3 Compelling Reasons Why We Must Deal with Our Sinful Anger

June 29, 2015

Robert Jones

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Robert Jones

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part One of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anger. In today’s post, Dr. Bob Jones shares 3 Compelling Reasons Why We Must Deal with Our Sinful Anger. Today’s post is adapted from chapter 10 in Dr. Jones’ book, Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem (P&R, 2005).

3 Compelling Reasons…

Why should we seek to uproot our sinful anger and replace it with godly fruit? In one sense, we must deal with it simply because God commands it (Matthew 5:21‑22; Ephesians 4:22‑24, 26-32; Colossians 3:8). Additionally, as we study the Scriptures, we find three compelling motives.

Reason # 1: Sinful Anger Ruins Our Health

First, we should deal biblically with our anger for the sake of our personal health. Long before the advent of modern medicine, the Bible described the psychosomatic (or “spirituo-somatic”) connection between sin and sickness, and between righteousness and health. Proverbs 14:29‑30 declares:

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick‑tempered man displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (see also Psalms 32, 38; Proverbs 3).

The Hebrew structure suggests that the “patient/quick-tempered” antithesis parallels the “life to the body/rots the bones” antithesis. Anger damages the body; patience and peace bring health.

Centuries ago, the Puritan pastor-theologian Richard Baxter addressed this connection between anger and poor health:

“Observe also what an enemy anger is to the body itself. It inflames the blood, and stirs up diseases, and breeds the strength of nature, and has cast many into acute, and many into chronical sicknesses, which have proved their death.”

Modern physicians and research psychologists have observed the same correlation between anger and physical illness, including hypertension and stroke, heart disease, gastric ulcers, and bowel diseases. As one man confessed to me, amid his anger at his wife:

“I’m discouraged. I’m not sleeping, I’m losing weight, and I’m very tired physically and emotionally. My work is suffering….I want my walk with the Lord restored and these stomach pains to go away.”

He was a walking (or limping!) testimony of Proverbs 14. Sleep loss, weight loss, tiredness, and stomach pains attended his angry way.

Reason # 2: Sinful Anger Destroys Interpersonal Relationships

A second reason to deal biblically with our anger is that it injures and alienates others. It hinders our relationships and keeps us from loving our neighbors.

In Ephesians 4:26–32, Paul calls us to get rid of our anger. What do these commands have to do with interpersonal relationships? They emerge in the contexts of “one another” relationships (Ephesians 4:1-6; 4:25-5:2; also Colossians 3:5-17; James 3:13–4:12). Failure to get rid of anger prevents the proper unity, functioning, and growth of Christ’s body. It divides and cuts the Lord’s church. Perhaps no single Bible sentence strikes this point more forcefully than Luke 15:28, “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.” In his anger, he distanced himself from his friends and family.

Relational anger is a daily reality for those of us who counsel roommates, friends, marriage partners, and parents and kids. Children breathe the secondhand smoke of their venting moms and dads. We grieve over these broken relationships.

Reason # 3: Sinful Anger Grieves and Offends Our God

The two reasons above—personal health and relational peace—should motivate us to deal biblically with our anger. Yet these are not enough.

There is a third reason—the most important reason:

We must get rid of our anger to avoid God’s displeasure and to bring Him honor and delight.

In Ephesians 4:31, the apostle calls us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Why? Paul contextually precedes this command with another command in verse 30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

In other words, connecting verses 30 and 31 means that the worst consequence of anger is not colitis nor divorce but grieving God himself! The parallel passage in Colossians 3:5-11 conveys the same truths. Verse 8 commands believers get rid of all forms of anger because they invite God’s wrath against the ungodly (v. 6) and because they are incompatible with the new life God has given us (vv. 7, 10-11).

Perhaps the passage that most clearly shows our third point is James 1:19-20. The apostle calls us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Why? Not because it causes strokes and divorces (although it might do both), but because it dishonors, displeases, and offends God! As James writes, “for [an explanatory preposition in Greek] man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (v. 20, emphasis added).

For the Christian, the worst result of anger is that it dishonors, displeases, and offends our Lord. The preeminent rationale for biblical change—for replacing anger with godly fruit—concerns our relationship to God our Savior.

Let God’s Word Control Your Motives

In researching anger for my D.Min. project and subsequent book (Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem), I read various books on anger written by both secular and Christian therapists and psychologists. While I expected the secular writers to omit God, I was saddened by the number of Christian writers who basically did the same. According to these counselors, anger is bad because of what it does to my health and my relationships, but not to my God. The motive to change, in turn, easily becomes self‑centered—to please myself or others, not my Creator and Redeemer. These Christian books on anger provided little if any counsel on the need to mourn and repent of grieving the Lord. God’s presence was noticeably absent.

May God help us deal with our anger not just for our own sake or the sake of others but for His sake—to bring Him the delight, pleasure, and joy He desires and deserves. No higher motive exists.

Join the Conversation

Why do you think Christians should change their sinful anger?

Test the point of this article by polling some Christian friends: “What is the biggest reason why people need to deal with their anger problems?” See how their answers line up with our three motives. Why do we neglect the Bible’s central focus on God?

2 thoughts on “3 Compelling Reasons Why We Must Deal with Our Sinful Anger

  1. Thank you! This is very good. But I have a question though. Often times when I hear Christians (and I myself have probably done this too) criticize the Word of Faith heresies, we often say things like “Yeah, the WOF preachers say that your sickness is caused by your own personal sin, but we know that is wrong. Sickness is never caused by your sin, but by the fall of Adam and Eve, and the result of living in a broken world.” We then usually quote from Job, and other passages where the Bible shows that God is using sickness in the life of a believer for His greater purposes………….but these instances are not not the result of the sin of the believer. My question then would be this…..Do we sometimes erroneously OVER-correct the WOF movement when we say things like this? Are we sometimes going too far to the other extreme? Any help on this would be appreciated.

  2. James: Anything that causes stress in the body potentially contributes to sickness. A couple who quarrels in the morning will have compromised immune systems until about 4pm that afternoon. If they encounter a virus during that time they will be much more susceptible; that does not mean their sin caused the sickness directly but it was a factor. The same is true of more serious illness from cancer to heart attacks. We should always be examining our hearts when we have a serious medical diagnosis but remember that repentance does not usually outright cure the disease and certainly casting out demons does not. At the same time we must be very careful of judging others; there is not a one-to-one correlation between sin and sickness. We cannot construe that you are in the hospital you must have sinned in some gross way.

    Word of Faith is heresy and has no basis in truth.

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