The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger
Your muscles tense as your body prepares for action. Sugar pours into your bloodstream, creating a high level of energy. Your blood pressure increases and your heart beats faster to circulate blood more rapidly. Large amounts of adrenaline are released into your system and you feel a surge of strength. The stomach muscles constrict and the digestive process stops. Your face flushes. Your body is ready for action. No, it's not love you're feeling: It's anger.
Anger is another of the Seven Deadly Sins. Of the seven, I believe that anger is perhaps the most malignant.
Anger is a fire; it spontaneously ignites, it consumes, and it destroys. Watch, and you'll see it everywhere.
Anger is found on the highway during the morning and evening rush hours.
You'll see anger in the elderly employee let go from his job so the company can hire a younger man at a lesser pay.
Anger is the teenager pounding his fist into his locker at school for any one of a thousand reasons.
Anger is the harried business woman coming home from a busy work day only to pick up the role of being mother to three kids who ask, "What's for supper?" the moment she walks through the door while dad sits unresponsive in front of the TV set.
Anger is the child who can't have another toy and throws a tantrum in the middle of the aisle.
Anger is the single woman being told she is overqualified for the job, when what she needs is any job that will help her make money to keep her home or her car or her furniture.
Anger is the trigger of a gun being squeezed in the ally or the school yard or the office or the home that brings an argument to a sudden and violent close.
Anger is one of the great sins of our time. Everywhere you look, Americans seem to be angry at someone or something. We live at a time when there is a harassed, and knife-edged quality to daily life. Nerves are ragged and millions of people seem terminally fed up.
Of all the seven deadly sins, anger is the most dangerous because, if uncontrolled, it can lead to calamitous results. That is why the Apostle James wrote: "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20
Christians are not immune to the feeling of anger. But if we are to lead righteous and Christ-like lives anger must be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life.
So what do the Scriptures have to say about anger? Let's take a look.
I. ANGER IS AN EMOTION THAT IS PART OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE
- there are some Christians and preachers who will tell you that anger in the believer's life is always wrong period!
- ILLUS. When I was a freshman in college I took a class in astronomy. Sitting next to me in that class was a young women in her early thirties who had come back to college to finish her degree. She was a hard core Pentecostal and we had many interesting discussions about the bible. She believed that anger was wrong in the believer's life and that to get mad at anyone or about anything was a sin. Well, one day I saw her get mad. I mean, she got mad! She got red-in-the-face, flared-nostrils, clenched-fist mad. When I chided her about it, her eyes flashed and she shot back, "That wasn't anger! It was righteous indignation!"
- as I reflect back on that experience I've come to realize that, no, it was plan old anger!
- I am not one of those
- the goal in the believer's life is to learn how to express it appropriately, so that it does not control us
A. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN ANGER IS THE NORMAL RESPONSE
- let me give you an example
- ILLUS. On Wednesday morning of this past week, I was coming up the hill here at the church on my way to Jefferson City. I was already doing about sixty when some idiot shot by me on the right just as the passing lane disappears. She just about forced me into the on-coming lane with traffic coming my way. It made me mad! I got angry. It was a normal response. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t do anything. But I thought a few things that weren’t very Christ-like.
- for some of you super pious folks that say, “Not me, pastor. I never get angry,” we’ll deal with lying at another time
- for the rest of us, anger is a behavioral, emotional, and physiological reaction to stress and provocation
- and I doubt that there is a single person here who does not experience stress and provocation on an almost daily basis
- the question is, "How are you handling that stress and provocation and the anger you experience because of it?"
- one of my favorite examples that I came across this week is found in the book of Nehemiah
- Nehemiah confesses . . . "Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God's name and said: "You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves." Nehemiah 13:23-25
- we might not condone Nehemiah's methods, but his anger was a normal response to the situation
B. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN ANGER IS THE RIGHT RESPONSE
- there are things that happen in our community or our society that we should be angry about
- in these cases, anger is not only the normal response, but the right response
- we should get angry over the atrocity of abortion on demand in this country
- every year 1.2 million babies are tossed into surgical scrap buckets, not for some medical reason, but because they were merely inconvenient
- it ought to make us angry
- we should be angry over the perversion of pornography
- child pornography alone is a $1 billion dollar a year business in this country
- pornography perverts and poisons the minds and souls of hundreds of thousands of young men and exploits the lives of tens of thousands of young women and children
- it ought to make us angry
- we should be angry at the greed of the gambling interests that have moved into Missouri
- their goal is not to make this a better state, but to suck as much money as they can out of our citizens and to line the pockets of as many politicians as it takes in order to keep exploiting our residents
- it ought to make us angry
- we should be angry at the deadliness of drunken drivers and a system that treats them with leniency
- over half of all fatal traffic accidents involve a drunk driver
- it ought to make us angry
- again, the Scriptures reveal that there are times when anger is a justifiable emotion
- Jacob's father-in-law cheated him and gave Leah as a bride instead of Rachel, and Jacob got mad
- he was justified in doing so
- Moses returned from the mountain top with the Ten Commandments after meeting with God, only to find that the people had made an idol to worship, and Moses became angry
- he was justified in doing so
- Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand, for which the Pharisees in the hardness of their hearts accused Jesus of working on the Sabbath' and Jesus became angry at their callousness
- he was justified in doing so
- yes, there are times when anger is the right response
- but let me hasten to say that for every one example in the Scriptures where anger is justifiable there are at least four examples where anger leads to sin
- ILLUS. Thousands of years ago, a very wise Greek philosopher by the name of Aristotle wrote, "Anybody can become angry--that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."
- but even when anger is normal or appropriate, it should never be out of our control
II. ANGER IS A ‘WORK OF THE FLESH’ AND CAN BE HURTFUL TO SELF AND OTHERS IF UNCONTROLLED
- Galatians 5:19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
- the word wrath in verse 20 refers to a passionate anger and paints a picture of a pot boiling up and soon subsiding again only to boil up once more
- the word hatred, also in verse 20, is the word enmity and means to be angry with someone for no good reason
- ILLUS. This kind of anger is illustrated by the old man laying on his death bed, harassed by fear because he has harbored anger and hatred against another person in the community. To cleanse his conscience, he sends for the neighbor with whom he had a disagreement years before. When the neighbor arrives, the dying man makes overtures of reconciliation and at the end the two men shake hands in peace. But as the neighbor is leaving the room, the sick man rouses himself in his bed and says, "Remember, if I get over this, the old quarrel stands!"
- because we belong to Christ, we are to have a different response to stress and provocation
- James 1:19-20 "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."
A. ANGER NEEDS TO BE EXPRESSED
- the Scriptures do not command be not angry, but they do tell us to be slow to anger
- in the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul tells his readers that it is imperative that they deal with anger correctly
- Ephesians 4:26-27 "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil."
- in the original language, each one of these phrases stands on its own
- in essence, Paul writes . . .
- be angry! period
- and do not sin! period
- do not let the sun go down on your anger! period
- psychologists who study anger and anger management affirm what our own common sense tells us
- when anger is over-controlled or repressed it results in depression or ulcers – one of the two
- so express your anger
- but do express it without sinning?
B. ANGER BECOMES SINFUL WHEN IT MOTIVATES US IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
- immediately after the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians, be angry! he tells them, "Oh, by the way, when you get angry, don't use it as an occasion to sin."
- inappropriate ways of expressing anger leads to uncontrolled, indiscriminate, destructive physical and verbal aggression
- when you get angry, there are two directions you can take that anger
- you can nurse it or you can manage it
- nursing anger leads to calamitous results and is like chucking stones at a wasps' nest – someone’s gonna get stung!
- Proverbs 30:33 “For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” NIV
- Cain nursed his anger and he subsequently murdered his brother (Gen. 4:5-6)
- Moses nursed his anger and it caused him to rob God of his glory and to be prohibited from entering the promised land (Num. 20:10-11)
- Joseph's 10 older brothers nursed their anger and out of hatred sold Joseph into slavery and then lied to their father by saying he had been killed by a wild animal
- Saul nursed his anger and it alienated his son, cost him his kingdom, and ultimately his life (1 Sam. 20:30)
- Herod nursed his anger and the result was the slaughter of all the male infants in the city of Bethlehem (Mat. 2:16)
- ILLUS. If you've ever been to Yellowstone National Park, you'll see signs reading "Do not feed the bears" posted all over the park. The reason is that the bears, while they may seem tame, can suddenly turn and become vicious when you feed them.
- anger, like a wild bear, becomes dangerous when you feed it
- yelling, or cursing, or finger pointing, or tongue-wagging, or throwing things, all feed anger
- when anger becomes uncontrollable, evil lies at the doorstep
C. ANGER IS JUSTIFIABLE VALUE WHEN IT MOTIVATES US TO POSITIVE AND REDEMPTIVE ACTIONS
- a father's death to a disease angers a child and that child becomes a physician who searches for the answer to the illness that took his father's life
- a mother loses a child to a drunk driver and she begins an organization dedicated to addressing the issue so that other parents will not have to experience her grief
- these are appropriate expressions of anger
- when we get angry enough about racism or poverty or oppression or injustice, we will do something about it
- anger can motivate us toward positive and redemptive actions
- but, – and let’s be honest about it – anger is more often than not, a work of the flesh in our life and can be hurtful to self and others if uncontrolled
- the world, the flesh and the devil will always encourage you to nurse your anger
- there is a biblical alternative
III. ANGER IN THE BELIEVER'S LIFE MUST BE BROUGHT UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
- the other thing you can do with anger is manage it
- how do you manage anger?
- FIRST, learn to act, not react
- Proverbs 29:22 “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” NIV
- most of us have some ‘hot buttons’ that when pushed initiate the response of anger
- learning to act and not react means taking an honest (and sometime hard) look at your personality and discovering what your hot buttons are
- once you learn your hot buttons, you determine in your heart and mind how you will react the next time one of those buttons is pushed
- it may even mean visualizing in your mind how you will respond the next time someone pushes one of those buttons
- James writes, be slow to speak
- do you know why James says that?
- because anger makes us speak impulsively and when we speak impulsively we say often say thins that are hurtful and that can never be taken back
- ILLUS. When I was growing up, my mom told me what a lot or your moms told you. Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s a lie. Word hurt deeper and longer than sticks and stones ever thought about hurting us. A Spanish Proverb says; Arrows pierce the body, but harsh words pierce the soul.
- stress is often the trigger to anger
- relieving stress reduces the temptation to pull the trigger on your anger
- work out
- do some heavy duty gardening
- kick-box – just don’t practice on the one who made you mad!
- you can’t control other people’s behavior, but you can control the way you respond to them
- have a "cool down" time
- counting to 10 (or 100 whichever is necessary)
- deep breathing
- or just remaining quiet
- doing any of these things gives you the opportunity to step back from the situation, and to think clearly about why you are angry (is it something that you really should be angry at?)
- it also gives you time to think about how you can express your anger so that something constructive might be accomplished
- Romans 12:17-21 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. NIV
- that it means to forego the right of striking back
- it means replacing the feeling of resentment and anger with good will, a love which seeks the other's welfare and not harm
- it means taking concrete steps to restore good relations
- Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel of both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back; in many ways is a feast fit for a king.
The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
How are you dealing with your anger? Do you nurse it or do you manage it?