What does the Bible say about anger?

“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear” (James 1:19 MSG).

The Bible has a lot to say about anger. Phrases like “refrain from anger” (Psalm 37:8), “slow to anger” (Psalm 103:8; Proverbs 14:29, 15:18, 16:32, 19:11; James 1:19), and “be angry and do not sin” (Psalm 4:4, Ephesians 4:26) are found throughout the English Standard translation. When God repeats a theme, we are wise to take note. 

It is Moses’ anger in Numbers 20 that causes him to strike a rock instead of speak to it as instructed by God. The consequence of that action? After decades of leading others to the promised land, Moses was not permitted to enter. In fact, a study of Moses’ anger provides a great basis to understand the difference between righteous anger that comes from God and that which originates with man. To dive in further, read "Moses: His Anger and What It Cost Him" by the Discovery Series from Our Daily Bread Ministries. 

But what about the story of Jesus flipping tables? 

“God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger” (James 1:20 MSG). Righteous anger, offense and vengeance belong to God, not us. Brant Hansen, author of Unoffendable, writes that as Christians “we should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on a planet that seems to spin on an axis of offense.” 

The year 2020 is approaching quickly, and if it is anything like 2019, then all sides are about to claim righteous anger. But can they? Can we?

The only one capable of having a pure motive and claiming righteous anger is God. Jesus flipped tables because they were defiling His Father’s temple. They were taking advantage of the poor, the misfits, the outsiders, the very ones Jesus had come to welcome in. Jesus flipped tables because, as Romans 1:18 (ESV) says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

God’s righteous anger comes from the seat of truth. It originates from perfection and holiness and is acted out on those who would suppress the truth. When our anger steps outside of those lines (which it often does due to our own biases and frustrations), then it reflects man, not God. We are more like Moses striking a rock when people annoy us rather than flipping tables because the marginalized are being denied access to the kingdom of heaven. 

When it comes to anger, the Bible tells us to be wise. We are to listen first and leave the vengeance to God.