11 Ways To Know When Anger Is Sinful
It’s not always wrong to be angry. Remember angry Jesus in Mark 11:15 who turned over tables and disrupted the routine of the temple mount? Paul instructs the Ephesians and us: “Be angry, and yet do not sin.”
As a matter of fact, I would argue that if a person is never angry, then something is deeply wrong. After all, why do people get angry? They get angry because they perceive that they have been wronged in some way, or because someone they care about has been wronged in some way. Haven’t we been commanded to care about everyone; to love our neighbor as our-self? Think about all the abuse and pain in the world caused by people who wrong others. If you have a pulse, you better be angry because every single person in the world has wronged God and is in rebellion against the gracious and holy King. And when we wrong God, we inevitably wrong others. So be angry, but do not sin.
Let’s be honest though, the problem for most people, if not all people, is not that we are never angry about injustice. The problem is that we are angry about wrong things, or that we sin when we are angry. Anger is not wrong, but sinning because of anger is. I suspect this is an everybody kind-of-problem.
How can we know if our anger is sinful? Most of us probably know when our anger is sinful, especially if we are a Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin. When I am angry as a parent and I see that my children are truly in fear of me, then I know I have crossed a line. Control of anger is important, and sometimes I let it control me. That’s a sin. What then are some other indicators that will help us diagnose when our anger is sinful?
In Anger Management, Richard Baxter offers 11 ways to know “when anger is sinful.”
- When it opposes God or good; as in the case of those who become angry with us because we seek to win them to the Lord or separate them from their sins.
- When it disturbs our reason, and hinders us from thinking rightly.
- When it causes us to act unbecomingly, so as to use sinful words or actions.
- When it causes us to wrong one another by our words and deeds, or to treat others in a way in which we would not like to be treated.
- When it is mistaken and with no just cause behind it.
- When it is greater in measure than that which provoked the anger.
- When it makes us unfit to do our duty to God or man. (James 1:20 – “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”)
- When it hinders love, brotherly kindness and the good we might do for others.
- When it encourages malice, revenge, contentions, division, oppression of those under us, and dishonour to those over us.
- When it lasts too long, and does not cease when it has accomplished its purpose.
- When it is used as a means to further our selfish, carnal, and sinful ends. When we are angry because of our pride, profit, enjoyment, or fleshly will is crossed.
Which one was most helpful to you? What would you add to the list?