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Be Angry But Don’t Sin, Part 1

July 29, 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.

Focus

Have you ever said or done something when you were angry that, later on, you deeply regretted? I expect you have. Most people do this sort of thing. Thus, we need to hear the exhortation found in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry but do not sin.” Now, that’s clear enough, but it isn’t necessarily easy to do. We need plenty of divine wisdom to discover how we can feel and even express anger, but without doing or saying what is wrong and hurtful.

Devotion

Have you ever done or said something in anger that you ended up regretting? I’ll guess the answer is yes. Just about any human being who has grown beyond infancy knows what it’s like to get mad and then do or say something unwise or unkind.

As I think back to occasions when I sinned because I was angry, I mostly remember things I said that I wished later on I had not said. For example, I recall a time when one of my elders at Irvine Presbyterian Church made a suggestion in a meeting that sparked my anger. Instead of listening carefully or remaining quiet or asking for more information, I said—almost shouting—“Over my dead body!” Thanks be to God, this elder showed more restraint than I had shown. In fact, he remains a dear friend to this day, which says more about his Christian character than mine.

The sad truth is that the very worst things I have said or done in anger have been directed at those I love most in the world. My wife and children have been the victims of my anger-induced sin. By God’s grace, I haven’t hurt them physically. But I have hurt them emotionally with my words, words I can’t retract even though I apologized for saying them.

If you can relate to what I’m sharing here, then you need the counsel of Ephesians 4:25 just as much as I do. This verse begins with a simple exhortation: “Be angry but do not sin.” It’s likely that Paul is quoting from the Old Testament, from Psalm 4:4 to be exact. The ancient Greek translation of this verse uses the same language as the Greek in our text. A literal translation reads: “Be angry and do not sin” (Psalm 4:5, LXX). Many contemporary translations and commentators argue that the Greek imperative is used more as a concession than a command. It means something like “If you are angry, though you really shouldn’t be, then don’t sin” rather than “Be angry but don’t sin.” Yet, no matter how we understand the first part of the quotation, the main point is clear. When you are angry, do not sin.

What kinds of sin follow from anger? Sometimes, physical violence, even murder. Sometimes anger leads to premeditated revenge. But mostly the sin that follows from anger is verbal. We say things in our hurt that are meant to hurt others. Sometimes the pain caused by angry words is deeper and more lasting than the pain of a physical blow.

The phrasing of verse 26, no matter how you translate it, seems to suggest that it’s possible to be angry without sinning. This may seem obvious to you, but I expect some readers might wonder about it. Isn’t anger always wrong, at least in some way? I’ll respond to this question in Monday’s devotion. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.

Reflect

Can you remember times in your life when someone’s anger led to sinful behavior directed at you?

Can you remember times when your anger led you to sin? If so, how did you feel afterward?

What helps you abide by the injunction “Do not sin” when you are angry?

Act

The human tendency to self-justification can make it hard for us to acknowledge times when our anger leads us to sin. If this fits for you, ask the Lord to reveal to you the truth of your own sin in times of anger. Be open to what the Spirit wants to teach you, not to shame you, but to heal you and help you grow.

Pray

Gracious God, I do not need further convincing. I know how my anger has led to sin. This grieves me, even though I know you have forgiven me. Lord, I ask for your help to do what this verse says. When I am angry, may I refrain from sinning. May your Spirit do whatever is necessary to quiet my tongue or subdue my outbursts. I want to honor you, dear Lord, at all times, even when I feel angry. 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: The Wise Worker Guards the Tongue (Proverbs)


One thought on “Be Angry But Don’t Sin, Part 1

  1. Margie Tomlinson says:

    Here’s a smile for you. As I sit at my desk wrapping up my lesson outline for Sunday’s class I needed to look up the reference for this very verse. And your piece fits what I was hoping to use it for in the discussion. We have been doing a six part five minute video series on one verse. Exodus 34:6-7 and Sunday we will be looking at the fact that God is “slow to anger” and when we explore all that we can find we’ll look at our own Christian walk and how we can better reflect how God is. We don’t want to be a “hot nose” So thank you very much. I will be sharing this and tomorrow’s as well. And thank you for the personal example you gave. If we are honest we can all say and so have I. Blessings Margie

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