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Anger: Sometimes Righteous but Usually Not

(The following is the January 25 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Matthew 21 and pay close attention to verses 12-13.)

Do you recall and regret times when you acted in anger? Emotional or physical scars inflicted by others may linger, spawning continuing anger – an emotion that frequently leads to sin. This association of anger with sin is why the story of Jesus cleansing the temple of money changers can surprise us. The image challenges perceptions of Jesus as soft-spoken, meek, and gentle. But Jesus also got angry.

We have sinned when angry. Our attitude toward others in those moments can be hateful or vengeful. We act contrary to what the Bible teaches about loving others, including our enemies. However, Jesus never sinned when angry. This fact shows that being angry is not always a sin (although it is frequently so).

Jesus was angry on this occasion because of the wrongful use of God’s temple. The money changers’ behavior mocked God’s holiness and how people should worship God. Perhaps greed and cheating were rampant in their practices. Jesus was rightly jealous for worship to be reverent and holy, and anything that demeaned worship demeaned Jesus as God’s Son who is worthy of worship. Mark 3:1-6 also tells of Jesus being angry with those who were more concerned about him healing someone on the Sabbath than they were about healing the sick. “Humans indeed are at enmity with God when they find an argument for hate in a deed of love” (CSB Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 1339).

Paul quoted Psalm 4:4 when he wrote, “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Righteous anger is possible when our heart is in tune with God. Our anger isn’t always of that higher nature. Whether we believe our anger is righteous or not, we must guard our actions to ensure we do not sin in response.

Next Step:

Have you been angry at anyone recently? Why? Were the reasons selfish and sinful or compatible with biblical beliefs and values? Pray for God to shape your emotions to be more like Christ.

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