Why Do We Get Angry?

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?”

Genesis 4:6

Why do we get angry?

It’s a question worth considering.  After all, the Bible says that “a man of quick temper acts foolishly” (Proverbs 14:17), and, “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).  Anger is not compatible with the disposition Jesus wants Christians to possess.  He wants kindness and forgiveness to replace anger and wrath in His followers’ hearts (Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:8).  The Holy Spirit says that each of us must be “slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

True, anger does have its place.  Jesus got angry, after all (John 2:13-17).  God is not only a God of love but also a God of anger (Romans 1:18; 2:5; Ephesians 5:6).  In fact, Christians are told, “Be angry and do not sin” right before being told, “Let all…wrath and anger…be put away from you…” (Ephesians 4:26, 31).  So how do we reconcile these sections of Scripture with those which demand that anger be put away from us?

This gets back to the question of why we get angry.  First, let’s ask why God gets angry.  God’s anger is always a just reaction to evil.  It is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18).  It is in response to our “hard and impenitent heart” which makes us “self-seeking” and disobedient to the truth (Romans 2:5-9).  Likewise, Christ said nothing when He was personally abused (1 Peter 2:21-23).  He got angry when evil was done in the house of God, dishonoring His Father (John 2:13-17).

We, with our fallacies and imperfections, do not always properly use anger.  We get angry for more self-centered reasons.  Many times we remain silent when God is dishonored and sin is exalted…but then we get mad when someone offends us personally.  No wonder “the anger of man” – the kind of anger we normally show with its selfish motives – “does not produce the righteousness which God requires” (James 1:20)!

With this in mind, consider the context of the aforementioned Ephesians passage:  “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (4:26-27).  Again, this is right before we are told, “Let all…wrath and anger…be put away from you, along with all malice” (4:31).  God is telling us that if anger comes to our heart, it must be controlled.  We must not allow it to cause us to sin and give Satan an opportunity.  It must be dispelled before the day is over.  Otherwise, we will never put away from us “wrath” (thumos in Greek, “the sudden outburst of passionate anger,” the blaze of temper which flares into violent words and deeds…”) and “anger” (orge in Greek, “indignation which has arisen gradually and become more settled”).

In other words, “be angry and do not sin” means that we mustn’t let anger (that gradual indignation, that slow burn, that fuming) become wrath (that sudden outburst of passionate anger, that blazing temper which leads to violent words and deeds).  How?  By not letting “the sun go down on your anger.”  By not letting your anger remain and become settled, by not starting that slow burn, that fuming that can lead to hotter wrath.  This too would be a sin.

The only way we can do this is if we change the reasons we get angry from being self-centered and worldly to that which is more godly and spiritual.  That will only happen if we allow ourselves to be transformed as God would have us (2 Corinthians 5:17).  When one becomes a Christian through the penitent washing away of their sins in baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16), they becomes slaves of God rather than of sin due to “becoming obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:11-14, 17-18).  Now they allow their minds to be renewed and their priorities to change (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:1-2).  This leads to reacting differently to things.  What gets us angry is what gets God angry…sin.  We become more like Christ, who when personally abused “uttered no threats.”

Why do you get angry?