No, being angry in itself is not a sin. The bible says, BE angry but sin not (as a result of it.) “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
Did Jesus get angry? YES
Does God get angry? YES.
So, did they sin – of course not.
God does get angry; there are many examples in the Bible of this. He “displays his wrath every day” (Psalm 7:11). Ephesians 4:26–27 says it’s possible to feel anger, but not to sin. And as God cannot sin, we know that His anger is righteous, unlike our common experience. James 1:20 says, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Let me share a story from my life that for ever illustrated to me God’s attitude to anger:
MANY years ago I was sharing a large house with several students, all of whom professed to be Christians. I was seen as some kind of matriarch there, as they were younger than me.
I was the only one who had a job, so during the day I went out to work (to pay my and often their rent) and then when I came home I was expected to cook the meal for them all.
I spoke to them about helping with the chores, and I even pinned up a note in the entrance hallway listing things that each member of the house could do.
I arrived home one day, tired from working, and looked at the list I’d pinned up. Not only had no chores been done, but one of the lads had scribbled something mean and upsetting over it.
I was angry! But then, as a Christian I checked myself, and internally I said “No, I mustn’t get angry…” At that moment, clear as a bell, the Lord spoke to my spirit and he said this: “BE angry!!!“
I turned my head and this lad was standing at the top of the stairs. I bounded up the stairs two at a time and when I reached him I told him in no uncertain terms how displeased I was with his behaviour.
I’ll never forget that. Up to then I had assumed, like many Christians, that anger is a sin and we should never let ourselves feel that way. I was wrong. There is a place for “righteous indignation”.
What is the Wrong Attitude?
- Taking Revenge
- Harbouring longterm resentment
- Bad-mouthing those who have hurt us, to others
- Being spiteful and mean in response
- Getting our own back
- Attacking someone, verbally or physically
- Allowing ourselves to become hardened against others
God is angry when his perfect nature, his love, his righteousness, is blasphemed, misused and violated.
Since God’s loving nature has reached out to us, as He reached out in the Old Testament to the nation of Israel, he experiences anger when his love is cast down as nothing, abused, and discarded – even more so when it’s replaced by something like idol worship.
Now I will shortly pour out My wrath on you and spend My anger against you; judge you according to your ways and bring upon you all your abominations.
Also, God is angry when his beloved ones are hurt, misled or attacked. Just as a parent becomes angry at anything that would hurt his children, so God’s anger is directed at that which would harm His people and their relationship with Him.
But he does not act in revenge and blind rage as a human being might do. He continually longs for the wicked to be reconciled to him. “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live’” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Jesus is Angry
In the New Testament, Jesus got angry with the hypocritical religious elders for using religion to oppress people rather than to free them, and for denying him the opportunity to bring salvation to the Jews. (John 2:13–16).
Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. … Jesus asked them, “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. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mark 3:4–6)
Jesus in the Temple
Was Jesus also angry when he saw “his Father’s House” the Temple defiled by traders?
When Jesus cleared the temple of the moneychangers and animal-sellers, He showed great emotion and anger (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22). Jesus’ emotion was described as “zeal” for God’s house (John 2:17). His anger was pure and completely justified because at its root was concern for God’s holiness and worship. [source]
Why is God Angry?
Romans 1:18 tells us God’s anger, or wrath, comes against “the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” So God gets angry at the wickedness in people, and He opposes that wickedness in an effort to turn them from evil, that they may find true life and freedom in Him. Even in His anger, God’s motivation is LOVE for people; to restore the relationship that sin destroyed. [Source]
How to Deal with Anger
The bible demonstrates that anger is a valid human emotion.
We are not advised to avoid it nor suppress it (which could lead to a smoldering hatred in time) but to act promptly and appropriately, if necessary, to deal with the situation. Sometimes we should try to reason with the person involved, and sometimes the answer is just to overlook what has been said and done, to forgive and say no more about it. [Colossians 3:13]
What we learn from Jesus dealing with anger is this:
- His anger had genuine and valid reasons.
- It was not motivated by pride or selfishness.
- The target was not people, but sin and injustice
- It was accompanied by grief at weakness and ignorance
- It was never out of control
- He never became bitter or revengeful
- His responses were loving and productive
Jesus at Sea
When I read the passage about Jesus being woken up when he was catching up on much-needed sleep in the boat as the disciples made their way home, (Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25) I think to myself he must have felt angry. Wouldn’t you?
Jesus was a human being as well as the Son of God. He was worn out, needed to sleep, and he expected the disciples to deal with the boat trip and emergencies; to have (as he said) FAITH to know that Jesus couldn’t be drowned, and no storm sent by the Devil could actually do them harm.
As well as that, Jesus expected them by this stage to be able to deal with the storm themselves! He says to them “Where is your faith?” like, YOU could have dealt with this, and not needed to have woken me up! (That’s my interpretation anyway but I could be wrong.)
Mark 4: 37-40
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Of course the scripture does not SAY that Jesus was angry, but reading between the lines I think he must have been. Even so, he did not lash out, complain, refuse to help, criticise, or anything else that we might have done in the circumstances.
When it Goes Wrong
Often when we or people in general get angry, it goes to a bad place. We cannot control our responses, it all becomes personal (due to a false sense of wounded pride) and we react improperly.
The bible tells us how to handle anger: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
There IS such a thing as “righteous indignation”, obviously for God, but also for Christians. Knowing the difference between that and human anger is something only the Holy Spirit can reveal, since it is He who inspires indignation at those who blaspheme God.
I often see the most hideous examples of blasphemy and mockery online, and it does make me angry – I feel as if a very close friend or family member has been attacked by name, and it pains me to see it. It’s natural to feel indignant about it, but my response must not be to hit back, to attack, to revile the person in return.
Usually I will walk away and pray about it. Sometimes if I feel led I will respond with the biblical truth (knowing it will be laughed at and rejected) but you never know who might be helped by the truth!! God can use the strangest things.
But at the end of the day, the balm for our anger is forgiveness, and trusting in God, knowing that WE have been forgiven for many things by our loving Heavenly Father, and that his righteous anger has been turned away from us by an act of mercy so wonderful and great that we can never begin to fathom it.
When tempted to become angry, let’s turn around and look at the Cross, and consider our own situation before answering back!