When Anger Destroys

David said to Abigail, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!’” (vv. 32–33).

- 1 Samuel 25

When sinners get angry, all manner of destruction often results. This is particularly true when large mobs are provoked to anger. Riots following the arrest of Rodney King in 1992 led to more than $1 billion worth of property damage and more than fifty deaths. More recently, we have seen images of violent mobs of Muslims protesting anything considered an insult to Muhammad or Islam. Whether justified or not, anger easily spins out of control in explosive situations.

As we might have expected, the Word of God understands the tendency of human beings to violence and offers rules to help contain it. The principle of “an eye for an eye,” for instance, limits retribution so that it does not take more from the offender than the offense took from the victim of a crime (Lev. 24:17–23). Many ancient cultures had laws in which it was permissible to maim or even kill someone who had merely insulted an individual.

Throughout Scripture, we have many examples of what can happen when the principle of equal retribution is ignored. Genesis 34, for example, tells us what happened as the result of Simeon and Levi’s response to the rape of their sister Dinah. Certainly, these brothers were right to be angry at what happened to their sister, but in their wrath they pillaged the rapist’s city without God’s permission. Before this episode, Jacob’s oldest son Reuben had disqualified himself for the kingship of Israel (35:22; 49:3–4). Simeon and Levi were next in line to inherit the throne because they were, respectively, the second and third sons of Jacob. These men, however, were barred from the throne because of their murderous response to the violation of Dinah (49:5–7).

God gave the throne of Israel to Judah (vv. 8–12) and, eventually, Judah’s descendant David. Yet even David almost lost the throne. Once, David gathered an army to deal with Nabal, a bitter man who refused assistance to the prospective king (1 Sam. 25:1–13). Mercifully for David’s sake, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, appeased David, and he calmed down, seeing that God had kept him from sinning in the destruction of Nabal’s house (vv. 14–44). The Lord, in this case, kept David’s irrational rage from destroying his future, making him the forefather of Christ Jesus (Matt. 1:1).

Coram Deo

Uncontrolled anger is not merely a vice that can be overlooked. Instead, it can destroy lives, and we all know people who have impacted their futures for ill because they could not control their tempers. Sin always creates damage in its wake, so we must work hard to keep our heads cool and to respond appropriately to all circumstances. This is particularly important for those of us who are prone to be short-tempered and easily angered.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 32:35–36
Romans 12:21

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