Is all wrath wrong?
Anger is a signal that something is wrong. It is an emotional reaction to a real or supposed offense. The first sense of anger is a valuable alarm system, and we must learn to properly respond to it so that we do not fall into the sins of wrath and bitterness.
Scripture states, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26–27). Here we have a command to heed the signal of anger and to choose a righteous way to deal with the situation that is arousing the anger. If anger is justified, then there must be appropriate actions that can and should be taken to resolve that anger and the cause of it.
We cannot justify wrath, bitterness, or other wrong responses to the situation. If anger is allowed to deepen into wrath, it becomes sin. Thus, the Lord exhorts us to not let the sun go down on our anger. We are to take whatever initiative and actions are necessary in order to resolve anger before it turns into wrath.
The fact that it is not appropriate for us to express wrath is confirmed by the following Biblical concepts:
1. Only God Has a Right to Express Wrath
Throughout Scripture, it is clear that God demonstrates wrath against the sins of mankind:
- “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
- “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).
- “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
Yet, again and again we are instructed to refrain from anger and wrath:
- “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil” (Psalm 37:8).
- “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
- “A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again” (Proverbs 19:19).
Since God created the world and all people, He has ownership rights over everything in the universe. We are responsible to Him for our actions, and He will reward good and punish evil. Therefore, God has a right to express wrath. God also has redemptive rights over creation, because He sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for man’s transgressions. Those who deny God’s ownership and reject His redemption are subject to His anger and wrath.
2. Expressing Unresolved Anger Is a Form of Vengeance
Many people use wrath to punish those who have hurt them. Thus, they take on themselves a duty that belongs only to God. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ ” (Romans 12:18–19, ESV).
Rather than bringing vengeance on others through our wrath, we should extend forgiveness. The instruction in Romans 12 continues, “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him: if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (verses 20–21, ESV).
3. Wrath Is Condemned in Scripture
The Apostle Paul classified wrath with the sins of blasphemy and filthy language in Colossians 3:8: “Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”
Paul also names wrath as a work of the flesh in Galatians 5:19–21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
4. We Must Put Away All Anger
Anger is like fire; if allowed to continue, it will produce the infernos of bitterness and wrath. “As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:21). “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31–32).
5. Wrath Never Produces God’s Righteousness
In James we are instructed, “My beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).
Some rationalize wrath, stating that angry outbursts are helpful because they release tension. Angry outbursts do release tension, but they also create new tensions from the guilt of unresolved anger and the hurts inflicted on others through the outbursts. Thus, the final result of anger is increased tension, which is not productive.
Others believe that anger is the only way to bring some people into line. Yet, what is meant by “bringing people into line”? Anger is often used as a tool for manipulation. When we truly seek another’s welfare and we honor God in the process, we will not work in anger but rather in gracious justice.
6. Anger Reveals Pride
When we think of ourselves more highly than we ought, we become proud. A person who thinks he has the right to become angry and punish others for what they have done is taking up a role that does not belong to him. “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath” (Proverbs 21:24).
“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:6–10).
This article is adapted from pages 14–18 of the Anger Resolution Seminar Workbook. Learn about the Anger Resolution Seminar.