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  • Joseph Randall

The Righteousness of God and Our Sinful Anger (James 1:19-20)

...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; ²⁰for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. —James 1:19-20

There is much in the world to be angry about. Frankly, if you are a follower of Jesus, you should be angry and hate evil. "O you who love the LORD, hate evil!" (Psalm 97:10). You should be angry about abortion, sex trafficking, exploitation of the poor, racism, sexual immorality, gossip, slander, murder, lying, stealing, and all the belittling of the glory of God. But more than that, you should be angry about your own sin—like your own sinful anger.

Anger becomes sinful anytime it causes you to fail to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and when you fail to love your neighbor as yourself. If your anger causes you to disobey God in any way, then it is sinful—it does not produce the righteousness God requires.

The harsh, unloving word against your husband or wife is sinful. Disciplining your children from a heart filled with impatience or rage is sinful. Tearing down your coworkers or roommates with your words—words that have the power of death (Proverbs 18:21)—is sinful. There is great wisdom in the Holy Spirit’s command: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak.”

Being more angry about the sin of others than your own sin may reveal pride and hypocrisy in your heart. Ask God to show you the root of your anger.

How to fight sinful anger

First, know the utter wickedness of sinful anger. Jesus equates anger with murder. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22). Ungodly anger reveals you are a murderer at heart, deserving of hell. Repent, grieve, and plead with God to forgive you and free you from it.

Second, know that you have a great Savior. Jesus got very angry, but He never sinned. He got so angry that He made a whip and drove everyone out of the temple (John 2:13-25). Know that your anger sent the perfect, sinless Savior to the cross. Know that He loved you while you were yet a murderer at heart. Know that He died to save you from God’s wrath. Know that He was raised and is alive forevermore. He dwells in those who trust in Him, freeing them from sinful anger as He makes them more and more like Himself. What a Savior! What a gospel!


For Reflection

  1. What makes you most angry, why? Seek the Lord to show you the deep roots of your anger.

  2. In what ways does your anger cause you to sin? Are there people you have sinned against out of anger that you need to reconcile with?

  3. How can you better rest in the finished work of Christ in order to be set free from anger?

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