What Does the Bible Say About Anger? Examples and Instruction

You’ve felt it, maybe even today: that feeling that bubbles up seemingly from nowhere, causing you to tremble and see red. You’ve been disrespected by a coworker, or someone insulted your child, or you watched a documentary on human trafficking. But have you ever wondered what does the bible say about anger?

Anger is a normal human emotion, just like joy, fear, surprise, anticipation, and trust. Created in the image of God – who loves, gets jealous, has compassion, and expresses anger – our emotions are part of who we are and what makes us human.

God didn’t create unfeeling robots, but people, and we are commanded to love God with our whole being: heart, soul, mind, and strength. We aren’t meant to prioritize our thoughts over feelings, or feelings over thoughts, but to use both our rational minds and our passions to respond to God’s wisdom for our lives. Our emotions allow us to lean on God in trust and learn to love Him more each day.

Emotions are complex things. Some emotions are evil by nature (e.g., malice, bitterness, conceit), but most can be good or evil, depending on what drives them, how they are expressed, whether they are appropriate to the situation, etc. We need to learn to feel and communicate our emotions in healthy ways, and this is especially true of anger. That means neither simply ignoring it as if it doesn’t matter, nor exploding like Mount St. Helens.

Western society has conditioned us (in some circumstances) to respect expressions of anger from men as a demonstration of leadership, decisiveness, and power. Conversely, we’ve also been conditioned to disrespect anger in women. Women who dare to express anger might be considered difficult or problematic or even hysterical.

The word “hysterical,” which means extreme uncontrolled emotion, is related to the word “hysteria” which comes from the Greek word for “uterus.” In the 19th and 20th centuries, hysteria was a diagnosable condition for women who were thought to be prone to mental and emotional illness due to their gender.

What Does the Bible Say About Anger?

Because anger can be complicated (and can so quickly cause damage),, everyone could benefit from giving some careful thought to how we are to express and receive emotionally healthy expressions of anger. Let’s see what the Bible says about anger.

The Bible tells us that God gets angry

Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.” What causes God’s wrath? It’s right there in the verse – unrighteousness. A few verses earlier, the Psalmist invokes God’s wrath to bring about justice:

Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. – Psalm 7:6

In the Old Testament, God sometimes gets a bad rap as an angry, vengeful God, so we need to keep in mind that God gets angry at sin because sin is a high-handed violation of and rebellion against God’s righteous law. We should never attempt to elevate one of God’s attributes above any other. His love and justice are coequal.

God described His character to Moses when He allowed Moses to see His presence:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. – Exodus 34:6-7

Versions of this description of God as merciful, slow-to-anger, and just appear at least eight other times in the Bible: Numbers 14:18, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, and Nahum 1:3.

All those Bible verses, with the singular exception of Nahum 1:3, also mention God’s rich and abounding love. First Corinthians 13, often called the Bible’s “Love Chapter,” paints a picture of love that offers deeper insight into God’s character. And again, it tells us love (and God) “…is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:35).

God is angry when people sin, violating his holy law in rebellion against Him, but because God is love, He is longsuffering and ready to extend forgiveness.

The Bible shows us that Jesus got angry

Jesus got angry, but as the Incarnation of God, Jesus never sinned. Jesus showed us the Father’s merciful, loving heart through His actions. He let nothing prevent Him from loving others, even the Sabbath laws. For example, He healed a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath and used it as a teaching opportunity for those gathered.

Then Jesus asked [the Pharisees], Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. – Mark 3:4-5

Jesus often got angry with the religious leaders of the day, who put obstacles (like Sabbath restrictions) before people. In Matthew 23, He delivered this stark condemnation:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in peoples faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.Matthew 23:13

In Mark, we see another example of Jesus’ anger at those shutting the door of the kingdom in people’s faces:

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of robbers.’”Mark 11:15-17

Only Jews could offer sacrifices in the Temple, yet the money-changers and those selling animals for sacrifices had set up in the outer courts, a place designated for those who weren’t Jewish and yet believed in the One True God. They turned God’s house into a shopping mall which made it difficult for those from other nations to use it as a holy place of prayer.

The Bible instructs us how to appropriately deal with anger

Some anger is righteous. Ephesians 4:26-27 encourages us: “‘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.” Paul assumes that we will experience righteous anger but cautions that even our righteous anger can become an opportunity for Satan to gain a foothold in our life.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, Raca,is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, You fool!will be in danger of the fire of hell.Matthew 5:21-22

What did Jesus mean by this? Among other things, He wanted His listeners to recognize that the state of their hearts is as important as their actions. Our actions spring from the condition of our hearts. Some anger is righteous, and some is sinful, and further, “Raca” was a term of contempt. Jesus doesn’t mean that we can’t feel and express anger, but unjustified anger is sin, as is anger that turns aggressive and abusive.

James encourages us to emulate the character of God and “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19). Think of the last argument you had in which you felt anger. Did you spend more time talking (or formulating your responses) or listening? When we remember the mercy, compassion, and love God has for all people, it can open our hearts to listen to someone else as made in His image.

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about anger. Consider just one verse: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). When confronted with anger, do your best to answer with gentleness. Turn the other cheek with your words.

Shortly after Paul wrote that we shouldn’t sin in our anger, he also tells us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger…” (Ephesians 4:31). How are we to do this? A good principle can be found in Colossians 3:17. If you can’t do or say something in the name of Jesus while giving thanks to God, then don’t do or say it.

When you’ve crossed the line of feeling anger and sinning (being cruel and aggressive), it can be hard to cross back over. This is where it is important to lean on God so that in your weakness, His power will be made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9). With His strength supporting you, you can walk forward, changing one step at a time.

Always remember to pray. God promises to offer peace in every situation when we pray with thanksgiving, presenting our requests before Him (Philippians 4:6-7). Trust God that in His merciful love He wants what’s best for you and whoever provoked your feelings of anger. Let Him show you the best way forward.

Christian Counseling for Anger Issues

If you’re looking for additional support beyond these verses about anger in the Bible, feel free to contact one of the counselors in the online counselor directory or find someone near you at our local offices. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss practical techniques for anger management from a Christian perspective.

“Migraine”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Mad”, Courtesy of Yogendras31, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Lover’s Quarrel”, Courtesy of Sasint, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Cuddles from Mommy”, Courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License


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