What is Righteous Anger, Anyway?

July 27, 2021

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Matthew 5: 21-23

Is anger as bad as murder?

Of course not.

Right?

Well…Jesus would disagree – equating anger with murder when it comes to the seriousness of the sin. In other words, there’s no scale when it comes to sin: losing one’s temper and murder are the same in God’s eyes.

But Jesus got angry, so how can anger be a sin if Jesus never sinned? Well, it’s a bit complicated – especially when we read in Ephesians 4: 26: “In your anger do not sin.” So how can we make sense of all this?

  1. True righteous anger isn’t wrong. Righteous anger is the kind of anger that God and Jesus displayed in the Bible. It’s an anger that comes when God is not respected, when our fellow man is taken advantage of, or an injustice is committed against the defenseless. This kind of anger often moves us to action. However, if in the process of defending the defenseless, we lose our temper, that righteous anger suddenly becomes wrong in God’s eyes; it becomes a sin.
  2. Losing our temper is sin. No matter the circumstances, when we lose our temper, it always means we’ve blown it. We’ve all said and done things in a fit of temper that we deeply regret.
  3. Contempt for others is sin. This refers to any feelings of superiority or actions that belittle or insult others. The seriousness of an arrogant attitude of pride that leads to disrespecting others is no laughing matter.

What are we to do? If we have allowed anger to get in the way of a relationship, if we’ve lost our temper, belittled another or even called them a “harmless” but derogatory name – we need to stop and make it right. Confess it to God and ask for the courage to go and make it right with the person you’ve wronged.