My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19-20 (NIV)
Read: James 1
Consider: We come today to consider something that most of us have given in to occasionally throughout our lives. The sin we will consider in this post is ‘wrath’ (anger), with its corresponding virtue of ‘patience’. Let’s just clarify from the outset that not all anger is sinful. There is a righteous anger that responds to injustice and unfairness. However, for most of us this is not the kind of anger we display. Often anger is borne out of frustration, tiredness or hurt. It generally starts off feeling totally reasonable, but soon takes on an unreasonableness that vents itself at whomever is closest. Unfortunately, this can often be those at home – family. How often have you come home from work tired and annoyed, just for that annoyance to sour your relationship with family?
In Proverbs 14:29 it says:
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. It is the quickness with which some people get angry that is their downfall. James has some very good insights into the issue of anger. In the verses quoted above from James 1 he talks about being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Good advice!
Paul in his letter to the Church at Ephesus says:
‘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). I’ve not read a marriage counselling book yet that doesn’t contain this advice for married couples and many try to practice this good advice throughout their marriages. The advice Paul gives isn’t primarily directed at married couples, so it is good advice for Christians in all situations.
When facing a situation where you feel anger rising in you, it is useful to remember how you should respond to the situation. In Proverbs 15:1 it says: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
In Ephesians 4:2-3 Paul tells his readers to: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ‘Bearing with one another’ can mean accepting another person’s idiosyncrasies, accepting that they are entitled to hold a different point of view. The overall motivation is to express love to that person.
There are many references in the Bible to patience and if you have the opportunity, do a word search of the Bible (perhaps using the Bible App – YouVersion, or the Bible Gateway App). What you will discover is that patience must be developed over time; if it came all at once it obviously wouldn’t be patience!
However, knowing the Bible and doing what the Bible says are different. As it says in James 1:22-25 –
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.
Pray: Father, we recognise that often when we become angry we fall in to sin because we are seeking to defend ourselves. Help us to see that anger, rightly expressed, is not sinful. May we seek to develop patience in every aspect of our lives – home, work, church, leisure. Most of all may we be doers of the Word, putting into practice what you reveal to us thorough the Bible. Amen