August 2, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV)
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.
It’s hard to feel and express anger without sinning. Sometimes we think that by hiding our anger we can make it go away. Or we hang onto it as a means of protection. Either way, our stored-up anger festers in us, keeping us from expressing it in a healthy way. Ephesians 4:26 tells us not to sin when we are angry, adding “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” When we acknowledge our anger in a timely way, and especially when we tell God all about it, we’re on the road to being angry without sin.
“Be angry but do not sin.” If you’re like me, you recognize the wisdom of this injunction from your own experience. You can remember times when your anger motivated you to do or say something wrong. Yes, you were angry and yes, you did sin. Perhaps in your anger you did or said something that was hurtful to another person, maybe someone you love deeply, like a spouse or a child. So, when you read, “Be angry but do not sin,” your soul cries out, “Yes. That’s fine. But how? How can I avoid sin when I’m angry?”
One answer to this question can be found in the second half of Ephesians 4:26: “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This piece of advice, which is similar to wisdom found among Greek philosophers as well as some ancient Jewish sages, makes the point that anger should not be stored up. When we hang on tightly to anger and don’t let go it easily turns to bitterness or vengefulness. Hoarded anger makes us more apt to sin. One way or another, our feelings of anger need to be dissipated, not stored up until we’re ready to explode.
How can we express anger in a healthy, holy way? I know from personal experience some things that don’t work. Denial and pretending don’t work. Yelling and screaming don’t work. What does work, at least at the beginning, is an honest acknowledgment of anger. If we can say to ourselves, “I am really angry about this,” it invites us to deal with our anger in a helpful way. Such openness allows us to think about our anger rather than letting it have hidden power over us. Our honesty enables us to begin to process our anger rather than pretending it isn’t there and letting it lead us into sin.
Perhaps more importantly, acknowledging our anger allows us to share it with God. The Psalms are filled with honest expressions of deep emotions, even anger directed at the Lord himself. These ancient poems and hymns encourage us to share with God what’s really going on in our hearts. When you’re feeling angry, tell God about it. Be honest. Offering your anger to the Lord is a first step to letting go of it so it doesn’t lead you into sin.
Yet there is more, I believe, that can help us not cling to our anger or give it the power to motivate us to do what’s wrong. I’ll get into this tomorrow. For now, you may wish to prayerfully consider the following questions.
What helps you to keep from sinning when you’re angry?
What has helped you avoid storing up anger?
Do you have anger in your heart today that you need to admit to yourself and to the Lord? Are you willing to do so?
If you answered the last two questions in the affirmative, take some time, either right now or later in the day, to talk with the Lord about your anger. Be honest. Ask for God’s wisdom to know how best to deal with what you’re feeling. And ask for God’s help to keep from sinning because you are upset.
Gracious God, I do not want to sin when I’m angry. Frankly, Lord, as you know, I’d rather not be angry at all. But I can’t escape this quality of my humanness. Anger is a normal part of life. I can ask for your help, though, to keep me from sinning when I’m angry.
In particular, I ask that you help me to be honest with myself and with you when I’m upset about something. May I tell you the truth so that I might be open to your wisdom and help. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: “You Shall Not Murder” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.