Our hearts are deceitful, sin is deceptive, and the ancient serpent that wages war against our souls is crafty. This is a recipe for disaster. That is why it is so helpful to look after one another, study sin, and be aware of the ways of the evil one.
With that said, the specific sin that I want to look at today is anger. I just want us to briefly think through the destructive power of sinful anger. My hope is that this will help us to, by the power of the Spirit, put this sin to death.
Why Sinful Anger is so Destructive
First, the sin of anger is so destructive because it tends to quickly manifest itself outwardly for all to see.
Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
I like how the NIV interprets “exalts” here as “displays.” I think this is exactly what is being revealed here. Somebody with a hasty temper displays to the public that they are foolish (lacking wisdom). With that in mind, Proverb 14:17 says, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Proverbs 14:17).
So, Proverbs is revealing that sinful anger tends to manifest itself outwardly rather quickly. Now, all sin is like this to an extent. All sin, the longer is partaken in, usually becomes more and more manifest to the public’s eye. For example, lust usually begins with the mind. An individual begins to think inappropriately. Before long it begins to be a sin committed with the eyes. So, a person begins to have eyes full of lust and is looking inappropriately at women or men. Then, after a while, lust begins to manifest itself physically. The individual has less and less sexual restraint. Lastly, the sin of lust begins to manifests itself in ways that you never would have imagined. . . . sexual immorality, enslavement to pornography, an affair on your spouse, etc.
This is simply how sin is. And though this is generally true of all sin, it really does seem like sinful anger is a sin that is prone to manifest itself to the public a bit quicker than other sins. There is something about the intense emotions that come with anger that leads it to quickly escalate.
And, even as I say that, you know exactly what I am talking about. Think about the times that you have been angry and then said or did something that you immediately regretted. For example, when I played baseball, I would literally see guys goofing off before an at bat. Then, during the at bat, they would strike out. They would get angry because their pride was shot. They would then come into the dugout, throw their helmet down, throw their bat down, and punch the bench. They would literally break their hand punching the bench (I am not kidding)! And, just remember, they were goofing off three minutes prior to breaking their hand.
Or just think about how quickly people get upset at another driver on the road and then say something verbally or do something physically that is completely out of character for them.
These are just examples from everyday life. The Bible gives us numerous evidences of this truth as well. Cain was filled with anger and killed his brother. Haman was filled with anger and sought to kill Mordecai. King Saul was filled with anger and sought to kill David. The meek and gentle Moses was filled with bitterness and anger at Israel’s complaining and then struck the rock twice when God had only commanded him to speak to it. Jonah was filled with anger and said that it would be better for him to die.
It is just apparent that anger tends to manifest itself in outward ways rather quickly. This, in turn, brings reproach to Christ and misrepresents the God whom we serve. For the God whom we serve is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!
Secondly, since the sin of anger tends to manifest itself publicly rather quickly, it always brings about harm to our neighbor.
Now, it is important to note that this is generally true of all sin as well. The more public a sin is, the more it harms your neighbor. For example, if I covet, or earnestly desire my neighbor’s things, then I have sinned. However, since I coveted them, but did not steal them, my neighbor is not necessarily affected by my sin. Now, if I were to covet my neighbor’s possessions and then begin to steal them, then my neighbor would be directly affected by my sin.
For another example, just think about King David. When he should have been off at war, he was roaming around on the roof of his palace. Upon roaming around, he noticed Bathsheba bathing. If he would have noticed her and then lusted after her in his heart, he would have most certainly been in sin, but she, nor her husband, would have been impacted by his sin.
However, we see that David did not just see and lust after Bathsheba. Rather, he lusted and then sent his servant to bring Bathsheba to him. In doing this, David’s sin caused greater and greater damage to his neighbors. It hurt David himself, Bathsheba, Uriah (her husband), and honestly the entire kingdom of Israel. So, the more public a sin is, the more harm it usually does to our neighbors.
And I think that anger, since it quickly manifests itself to the public, tends to harm our neighbors a great deal. And practically, we know that this is true. You get angry at your parents, so you say something to them that is hateful causing them much anguish. You get upset with your boyfriend or girlfriend and say something to them that you would not have said in a thousand years had you been in your right mind. You are driving down the road and a car cuts you off making you fume with anger. As you fume with anger, you make a hand gesture that you haven’t made in three years. The list can go on and on. Sinful anger simply destroys our neighbors.
This is why you have Proverbs that say things like:
Proverbs 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
Proverbs 29:22 “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”
So, this is the second reason sinful anger is so destructive. It always brings about harm to your neighbor!
Thirdly, the sin of anger has a tendency to rub off on the people closest to you. So, if you are an angry person then you’ll usually begin seeing the people around you be angry people.
Listen to what this Proverb says:
Proverbs 22:24-25 “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
Anger is repulsive. It is a heinous sin. It is absolutely dreadful to be caught in the thicket of, and to see it from afar shows the sheer ugliness of it. Yet, somehow, if we are around it enough, we grow a bit angrier as well. It is as though the sin of anger is a contagion and if we are around it long enough, we too will get it. Listen to what Charles Bridges says about all this:
Common intercourse with a furious man is like living in a house that is on fire. His unreasonable conduct stirs our own tempers. One fire kindles another. Occasional bursts of passion soon form the habit. The habit becomes the nature. Thus we learn his ways, and get a snare to our soul.
So, he is saying, to befriend a person that is given to anger will lead us to have our anger stirred up as well. Then, if this happens frequently, we will make anger a habit. That’s a dreadful thought.
With this in mind, Bridges ends saying, “We learn anger easier than meekness. We convey disease, not health. Hence it is the rule of self-preservation, no less than the rule of God—Make no friendship with an angry man.”
Bridges is saying, for the sake of preserving your own soul, do not befriend somebody that is constantly given to anger. So, this is the third reason the sin of anger is so destructive. It tends to lead those around you to be angry as well.
Lastly, sinful anger tends to stay with us for a long time.
You see, there is something about the sin of anger that tends to stick with us for a while. I mean, let’s be honest, we rarely ever get angry and then quickly get over it. Rather, anger stays with us a while, increases in its severity, and causes us to do or say things that we should not do or say.
With that in mind, think about this instruction from Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”
So, a wise person may get angry, but they do not let anger reside within them letting it build up. They do not allow it to consistently grow and fester within them. The fool, however, does! He allows anger to lodge in his heart letting it impact all that he does and says. This is one of the reasons that the Apostle Paul commands the church in Ephesus saying, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).
So, that is the fourth and last reason the sin of anger is so destructive. Sinful anger tends to stay with us for a while.
So, may we, as Christians, be slow to anger (James 1:19). May we realize that one of the very reasons we are saved is because we serve a gracious God who was and is incredibly patient and slow to anger with us. Seriously, many of us rebelled against God for decades. Let that sink in. We opposed Him for years. We affronted His glory time after time. However, He was slow to anger with us. He was patiently enduring our hard heartedness until we came to repentance and faith in Christ. That is remarkable.
And, as Christians, we ought to imitate that. We ought to be slow to anger as well. For, as is evident from the points mentioned above, sinful anger is destructive. It does not represent the God whom we serve, it does not do any good to our neighbors, nor does it do any spiritual good to us personally. So, by the power of the Spirit, let’s put sinful anger to death to the glory of God.