When it's Good to be Angry.
The Psalms are a buffet of emotion. They are full of joy, sorrow, anger, hope, despair, loss, and love. David, one of the central authors of the Psalms, was a man well acquainted with the heights and depths of life in this world. Better than any counselor, the Psalms will reveal with pinpoint accuracy the broken emotions that flare up within the human heart.
In Psalm 4 we find David and he is angry. Not only is David angry, but those who support him are angry as well. Absalom, David’s son, has betrayed David and men seek to see him dead. David, “a man after God’s own heart,” (Acts 13:22) is not living his best life now. He and those who support him are angry. They have identified an evil and respond with anger.
David challenges his people by saying, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. “ (Ps. 4:4-5)
From this passage it appears that there must be an anger that is holy and acceptable; a righteous anger. Yet, far too often, the anger that sweeps over us and the anger we experience are of a different kind, unholy and immoral; an unrighteous anger.
Often, those who have grown up in the church receive conflicting messages that emerge out of a bits and pieces theology. You hear that it is wrong and sinful to be angry, but then you read about Jesus turning tables over in the temple and beating people with a whip? That can be quite confusing.
What is the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger?
Righteous anger is when we are stirred up against that which is evil. Righteous anger is when the work of the Lord in us chafes against the work of the Enemy. Righteous anger rebels against rebellion. Righteous anger hates sin.
Unrighteous anger is when our pride is assaulted and we feel the need to defend the idol of self. Unrighteous anger seeks to preserve comfort and convenience for self at all costs. Unrighteous anger emerges when our autonomy and independence from God is questioned. Unrighteous anger is rebellion against God. Unrighteous anger is sin.
Consider this example, righteous anger looks at sex trafficking and is disgusted. Those filled with this righteous anger pray against global sex trafficking, they seek to rescue women from the chains of sex trafficking, and they abhor and fight the lustful desires that well up in their heart that echo with the lusts of those who drive the global engine of sex slavery.
Unrighteous anger is when you lash out upon feeling the sting of conviction when sin, fear, insecurity, or doubt is uncovered in your life.
Paul quotes David’s words from Psalm 4 in Ephesians 4:25-271, saying, “25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.”
Righteous anger does not seek cover in the darkness. Righteous anger is not allowed to fester and become pride-fueled rage or bitterness. One way to check the “tone” of your anger, whether it is righteous or unrighteous, is to ask your heart, “Am I angry because someone has offended my pride? Or, because evil is assaulting my heart, my family, my church, my neighbor, or my King?”
There is a righteous anger, but it does not come from wounded pride. The righteous anger that is commended in the Bible is that stirring up that the Spirit of God works in the hearts of the people of God to despise evil and trust that vengeance belongs to our holy and loving God.
1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 4:25–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.