Summary: James does not say we are to eliminate anger. He says we are to be slow to anger. James is too realistic and practical to think that the saints will never feel angry.
Near the end of the last century a group of minors in a
mid-Western state became angry. They expressed that anger by
igniting a carload of coal and pushing it down the mine shaft. Like
most who act in anger, they could not foresee the long range
consequences of their action. When the burning coal struck the
bottom of the mine it spread to the layers of coal within the earth,
and 52 years later it was still burning. It consumed 12 million tons of
coal, and burned over an area of 10 square miles. Now and then a
road would cave in that had been undermined by the eating fire.
Property values in the whole area were greatly reduced, and all of
the people suffered. One farmer even dug up roasted potatoes from
his field. All efforts to quench the fire were fruitless, and so a
moment of anger led to a lifetime of living with the consequences
What those minors did illustrates what millions of individuals are
doing daily by letting their lives be controlled by anger. Add the
letter D to the word anger, and you have danger. In a state of anger
we are only one letter away from danger. This means all of us live
dangerously, because all of us get angry. It is a universal human
emotion, and the saints must wrestle with this trial, along with all
the others they face.
James does not say we are to eliminate anger. He says we are to
be slow to anger. James is too realistic and practical to think that the
saints will never feel angry. Anger in itself is a normal and
legitimate human emotion, but it is so little understood that most
men fail to find its values, and let it be expressed in destructive,
rather than constructive, ways. There are no sinful emotions; only
sinful uses of them. Anger is no more sinful than joy, for God and
Jesus experienced both of them.
Anger handled properly will make a Christian more effective in
living the Christian life. Anger is a form of energy, and energy has
to be used in some way. You cannot destroy it. You have to channel
it, and like atomic energy, you can channel it to purposes of
destruction, or to purposes of construction where it will be helpful
rather than harmful. When we are dealing with anger, we are
dealing with a powerful energy which will serve the cause of good or
evil, and, therefore, it is important for Christians to understand all
they can about this energy which they possess.
Since most of the energy of anger is used for evil, the
predominant emphasis of Scripture is on the peril of anger. In verse
20 James makes it clear that the anger of man is not a fit instrument
for doing the will of God. The chances of being just and merciful
when you are angry are about as great as the chances of removing a
sliver gently with a wood saw. It is just not the right tool for the job,
and anger is just not the right tool for expressing God's
righteousness. That is why we read so many places in Scripture of
the peril of anger, and the need to forsake its path.
Psa. 37:8, "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath."
Psa. 14:17, "He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly."
Pro. 22: 24-25, "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a
furious man thou shall not go lest thou learn his ways and get a
snare to thy soul."
Pro. 29:22, "An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man
aboundeth in transgression."The Old Testament looks at anger as folly, but in the New Testament
the language is even stronger, for anger is seen as one of the gravest
of sins. Matt. 5:22, "But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry
with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the
judgment." Paul, in several places, lists anger, strife, and wrath as
the sins which make the saints carnal. He writes in Titus 1:7, that a
bishop must be blameless, "...Not self-willed, not soon angry." All
that the Bible says about the peril of anger is backed up by studies in
On the other hand, we dare not close the door on the positive
side, and so before we look further at the perilous power of anger,
we want to look at-
I. THE POSITIVE POWER OF ANGER.
James implies there is some value to anger by putting it in the
same category with speaking. He says we are to be slow to speak
and slow to anger. He does not say give up speaking and anger
altogether, but recognize that both can do more harm than good, so