The relationships you have with yourself, others, and events that take place all impact your emotions. Human beings are designed with the capacity to feel, and you are often led by your emotions. This can be relatively harmless, but depending on the emotion and its intensity, your life can be derailed by emotive decision-making. That’s not a strike against emotions – they are a vital part of who you are as a being made in the image of God.
However, emotions, just like reason, should not be given free rein but must be brought under the authority of God’s Word. For example, the Bible warns of the dangers of holding onto emotions such as anger because they can negatively affect your heart and your relationships with people around you.
If someone breaks into your car, or a colleague takes credit for your idea, or your child defies you, or you find out that your spouse has been unfaithful, it can provoke anger. Even if your anger is appropriate, what you do with it matters. You need to be able to feel what you feel while not being controlled by it, letting it get out of hand, or leading you into bad decisions – in short, without letting it become anger that leads you to sin.
The Bible has many stories, aphorisms, and warnings about sinning in anger and what can happen if you give in to it. While giving full vent to your anger might feel empowering in the moment, in its wake you may regret the broken relationships or even violence (which has legal and other consequences).
And while many things ought to stir our anger and move you toward appropriate action, chances are your anger is far too often directed toward things that are best categorized as inconveniences, such as bad traffic or long lines at the grocery store, eye rolls and an upset tone. In such situations, it is appropriate to ask yourself whether your angry reaction is helpful and appropriate, or whether it is sin.
Anger in the Bible.
Below are some verses about anger in the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments to help you reflect on your anger and learn a few ways to bring that anger under control. One important point to make beforehand is that there are many instances in which people struggle with anger to the point where they have anger issues.
There are many causes of anger issues, and while all are within the control of the person, not all of them are equally easy to deal with. While this calls for a bit of sensitivity when responding to other people’s anger issues, the Bible makes clear that being controlled by anger is always a sin. “The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23).
God’s anger vs. our own.
God is a righteous judge, a God who is angry at evil every single day. – Psalm 7:11
Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So, he did, and his hand was made healthy. – Mark 3:5
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15
The Lord responded, ‘Is your anger a good thing?’ – Jonah 4:4
These verses make it plain that God does get angry, but what angers God is evil. The last verse is found in the book of Jonah. The prophet was angry with God because was gracious to the Ninevites when they turned from their evil ways and repented.
Jonah had hoped God would destroy the Ninevites and became angry because of God’s graciousness. God asks Jonah if his anger towards the people of Nineveh was justified. Be careful to allow the Lord to tell you if your anger is justified or not.
Anger has consequences.
People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm. – Proverbs 14:17
But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell. – Matthew 5:22
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and a man given to anger causes much transgression – Proverbs 29:22
Don’t give in to worry or anger; it only leads to trouble. – Psalm 37:8
Keep your temper under control; it is foolish to harbor a grudge. – Ecclesiastes 7:9
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
Because churning milk makes curds, squeezing the nose brings blood, and stirring up anger produces strife. – Proverbs 30:33
Violent people entice their neighbors and walk them down a path that isn’t good. – Proverbs 16:29
Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that murderers don’t have eternal life residing in them. – 1 John 3:15
As with all other emotions, what you do when under the influence of anger matters. Not only does giving in to anger likely lead to more anger and strife, but it can lead you toward a poor standing before the Lord. This is a sober warning for God’s people to not let your anger devolve into a deep grudge or hatred.
Be careful who you associate with.
Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes. – Proverbs 14:29
Insightful people restrain their anger; their glory is to ignore an offense. – Proverbs 19:11
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back – Proverbs 29:11
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered. – Proverbs 22:24
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. – James 4:1-2
Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife. – Proverbs 15:18
The Bible calls those who give full vent to their anger “fools.” When you read the word “fool,” it would be a mistake to think of someone who merely makes bad decisions. Rather, the book of Proverbs takes great pains to show the fool to be the one who refuses to live their life according to God’s commandments. The fool, in other words, is a sinner.
Who you hang out with matters. Your friends have an influence over you, and you can easily absorb and replicate unhealthy behaviors such as giving full vent to your anger. If you want to learn wisdom, hang out with wise people. Don’t hang out with fools who let their anger get the better of them. This is especially true if you think you’ll be their friend so that they will be won over to Christ by the light you share-it doesn’t work like that.
Instead of anger, cultivate positive emotions and actions.
If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. – Ephesians 4:26
Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. – Ephesians 4:29
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
Therefore, I want men to pray everywhere by lifting up hands that are holy, without anger or argument. – 1 Timothy 2:8
Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. – Ephesians 4:31
But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. – Colossians 3:8
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man. – Proverbs 22:24
As for parents, don’t provoke your children to anger, but raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:19-26
Anger is such a powerful emotion that it’s not enough to simply refrain from unleashing it. God doesn’t ask you not to be angry. Instead, you can cultivate other actions and attitudes to help yourself react in more productive ways. As the last verse indicates, this isn’t something you do by yourself, but you are to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual formation is a lifelong pursuit that takes place in community with others.
If you’re looking for additional support beyond these verses about anger in the Bible, Christian counseling can help. If you struggle with anger and your life and relationships have been negatively affected by anger, seek help from a mental health professional such as an anger management therapist. They will help you understand not only the roots of your anger but give you guidance in developing tools to curb your anger and keep it in check.
“Man with Bible”, Courtesy of Pexels, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Bible Reading”, Courtesy of covenantmedia, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Stressed”, Courtesy of Simran Sood, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Getting Away”, Courtesy of Averie Woodard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License