Is anger a sin? ‘Be angry and sin not’

Anger is not a sin; but out of anger we often do sin.
Anger is not a sin; but out of anger we often do sin.

When I think of anger, I picture a six-year old child screaming bloody murder and flailing himself on the floor in the toy aisle at the local supermarket after his mother just told him he couldn’t have a toy.

I have no doubts that God our father views us in the same way when we act out of anger.

What is anger and why do we feel it?

Anger is simply a feeling of displeasure about a circumstance that is out of our control and not in accordance with our desires. We feel anger for many reasons:

  • We feel we are wronged by someone or something else.
  • We feel frustrated by a loss of our valuable time.
  • We feel inferior, stepped on, or looked down upon.
  • We feel angst about tough times that lie ahead.

Anger in itself is not a sin. After all, Jesus was a sinless man, and the Bible spoke about his moments of anger.

In Mark 3, Jesus goes to the synagogue to heal a man with a shriveled hand, but the Pharisees were displeased that he would “do work” on the Sabbath.

Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
Mark 3:4-5

In Mark 11:15–18, Jesus entered the temple courts in Jerusalem and overturned the tables of the money changers. While there was no mention of the word “anger” in there, one could see the anger in his actions.

Anger is a primitive, raw human emotion. It is not a sin by itself. Rather, how we react to and handle that anger determines whether or not we sin.

‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Ephesians 4:26-27

What the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians is that if you happen to be angry, do not sin because of it. The devil feasts upon those who are angry, for it is when we are angry that we are less likely to think or act rationally.

One of my favorite Bible verses as it pertains to anger is from the book of James.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19-20

I think all too often in our society — and really our world in general — we as humans shoot from the hip too much. Rather than run our mouths and voice our anger, we should heed what James says and spend more time listening to what is said and choosing our words carefully before speaking.

I’m a very soft-spoken man. I typically keep my opinions to myself unless asked for them. Anger is one of those issues that I haven’t had to deal with a lot since my college days.

I’m not above anger, believe me. But on the scale of burdens I face in my life, dealing with anger ranks very low.

As such, I try to preach patience and understanding to those around me, often asking the rhetorical question, “what are you trying to solve by being angry?”

The truth is, we accomplish very little in life when angry, and typically things only get worse from there.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

How many times have you gotten into an argument with someone and found out that things escalated really quickly because of the nasty things you said to one another? All the while, if you had kept your calm and given a thoughtful answer, the wrath would have quickly subsided.

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 15:18

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Proverbs 14:29

Although it may be a natural and sinless emotion, anger and wrath only lead to evil, so says Psalms.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
Psalms 37:8

And evil, of course is the fuel for sin.

Next time you feel the blood boiling inside you, or you feel the angst of something or someone working against you, don’t give the devil an open door to compel you. Take a deep breath and remember the passage from James: “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”