A loud thump, followed by laughter and more loud thumps, reverberated from upstairs.

I ran upstairs to discover my boys having a battle and throwing things at each other. “I thought I told you to get ready for bed!” I scolded, as they stifled laughter. It was like the scene in What About Bob? when Leo Marvin catches his patient Bob Wiley and his son Siggy jumping on the beds and shouts, “All’s I want is some peace and quiet!” Giggling, Bob says, “Okay, I’ll be quiet,” and Siggy says, “And I’ll be peace!”

I was fuming like Leo Marvin. “You guys are making me mad.” “But you’ve said no one else can make you mad,” one replied. I hate it when my kids quote me. For I’ve always told them that when we get angry it’s our own sin.

It sure doesn’t feel that way though. It feels like other people or things are the cause. That driver who pulled out in front of me. My teen who smarted off to me. The boss who asks too much of me. It feels like things outside us cause our anger. Scripture says we should look within:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:1-2).

Here’s the root of our anger: We want something and can’t get it, so we fight and quarrel.

So here’s a million-dollar question that helps expose that root: What do I want right now that I’m not getting?

When we discover our idolatrous craving, then we can repent and seek grace to change.

I once read about a pastor who was looking forward to some quiet relaxation when he got home. His wife, who’d been with their small children all day, desired some adult conversation that evening. Their cravings came into conflict and they began fighting for their desires until they both became angry. What caused their anger? Each wanted something and wasn’t getting it.

Once driving a stretch in Pittsburgh I hit every red light and started getting irritated (angry). By God’s grace I asked myself what I wanted and wasn’t getting. I realized that what I wanted was for every red light to turn green the moment I approached–I wanted all creation to serve me. I wanted to be God. I wasn’t getting what I wanted so I got angry.

So the next time you get angry, ask yourself the million-dollar question. Excuse me, I have to run upstairs–I just heard a loud thump.


Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.