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The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger

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Anger is another of the Seven Deadly Sins. Like the sin of pride—last week’s sin d’jour—it’s a sin I know that no one here has a problem with! This is a message for all those ‘other people’ you know who have anger issues.

The sin of anger is as old as sin itself—certainly as old as Cain. And while anger has always been part of the human experience it seems to have reached toxic proportions in our culture today.

Anger is one of the great sins of our time. Everywhere you look, Americans seem to be angry at someone or something. Anger seems to have become our national pastime. We live in an era 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 if uncontrolled, 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.


            1. is God always displeased when we get angry? Is anger always a sin?
                1. I don’t think so
            2. it’s important to remember that anger is not only an emotional response—it is a biochemical response as well
                1. the human body is equipped with an automatic defensive system, called the “flight or fight” mechanism, which prepares the entire body for action when we are threatened or attacked
                    1. adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream which sets off a series of physiological responses
                    2. blood pressure increases in accordance with an acceleration in heartbeat
                    3. the eyes dilate for better peripheral vision
                    4. the hands get sweaty and the mouth gets dry
                    5. the muscles are supplied with a sudden burst of energy
                2. in a matter of moments, the individual is transformed from a quiet condition to an alarmed condition readied for action
                    1. and it’s all an involuntary response that happens whether we will it or not
            3. to deny the reality of the emotion is like denying the existence of a toothache
                1. since God created this system as a means by which the body can protect itself against danger, I do not believe that experiencing the emotion of anger itself is sinful
            4. anger is an emotion God has given us for good reasons
                1. the goal in the believer's life is to learn how to express it appropriately, so that it does not control us, and lead us into sin


    • “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which 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 I 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.” (Galatians 5:19–21, KJV)
            1. not all anger is the same
            2. 1st, Resentment is the most common form of anger
                1. the word wrath in verse 20 refers to a passionate anger and paints a picture of a pot boiling up, subsiding but then boiling up once more
                  • ILLUS. The rabbis of Jesus’ day had a proverb about anger. It said: "Anger is like a boiling tea kettle—once it overflows, you have no idea where it’s going to run or who it’s going to burn.”
                    1. in the NIV it is translated as fits of rage and in the ESV as fits of anger
                    2. as a matter of fact, eight words in verse 20 are either related to or rooted in the emotion of anger
                2. often our anger comes from frustrated desires, unreached goals, or a coveting spirit
                    1. the Apostle James addresses the source of our resentful anger
                      • “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:1–2, NIV)
                3. when we desire something and don’t get it, or when our goals are frustrated, rather than feel the pain and disappointment, we react with anger because it hurts less
                  • ILLUS. Think for a moment about the incident between Mary and Martha. Martha is diligently working around the kitchen preparing the afternoon meal, while Martha sat at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10). Martha angrily whined, “Lord, don’t’ you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Martha didn’t just want Mary’s help. Deep down she wanted Jesus’ attention and appreciation. When she didn’t get what she wanted, she felt got angry and felt justified in demanding that Jesus fix the situation right now!
            3. 2nd, Rage is the most aggressive form of anger
                1. rage is vicious, explosive anger that seeks to hurt others verbally or physically
                  • ILLUS. All you need do is pick up your morning newspaper to read about the different manifestations of rage expressed in the culture around us: There is road rage, parking rage, air rage, boat rage, surf rage, fishing rage, river rage, pedestrian rage, jogger rage, biker rage, trucker rage, cell phone rage (all the iPhone 4 people with dropped calls), shopping rage, grocery cart rage, and checkout line rage.
                    1. in my own life I’m experiencing some voter rage—that’s going to be vented in about 100 days!
                2. what makes anger so deadly to the Christ-like life we seek to emulate as Christians is that it too often flares suddenly, powerfully, and irrationally
                    1. rage takes no counsel of the future, no counsel of personal safety, and no counsel of the rights of other
                    2. rage is dangerous and stands at the most harmful end of the anger spectrum
                    3. rage is a bomb with a short fuse and when someone with a short fuse is behind the wheal of a car moving at seventy miles per hour, or within reach of a handgun, or even simply in possessions of a balled-up fist or an acerbic tongue, it becomes a hurtful thing
            4. 3rd, Righteous Indignation is a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment, insult, or malice toward others
                1. it is the only form of anger which is not sinful (at least in the beginning)
                2. righteousness is a word meaning to act in accord with divine or moral law
                    1. righteous indignation therefore means hating the things that God hates, and being angry at the things God would be angry at
                3. there are things that happen in our community or our society that we should be angry about because they make God angry
                    1. we should be angry over the atrocity of abortion on demand in this country
                      • ILLUS. Every year 1.2 million babies are tossed into surgical scrap buckets, not for some medical reason, but because they were merely inconvenient. That ought to make us angry.
                    2. we should be angry over the perversion of pornography that plagues our culture
                      • ILLUS. Child pornography alone is a $1 billion dollar a year business in this country. Pornography perverts and poisons the minds and souls of millions of men and women, and exploits their lives. That ought to make us angry.
                    3. we should be angry at the greed of the gambling interests that have moved into Missouri
                      • ILLUS. Their goal is not to make this a better state, or to give us better schools, 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. That ought to make us angry.
                    4. we should be angry at the deadliness of drunken drivers and a system that treats them with leniency
                      • ILLUS. Over half of all fatal traffic accidents involve a drunk driver. That ought to make us angry.
                4. righteous indignation should motivate us to oppose the hurt inflicted upon others through positive and godly actions
                  • ILLUS. We do not shoot the abortionist and claim it was righteous indignation: We do support Crisis Pregnancy Ministries. We do not torch the cassino and claim it was righteous indignation: We do elect politicians who oppose any expansion of the evil.
                    1. even when our anger is truly motivated by righteous indignation, we must be ever so careful that our good intentions are not sabotaged by Satan
                    2. Christ-like anger, and Spirit-filled anger, are distinctly different from a self-filled, fleshly anger—what the Apostle James calls “man’s anger”
                      • ILLUS. Consider the wicked city of Nineveh and the prophet Jonah. God was angry at the behavior of the Ninevites. There was evil to be confronted, and God called his prophet to confront it. To say to them, “Yet 40 days, and Nineveh will be destroyed!” But the heart of anger that Jonah took into his assignment was all his own, and God rebuked him for it.
                5. there are times when anger is the right response
                    1. but let me hasten to say that for every one example in the Scriptures where anger is justifiable there innumerable 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."


    • “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which 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 I 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.” (Galatians 5:19–21, KJV)
            1. anger, in the vast majority of incidents is evidence of and an expression of our sinful nature
                1. the Apostle lists it as one of the many works of the flesh
                2. listen to the list of behaviors that are rooted in the emotion of anger used by the apostle in verse 20 alone:
                    1. Hatred is the opposite of love—it speaks of enmity and hostility in whatever form manifested
                    2. Variance refers to contention, strife, fighting, discord, quarreling, wrangling
                    3. Emulations refers to jealousy—an agrgy feeling excited by another’s possession
                    4. Wrath refers here to passionate outbursts of anger or hostile feeling
                    5. Strife means self-seeking, selfishness, factiousness
                    6. Seditions speaks of angry dissensions and angry divisions between individuals or among groups
                3. Envy is an evil feeling, a wrongful desire to possess what belongs to someone else and to be angry ‘cause you ain’t got it
            2. all of these sins are rooted in the emotion of anger which is why our spiritual forefathers called it a deadly sin
                1. anger kills the Christ-like life within us and leads to a multitude of sins
            3. because we belong to Christ, we are to have a different response when the emotion of anger wells up within us
              • “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, NIV)
                1. the Scriptures do not command be not angry, but they do tell us to be slow to anger
            4. in the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul tells his readers that it is imperative that yhey deal with anger correctly
              • “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26–27, NIV)
                1. the Apostle tells his listeners,"Oh, by the way, when you get angry, don't use it as an occasion to sin."
                2. inappropriate ways of expressing anger leads to uncontrolled, indiscriminate, destructive physical and verbal aggression


    • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31, NIV)
            1. we all have our weak spots—our pet peeves that get inside us and work on our emotions until we’re struggling with anger
                1. how can we handle our anger


            1. when you get angry, there are two directions you can take that anger
                1. you can nurse it or you can manage it
                  • ILLUS. 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
                    1. Cain nursed his anger and he subsequently murdered his brother (Gen. 4:5-6)
                    2. 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)
                    3. 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
                    4. Saul nursed his anger and it alienated his son, cost him his kingdom, and ultimately his life (1 Sam. 20:30)
                    5. Herod nursed his anger and the result was the slaughter of all the male infants in and around the city of Bethlehem (Mat. 2:16)
            2. nursing your anger is always dangerous
              • 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.
                1. anger, like a wild bear, becomes most dangerous when you feed it
                2. yelling, or cursing, or finger pointing, or tongue-wagging, or throwing things, all feed anger
            3. the bible tells us not to let the sun set on our anger
                1. that’s simply an eloquent way of saying to clear all your accounts before the day is over and to start each day with clean books
                2. it means enforcing a time limit on your anger
                3. our greatest problem with anger is that we enjoy it—it tastes good—we savor it, we welcome it, we convince ourselves that we have a right to it, and may even convince ourselves that it is righteous indignation
            4. don’t nurse your anger


            1. you and I all know people who go over their anger in their mind again, and again, and again in great detail
                1. of course we don’t do so ... we just know others who do so ... Amen?
            2. people who rehearse their anger are practically artists of anger, with resentful words as their medium
                1. these are the folks who constantly rehearse their stories in their minds: “I can’t believe what so-n-so did to me ... said to me ... said about me.”
                2. these are the folks who maintain their own little anger factories within themselves, and the keep a steady supply of the emotion on hand
            3. the great problem of rehearsing your anger is that it manufactures even more anger
            4. the remedy for rehearsing our anger is releasing our anger through forgiveness
              • “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15, NIV)
                1. don’t rehearse your anger


    • “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV)
            1. when we rehearse our anger, it’s a short distance to conversing about our anger
                1. we move from ...
                    1. “I can’t believe what so-n-so did to me ... said to me ... said about me.”
                    2. “You won’t believe what so-n-so did to me ... said to me ... said about me.”
            2. unfortunately, conversing about our anger with others has almost become an indoor sport in our culture
                1. we hear so much and verbalize so much disrespect that we’ve abbreviated the word into “dis”—“Don’t ‘dis me, man!”
                2. we spend plenty of time dis’n the boss, the pastor, the congregation, the children, the parents, the neighbors—the list, of course, is limited only by the number of our acquaintances
            3. words are simply too powerful to be used carelessly
                1. this is why we’re instructed; Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths
                    1. the reason is that angry conversation is infectious
                      • “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” (Proverbs 22:24–25, NIV)
                2. rather than conversing with others about our anger, we need to instead speak words that are helpful for building others up according to their needs
                    1. this is one of the marks of a Christian
                3. don’t converse about your anger


    • “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11, NASB)
            1. sinful anger is seldom about offering a rebuke; it’s about indulging in a tantrum
                1. temper tantrums, of course, are identified with little children
                    1. it’s a rage that vents every ounce of anger and frustration within their little bodies
                    2. they haven’t reached the age where self-control is possible
            2. most of us reach that age at some point—we do learn how to master our emotion to differing extents
                1. however, there are some adults who indulge in very adult temper tantrums
                    1. they don’t roll on the carpet or squeal, but they act out their emotions in very public and unseemly ways
                2. don’t disperse your anger


    • “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. 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.” (Romans 12:19–20, NIV)
            1. when you must deal with anger, don’t nurse it; don’t rehearse it; don’t converse about it; don’t disperse it—instead, you must reverse it
                1. anger in reverse?
                2. what does that mean?
            2. we’ve all done things we’ve wished we could reverse
                1. we’ve broken something or said something or done something, and we’ve wished we could rewind the film of life and reverse the damage
                    1. but time is irreversible
            3. the Bible offers an alternative way to reverse things
                1. as a matter of fact, the Scriptures are filled with this prescription
                    1. it seems like sheer foolishness to the world
                2. if someone makes us angry, we offer love in return
                3. if someone threatens harm, we are to feel compassion for the forces that made him or her that way
                4. instead of retaliation, we offer redemption


            1. I use to be really confused by the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:20
                1. I’m supposed to offer comfort to the enemy—and for the purpose of what? Heaping burning coals on his head?
                  • ILLUS. The Apostle Paul is referring to an old Egyptian custom. If a person committed some kind of misdeed, for which they later felt shame, they would show their contrition by placing a pan of hot coals on their head. The burning coals revealed the “burning shame” within their heart.
            2. if someone wrongs you in some way, see what happens when you return right for wrong
                1. if they do not reconcile then their shame becomes as visible as a pan of hot coals sizzling on their head
            3. this is what we mean by reversing our anger
                1. we turn base human reactions on their head
                2. we pay out the reverse of what we might feel, or of what has been done to us
            4. is this an easy thing to do?
                1. no, not at all
                2. it takes healthy doses of wisdom, maturity, and self-control
                3. the very attributes that maturing Christians are to excel in!
                4. it takes Christ in us
                  • ILLUS. One day, many years ago, a man was beaten and tortured. He was spat upon and robbed. He endured every insult imaginable, then He was nailed to a cross. Hanging there in darkness and mockery, blood flowing from nearly every part of His body, He might have yelled out curses to all His killers. As a matter of fact, He might have done much more than that. Awesome power was in His grasp. But Jesus reversed the evil. He took it all within His aching body and offered a prayer of forgiveness. When Jesus offered forgiveness instead of retaliation, a long chain of evil dating all the way from creation was broken. And even more—a new pattern was established.
            5. you and I are to live out that pattern
                    1. Good for evil
                    2. Blessings for curses
                    3. Compassion for aggression

How are you dealing with your anger?

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