example of good and right anger is when Moses came down off the mountain after being with God for an extended time and the Jews had given way to idolatry and immorality...

And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Exodus 32:19

Moses' anger burned hot. So hot he shattered the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Jews in his extended absence had given way to doubt firstly, and from there had gone down hill fast into making an idol in the form of a calf and going into full blown idolatry and immorality. Moses' anger burned hot and he took action that day and set the camp right. But if you read Exodus 32 you see the very next day Moses' anger is gone and Moses is imploring and interceding with God to be patient and merciful with the wayward Jews. Good anger is not an enslaving anger but it comes only when necessary to re-establish righteousness. When good anger has served it's purpose it's gone. One last example is Paul's anger in Galatians 2 when Cephas (Peter) and other prominent Jews give in to hypocrisy.

11But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.12For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” Galatians 2:11-13

Peter (Cephas) freely ate with Gentiles (non-Jews) which appeared to be against Old Testament law. But when "certain men" came from Jerusalem Peter suddenly changed his ways out of fear and or wanting to impress those "certain men." Peter and Barnabas cared more about those "certain men" and left the new Gentile believers feeling very much second-class Christians. Those new Gentile Christians must have felt suddenly abandoned and unclean and perhaps unwanted. Paul got angry and opposed Peter to 'his face' in public. Peter 'stood condemned,' clearly caught in hypocrisy. Paul had good anger to take a stand against hypocrisy which was a good correction to the Christian Jews and would have greatly encouraged the Gentile Jews.

Good anger always leads to life, truth, righteousness, and God's honor and glory.

How do I know if my anger is good or bad?

Some questions to help us consider if our anger is good or bad?

Is it a sin? It's not a sin if your favorite team loses. It's not a sin for your boss to ask you to fix your mistakes or do something differently. Consider if an actual sin has been committed.

Is this something God is angry about? Is God angry over innocent civilians getting slaughtered in a third world country? Is God angry that someone else got promoted or got the job instead of you? Is God angry over the boy or girl who is excluded and picked on at school? Is God angry that your salary is not larger? We believe God works all things together for good but it's a useful question to consider if it's an issue of sin and if God also feels anger and desires to bring His redemption to it.

Will my anger lead toward good and redemption? Will my anger lead to forgiveness? Will your anger lead to you taking action or speaking up for what is right? Good anger just doesn't love anger for the sake of anger, camping out and spinning in useless vitriolic anger, setting all around us in flames of anger. Good anger leads to action for what is good and right and God's will.

Be Slow to Anger

I can't omit all the Biblical references to being "slow to anger."

The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. Psalm 145:8

First, God is slow to anger. God does get angry, but He is slow to anger, and quick to forgive. And while He is angry His grace is ever present and ready to descend on the repentant. There are nine references describing God as being slow to anger. (Nahum 1:3, Joel 2:13, Psalms 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, Jonah 4:2, Nehemiah 9:17) We praise God for His love, mercy, grace, and even His anger. How could we ever love a God who is passive and indifferent to sin, death, injustice, and evil? Thankfully He is slow to anger and we are to be.

We are to be slow to anger.

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. Proverbs 15:18.

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Proverbs 16:32

The person who is slow to anger has "great" understanding and wisdom. The one who is slow to anger is the person who is able to calm and short-circuit arguments and disputes. The person who has control over their anger and is slow to anger is described as better than the mighty. It takes a strong person to keep their anger in check.

This admonition is given to the followers of Jesus...

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Anger is tent we visit not a house we live in

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sin go down on your anger...Ephesians 4:26

A tent is not a permanent home but can be easily set up and easily folded down. A house is a more permanent dwelling to build and settle in. Anger is like a tent we have to go at times, it's not the place we live, it's not the main feature of who we are, but a place we know we have to go at times in the face of sin. Anger is also a place we have to leave and can't permanently settle in.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is the house we are building and living in. The fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc. That is the person we want to be everyday through Jesus.

Healing Anger; Anger as a necessary step in healing your soul

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger...Ephesians 4:26

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for he wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Romans 12:19

When we have been sinned against or wounded by death, grief, or injustice we probably or must experience anger. We can't heal until we face the wrong done to us, feel anger over the sin, and release it unto God.

We may have a good and righteous anger over the sin we have experienced but unless we release it to God it will become bad anger in our hearts.

We can't forgive a person or group who sinned against us until we are honest about our anger. You may struggle with hatred toward a person, and this too you must confess, admit, and release to God for you to be healed.

Anger Management or Asking God for Freedom from Anger

When I was a youth pastor in the first church I served there was young man who struggled with anger. He had been abandoned by his parents and was being raised by his maternal grandmother. He became so angry he began to hit his sister and sometimes grandmother. He was sent for anger management. He was given a punching bag to punch instead of his family. But a punching bag can't heal or release the anger inside us. We release our anger to God. Ask God to take it away. Here is a sample prayer you can pray...

"Lord, I give you my anger over _____________. I have been so angry with ___________ because ________________________. If my anger has become about me, please forgive my anger. Take away my anger in Jesus name."

What if you are angry with God?

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. Job 3:1

Anger is a natural human emotion and response to life in a sinful fallen world where unexplainable tragedies and horrors take place. And sometimes our anger is directed to the Lord. It's in the Bible. There are so many verses where people cry out to God in pain and anger.

Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable? Jeremiah 15:17

The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God's terrors are marshaled against me. Job 6:4

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22:1

How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Psalm 89:46

God isn't fazed by our anger toward Him. He does not condemn our anger. Just remember our anger has to be released, it's not who we are or where we live, even our anger toward Him must be released. And our anger toward Him I believe is more emotional than rational, but whatever the nature, here is another sample prayer for us to release our anger and have our joy and peace restored.

Lord, forgive me for my anger toward You over _______________________. I now confess You are good and that You love me, even if I don't understand why ____________________ happened. Please forgive me my anger and take it away in Jesus name.

© 2017 David Winters


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