4 Min Read

Anger is unique among human vices in two ways. One, the Bible anthropomorphically describes God’s displaying anger. He is not provoked to lust, pride, or sloth, but He gets angry (e.g., Ex. 32:11). God expresses divine displeasure against evil. Because God is perfectly righteous, there must be a proper understanding and display of anger.

Two, angry people are notoriously blind to their anger. Sin, of course, blinds us, but anger stands apart. Anger is often obvious to everyone but the angry person. This lack of self-awareness is anger’s specialty. The truth is that the angrier we are, the more confident we are that we are right and other people are wrong. With these unique properties of anger in mind, here is a brief biblical description of anger.

The Essentials of Anger

Anger says, “That is wrong.” It is a judgment, and judgment is intrinsic to our humanity. Human beings are incapable of not making judgments. We were created with a mission to discern good from evil, and we were created to make judgments in imitation of the Lord and in submission to Him.

Anger says, “I will make that right.” Anger is compelled to do something about a wrong. The wrong has risen past the level of overlooking an offense, and anger acknowledges that something should be done about it.

God’s Anger

God is good and just in His anger. God hates haughty eyes, a lying tongue, murderers, schemers, false witnesses, those who stir up dissension (Prov. 6:16–19), dishonest scales (Prov. 20:10) and the injustices perpetrated by divorce (Mal. 2:16). All these imitate the character of Satan and will be judged. Our God is a warrior who will make things right (Ps. 18:6–8).

Sinful human anger does not seek God, it cares more about being right than it does about love, and it forgets the mercy that we have been shown.

Watch this holy anger in action; it is completely unlike our own. God is “slow to anger” (Ex. 34:6). Even in His righteous anger, He remains willing to provide relief for His people (Ex. 32:14). His anger is placed in constraints while His love in Christ knows no bounds. This love was made most fully known when He revealed the divine plan in which His anger is diverted: His righteous Son is crushed instead of us.

Jesus, fully God and fully man, is good in His anger. Jesus is angry when Pharisees try to prohibit Him from healing a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:5), when money changers interfere with gentile worship (John 2:13–17), and when His disciples try to fence Him from little children (Mark 10:14). Yet notice this. Jesus’ anger is not merely His reaction but is also an expression of the will of God the Father (John 6:38).

Our Anger

  1. Our anger often comes with disguises.
    Anger can be found in murder, violence, hatred, yelling, arguing, cursing, conflict, blame, revenge, irritability, jealousy, slander, gossip, taking joy in the troubles of others, sarcasm, grumbling and complaining, withdrawal and silence. If you believe you do not have a problem with anger, assume that you do.

  2. Our anger is often driven by pride and selfish desire.
    We are called to imitate Jesus in our anger, and Christians now have the Spirit’s power to do, as seen in the positive expressions of anger on the part of the Apostles described in places such as Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. Nevertheless, we must issue a caution here: human anger prefers to live as though we were the righteous judge, as though our own glory is at stake, and as though judgment is in our own hands. Our anger is all too frequently proud and filled with selfish desire and a commitment to our perceived rights (see James 4:1–10). Even when our anger is directed against injustices against others, it often proceeds as a vigilante that is accountable to no one. Sinful human anger does not seek God, it cares more about being right than it does about love, and it forgets the mercy that we have been shown (Matt. 18).

  3. Our anger often imitates Satan.
    The deadly nature of anger is even more frightening than it looks. Our anger often reveals that we participate in the flesh-death-devil alliance. We imitate the one “who has been a murderer and liar from the beginning” (John 8:44). This partnership explains why anger is so commonly mistaken as good rather than evil, and why angry people believe lies about themselves.

  4. Our anger often deserves death because of its sinful root; Jesus takes the death that sin deserves upon Himself.
    Our hope is that the Spirit brings us into the light, convicts us of our murderous ways, reveals the patience and cleansing blood of Jesus, so we can come to Jesus in faith and repentance, mourn over our sin (James 4:9), ask forgiveness of those we have sinned against, learn the fear of the Lord, and be thankful (2 Cor. 7:10).

Of course, much more could be said. For example, this does not capture the pastoral wisdom that we need if we are to help angry people. That wisdom could choose to focus on fears, aloneness, or how angry people have been victimized by angry people. Anger can certainly travel with these companions. But this overview is, at least, enough reason to search for the anger in our own souls.

This article is part of the Virtues and Vices collection.