Jump Start # 2607
James 1:20 “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
There is a hymn we sing that begins with, “Angry words! O let them never from the tongue unbridled slip.” Angry words. The air is filled with angry words. Major cities in our country are experiencing riots and curfews. Angry mobs gather and violence explodes. But this isn’t the extent of this. Road rage is nothing more than anger towards the way some drive. But in our homes, the little ones witness an angry mom or dad saying cruel things to each other. They crumble in fear as an angry parent threatens them for some wrong behavior. And, even among brethren, we find some angry with the elders because they don’t agree with the way things are being done.
It’s amazing how often the Bible talks about anger. It was a problem back then and it remains a problem today.
Be slow to anger is what James says
Do not let the sun go down upon your anger is found in Ephesians
Out bursts of anger is classified as one of the works of the flesh in Galatians
Anger is giving the devil an opportunity to work harm is what the Ephesians were taught
God asked the pouting Jonah if he had a good reason to be angry
Angry Cain killed his brother. Naaman was angry when the message from the prophet wasn’t what he was expecting. An angry king Saul hurled spears at young David. Angry Absalom waited and plotted to kill his brother for rapping Tamar. And, the angry mob screamed at Pilate to crucify Jesus.
One of the most powerful balances in the Bible is that Ephesian expression, “be angry, yet do not sin.” The passage does not say, “Don’t be angry.” Anger is an emotion. We feel angry because things are not right. Something bothers us. We’ve had enough. Keeping a lid on the anger and not being driven by the anger is the key.
Our verse today reminds us of some important factors.
First, anger takes us places. Anger isn’t the end of the destination. Anger is expressed in words that often should not be said, actions that cause harm and feelings that are not right nor healthy. Anger does not achieve, is what our verse says. Anger doesn’t accomplish positive relationships with the Lord. A person can be angry at themselves. They can be angry that they let their family down. They can be angry for doing something that was wrong. But, much too often, our anger is directed towards someone else. And, that angry feeling kills the good we ought to see in that person. It’s tough being evangelistic when we are angry. “Invite that guy to church? Are you kidding? Never!” Anger closes our eyes to a soul that God created, loves and Jesus died for. All we see is what injustice or harm has been caused to us.
Second, what our verse identifies is that one cannot be right with God and wrong with fellow man. Those are not two separate paths that we travel down in life. Some just don’t seem to get this. They do not see the bridge between what we do on Sunday and what happens to us the rest of the week. Sweet and kind in a church house, but dog-eat-dog on Monday morning in the office. Godly thinking on Sunday and selfish the rest of the week. Pure in heart and impure at home. Those opposites do not work. Those inconsistencies will eat at your soul until you are all in one way or the other.
Third, there are righteous ways to deal with wrongs. God does. He is always right. His Word is right. He doesn’t turn His eyes to wrong. He doesn’t give everyone a divine pass on wrongs. The abuse of the innocent, the destroying of His word, the blasphemy of His name are things that angers God. His justice and wrath are illustrated throughout Biblical history in world wide flood, the earth swallowing up rebels, causing some to be blind who wanted to discredit God’s way, ending the life of some. While it may seem that God can be violate at times, we are not in the place nor the position to question the holiness of God. Job learned that lesson. We need to learn that lesson. When things are wrong, find the right way to address them. Two wrongs never make a right.
Fourth, in our anger we often do not have all the information nor the facts. We see things from our perspective and that may not be the complete story. Upset, bothered and angry we march off to our own personal war when calmer heads would have thought things out first. The actions of anger often leave a long trail of destruction and damage that takes a long time to overcome. The words of an angry parent to a child can stay with that child for decades.
Finally, anger is an emotion. And, much too often we allow our hearts to rule our heads. Our heads know. Our hearts feel. And, when feelings take over, reason, logic and right is often tossed out the window. We allow our emotions to get the best of us. We allow our emotions to words that should never be said. We allow our feelings to take over the direction of our lives. When angry, a person isn’t in the mood to sit down, discuss, talk things out and find positive solutions. No, not when angry. They’d rather point fingers, slam doors and raise their voices. That’s emotions running things. And, as we have seen so many times in our lives, our feelings can be wrong. They can be misguided. They can become twisted.
Achieving is an end result. After years of study a person achieves a college degree. After years of diligent work, a couple achieves paying off the house. Achievement is a goal. It is a destination. And, our passage reminds us that what we are after is the righteousness of God. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Paul said we make it our ambition to please God. Right with God. Nothing else matters. Can’t be right with God and be out of control with your feelings, emotions and anger. That’s a failed destination. The moment of anger doesn’t see the big picture. It doesn’t see the end result. It doesn’t see what it does to us and what it does to God.
If anger doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God, then what does? Chew on that for a while.