Day 25 - Be Angry, But Do Not Sin

Day 25 - Be Angry, But Do Not Sin

Written By: Katelyn Boyd

“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:25-27, NLT)

When was the last time you got good and angry and lost control of your temper–maybe in traffic, or in a heated discussion with your spouse–or you allowed a sinful thought to take root in your mind about someone who offended you? In our devotion from Ephesians 4 yesterday, we looked at what it means to be unified as believers. Today, we are looking at the specific instructions Paul gives us in verses 25-27 about how we are to handle anger. In these verses, Paul tells us that both lying and sinning in anger have no place among believers in the body of Christ; both result in disruption of the unity we are to share within the body. Today we will focus on anger. Anger is an emotion, and the presence of anger is not inherently sinful. But, our emotions compete for control of our mouths and our moods, and we must struggle to make them subservient to Spirit of God in us instead of allowing them to control us. We must intentionally seek to be aware of the heart our anger reveals and the action our anger produces, in order to be able to be angry without sinning, as Paul instructs us in this passage.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 15 that the things that come out of our mouths, come from our hearts (Matthew 15:18-19). I have perhaps never been more aware of my sinful heart than when I am face to face with my preschooler who has told me “NO!” one too many times, or when I am at a stand-off with my spouse about whose turn it is to take out the garbage.

Nobody wants anger to control them, but in order for us to control our anger rather than the other way around, we must first realize that anger stems from a desire or expectation not being met. Righteous anger–such as anger over mistreatment of others, or the anger Jesus displayed at the money changers who were making His Father’s house a “den of thieves” in Matthew 21–this anger reflects concern over what others aren’t getting that they deserve, and this anger is loving and constructive. If you love someone who is dying of cancer, you hate or are angry at the cancer that is destroying them. You desire for them to be healthy, but because of the cancer, that desire is not being met. If we love the glory of God, we become angry at anything that seeks to diminish that. Righteous anger most often is born out of the love of God or the love of others. However, most often, we become angry because there is something that we desire for ourselves that we are not getting–respect from our boss, acknowledgement from our spouse, etc. This reveals a selfish heart, and it leads us to sin, which is destructive. Though anger itself is not a sin, we have to stop and own the fact that anger most often reveals that our hearts are selfish and fallen, and unchecked, we have the potential to fall into sin as a result. Just as righteous anger reveals a heart that loves God and others, selfish anger that results in sin comes from loving the wrong things, or loving the right things out of proportion. St. Augustine said “The root of our sinfulness is disordered loves.” It’s not wrong to value your name or reputation, but when you love those things too much, you get inordinately angry every time your ego is insulted. If you love control or convenience, you become angry at anyone or anything that threatens them.

It stands to reason then, that anger that reveals a selfish heart has the tendency to produce sinful, selfish actions! Knowing this, we can guard against sin that would result from selfish anger. The rest of Ephesians chapter 4 gives us some things to consider when assessing how to handle anger so as not to sin. First, verse 26 says that anger ought to be short-lived. When we swiftly and biblically confront anger with others in a biblical way, then we can work through it, submit it to the Lord and move on. It is when we continually mull over what so-and-so did that made us mad for days and weeks, talk about it with anyone who will listen, and seek justification for our anger that we are much more likely to sin in that anger. Anger should lead the believer to redemptive rather than vindictive action! It should be directed at a problem, not a person, and should produce constructive action that will bring positive and redemptive change. The goal when dealing with anger should be God’s glory and the building up of the body (v. 29). Next time you’re angry, what if you asked yourself, “How can God receive glory from this?” and “How can I build others up through this?” instead of dwelling on what you weren’t receiving or don’t have. These questions help to shift our focus from ourselves to God and to others and, thereby, safeguards us from sin. 

    Next time you are angry, stop to consider what the source of your anger is and what it is defending. Is it defending the dignity of others or the glory of God? Or is it defending yourself and your own desires? Your anger may very well be justified, but it may also be more easily diffused if you can identify your own unmet desires or expectations at the root of that anger. Consider identifying them out loud (to yourself or a trusted friend): “I am angry because I am not in control,” etc. Then, ask yourself how God can receive glory and how others can be lifted up through the way you handle your anger. 

Lord, I know my own selfish heart, and I know my tendency to sin in anger. I know the enemy would love nothing more than to use my anger to destroy and divide. Please help me not to allow him a foothold in my life through anger and keep me from sinning in my anger. Help me to deal swiftly and lovingly with anger. Help me to handle anger like Jesus did–to seek your glory and the good of others, rather than my own vindication. In Jesus’ name, Amen