“Be angry and do not sin.” All too often, followers of Jesus Christ put a period at the end of that statement and then proceed to justify what is referred to as “righteous anger”. A period at the end of that statement leaves it to our own understanding just how to take action with that righteous anger. Action that constitutes not sinning. Many point to Jesus overturning the tables at the temple and, again, use that to justify that we have the green light to take action in our righteous anger.
We find that exact statement in the Scriptures twice (Be angry and do not sin). Once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. This is the beauty of God’s Word, the congruence of Old and New Testaments, the consistency of God’s narrative. In my humble opinion, when God repeats Himself, we should take notice and seek full understanding.
In neither place does the statement “Be angry and do not sin” end with a period. God ensures that He doesn’t leave ‘do not sin’ up to interpretation – probably because He knows my heart (and yours) would love to be the interpreter in this case. In anger, though, I cannot be trusted to make a decision on what a sinful reaction is and is not. So, God answers it for us. Here are the full sentences from the two passages:
“Be angry and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” – Psalm 4:4
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26-27
Anger is not easy to let go of. God understands that if something makes us angry, it is likely to stay with us all day. So, ponder what is making you angry on your bed. But it is imperative that we figure out how to let it go so that the sun doesn’t set – the day doesn’t end – you don’t go to sleep – while still angry.
And be silent. Don’t lash out. Don’t make sure the person(s) you are angry with are aware. Vengeance and revenge are not ours to mete out. Being mean or disrespectful is not likely to convert any to believe in Jesus, and making disciples is our God-given mission.
It is my contention that righteous anger is a man-made invention that helps us justify sinful behavior. I cannot be trusted to handle my anger in the same way that Jesus was justified in His actions in the temple. I just cannot be trusted.
Scripture out of context is Satan’s favorite weapon. So, in order to not give the devil an opportunity, I will ponder what makes me angry and let it go before the day ends. And I will be silent. The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, understood how to do this:
“I hear and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.” – Habakkuk 3:16
Be angry, and do not sin;