God created human beings with a wide range of emotions. Our emotions help us process, grieve, celebrate, know when we’re in danger, and connect to others. Emotions are good and part of what make humans unique. Oftentimes, people wonder or believe anger is a bad emotion that should be pushed down or denied. However, many people feel anger for a variety of reasons that are quite legitimate.
“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).
There are plenty of verses about anger throughout Scripture, and there are even narratives in the Bible about people getting angry. The Bible does not say anger in and of itself is sinful, rather what we do with anger is what can lead us to sin or to righteousness. We must be careful to not let the enemy take a place in our lives by staying angry or reacting out of anger.
What Does the Bible Say about Being Angry?
Scripture conveys that there are two types of anger: righteous anger and human anger. Righteous anger is being angry about evil and things in opposition to God. In the Bible, there are verses in which God is described as being angry.
“So, the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence” (2 Kings 17:18).
God was angry with Israel because they had sinned against him, participated in idolatry, and chose their sinful desires over His ways. Sin, evil, injustice, and the like should make us angry. Human trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse, and murder are just a few of the evils in the world that should cause us to mourn and be angry, just as God is righteously angry over such devastating evil.
Righteous anger is legitimate and in line with what Scripture teaches. However, what most of us feel day in and day out is not righteous anger toward evil, but human anger toward our family, friends, strangers, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This type of anger usually lacks compassion, humility, and love. Human anger gives way to evil (see Psalm 37:8).
“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).
For some people who struggle with anger, it is particularly easy to default to anger when they are annoyed, hurt, or offended in some way. Scripture teaches though that we are not to default to anger. We should be slow to get angry because it will not produce the righteousness in our hearts and lives that God wants.
Is It a Sin to Be Angry?
According to the Bible, it is not a sin to be angry. How we act, react, and what we do with that anger is what can either lead us to righteousness or sin. Reacting out of anger to hurt someone, for our own gain, or to retaliate is sinful behavior that the Bible does not condone.
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Psalm 19:11).
Rather than acting out of anger when we get hurt or offended, God’s truth instructs us to be patient, and teaches that it will be to our glory if we overlook such wrongdoings. Truly, we can only do such a thing when we bear the fruit of the Spirit and rely on the strength of Christ in us to overcome anger.
Bible Verses about Anger
The Bible provides profound wisdom when it comes to understanding anger. There are many verses that talk about anger, and within Scripture we find that there are even stories of biblical figures getting angry.
“But for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?’” (Genesis 4:5-6).
“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. And Esau determined in his heart: ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:41).
Both narratives about anger teach vital lessons about the danger of anger and how it leads to sin. God does not want us living out of anger. Scripture also gives helpful advice and knowledge about anger so we can be alert and know how to choose righteousness, instead of sinning in our anger.
“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18).
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man” (Proverbs 22:24).
“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
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What Is Righteous Anger?
Righteous anger is not a term found in Scripture, but it is what has come to be used to explain the anger that Scripture affirms is not sinful. Righteous anger is anger directed at evil, things that God opposes, and sin itself. Righteous anger does not stir up conflict or cause quarrels, it is not long-lived, and it does not lead to evil or grudges or unforgiveness. We find in the life of Jesus this powerful example of righteous anger.
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13).
Jesus’ anger toward the sinfulness of those in the temple courts is evident in this passage. He had every right to be angry at how they were grossly misusing the house of the Lord. Jesus never sinned or did anything wrong, therefore, we know that his anger in this narrative is righteous.
How Can We "Be Angry but Not Sin"?
Since anger is not a sin, it then becomes important to understand how we can be angry but not let our anger cause us to sin. This verse reminds us that not all anger is sinful.
“When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger” (1 Samuel 11:6).
In this instance, Saul was angry when the Spirit of God had come upon him. Saul was moved to anger by the injustice and sin that was happening to the Israelites in this biblical story. His anger was not sinful. Likewise, when we feel angry, it does not automatically mean we are sinning.
We can keep from sinning when we are angry by not allowing our anger to lead us to revenge, hard-heartedness, or take over our thoughts. Anger can lead us to sin when we allow anger to dictate what we say, think, and how we react, rather than leaning into God and letting him guide our steps so that we do not get stuck in anger or harbor angry feelings. We must be wise to not stay angry or let our anger give the enemy an opportunity to cause havoc in our hearts and lives.
Choose How to Respond to Your Anger
When we feel angry, we can either act in righteousness, or act in sin, as a response to our anger. We make a choice to either let our anger cause us to do something wrong, or cause us to depend more on God and bear his fruit.
It is not a sin to feel angry, but what we do next or how long we allow anger to dwell can lead us to sinfulness. Scripture teaches that human anger is dangerous, but righteous anger is when we are angry about evil and sin in the world. Truly, we cannot ignore evil and injustice. Part of being human means we are going to feel angry at times, yet we can do so in a way that honors God and avoids sin.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, chaplain, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces weekly devotionals and faith resource articles to inspire keeping faith at the center of it all. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of many people, being a small piece of each journey. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com and you can follow her at upheldlife.com, or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.