Man’s Anger and God’s Righteousness

For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God (James 1:20).

Anger is a primal and basic emotional reaction of mankind. It is one of the hardest to control and often causes the most emotional– and sometimes physical– damage.

A lot of people get caught up in their anger. They let it fester and grow, and many times, they end up consumed by it. Their anger becomes their master and they serve its dictates. It is always tragic to see people who have allowed their anger to destroy their lives both physically and emotionally. Many times, those against whom the anger is directed have little idea regarding what is going on.

Unfortunately, other times people act upon their anger. Not a few crimes have taken place on account of people acting in anger. Families are greatly pained by outbursts of anger. Children many times live in fear of their parent or relative because of anger.

We can be angry without sinning if we do not allow the sun to go down upon it and we seek to calmly resolve the matter (Ephesians 4:26). In all things, we must show love, humility, self-control, and patience (cf. Galatians 5:22-24).

Sometimes, however, people convince themselves that they have a righteous reason to be angry. They see sin so prevalently displayed among them, and they get very angry. They justify their anger by claiming that since God is angry about sin, they can be angry about what is going on around them, also.

Yet we must remember James’ exhortation. God’s righteous indignation is just, loving, and merciful– matters of judgment are to be left to Him (James 4:11-12). Our anger– no matter how “justified” or “properly directed”– can never accomplish God’s righteousness. It is too prone to sinful excess. It too easily becomes our master, and we its slave. It is not the way of Christ!

The way that men can accomplish God’s righteousness is to show love, mercy, and compassion despite sin, just as God showed us love, mercy, and compassion despite our sin (Titus 3:3-8). After all, what if God poured out His righteous indignation upon us while we were in sin? Let us not begrudge God’s kindness and patience (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9)– without it, we would never have a chance!

Ethan R. Longhenry