Summary: Put aside lying, sinful anger, thievery, and unwholesome words for the sake of the brethren and because of forgiveness.
We can’t miss the fact that anger isn’t ruled out. Anger, the same as passion or ambition or any other emotion, is God-given. But look at what’s written:
“Be angry, and yet do not sin.”
Paul doesn’t give us a list of things we can and can’t do in our anger; he only says, “Do not sin.” Right away I assume this means that we’ll be quiet and meek and hold our hands to our sides and look at the floor with an expression of peace, right?
And yet, Jesus physically assaulted the money-changers with a whip and turned over their tables (Jn. 2:15). Scripture says of Him, “Zeal for your house consumes Me” (Jn. 2:17). When Jesus saw those men blaspheming God and robbing the worshipers, He was consumed by zeal which showed itself in fury.
However, when the Israelites got into fights during their fasts, God described them as striking each other with “wicked fists” (Is. 58:4).
Or take Phineas: when he impaled the Israelite man and the Midianite woman for flaunting their forbidden relationship, God not only stopped the plague which was killing the Israelites, He established a covenant of peace and a perpetual priesthood with Phineas! (Num. 25:7-13).
But, when Peter cut off the man’s ear on the night Jesus was arrested, he was rebuked by Jesus for his violence (Jn. 18:10-11).
What are the differences here? Jesus was angered at blasphemy and robbery; the Israelites were fighting because they were hungry and grumpy and selfish; Phineas was angry over rebellion towards God; Peter was selfishly trying to keep Christ from drinking from the cup given Him by the Father (Mt. 26:39).
All of them displayed their anger with violence, but only those who acted in the fear of the Lord were commended.
So, I think that rather than only ask, “What can I do in my anger?” we should first ask the more important question, “What can I be angry about?”
Any time your anger is based on selfish pride you need to repent, and you need to take no action. The Bible says that it’s to a man’s glory to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11).
However, whenever you witness blasphemy or injustice, you need to get angry.
But how will you know what to do? I think this is the key—you spend your whole life bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit and walking in the light as He is in the light, and you’ll know what to do when the time comes. Sometimes a strong (perhaps even violent) reaction is appropriate; most of the time not.
But notice the next very important command: “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” It’s one thing to be angry (even righteously angry), but it’s sinful to remain that way. When we go to bed with a burning belly we give the devil an opportunity; we allow bitterness to take root.
Be angry, but don’t sin. Be angry, but don’t hold onto it.
3. The new self walks in selfless giving rather than selfish thievery (:28)
28He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
There’s a contrast here (as in all the other verses) between the old self and the new self. The old self operated in selfishness even to the point of taking what he didn’t earn; he was a thief. But the new self not only labors with his own hands, he shares the fruits of his labors with those who aren’t as fortunate.