Many Christians view anger as sin, but surprisingly the Bible says under certain conditions it isn’t.
In his letter, to the Ephesians Paul writes:
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Ephesians 4:26 NASV).
Other versions translate it more simply, “Be angry and sin not.”
The fundamental thought behind this verse is that anger is not necessarily a sin. It is an emotional response to a negative event.
In fact, the Bible records times when Jesus was angry.
In Mark 3:4, 5, the Lord became angry when the Pharisees challenged the healing of a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. They were more concerned about keeping their legalistic interpretation of the law than seeing a person restored. Though angered by their response, Jesus also grieved about the hardness of their heart.
But there are also times when the anger isn’t justified and it may be an indicator of sin.
We see a hint of this back in Ephesians when Paul adds “do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
In other words, if we become angry for legitimate reasons during the day, before the sun sets you must forgive those who angered you.
If we do not, as we sleep this “seed of anger” stirs and begins to sprout a root.
Unresolved anger develops into what the writer of Hebrews describes as a ‘root of bitterness.’ (Hebrews 12:15).
When anger develops a root it has a life of its own. It doesn’t need external events to express itself, it can explode all by itself.
One of the tell-tale signs of a root of bitterness is anger that is out of proportion to the situation. When a person becomes enraged over the smallest thing, it suggests deep inside the heart bitterness has taken root.
A classic example of this is found in Matthew 8, where Jesus shared a parable of a king who after calling for a financial accounting of his assets discovered one of his servants was short 10,000 talents.
Some say this was the equivalent of 15 years of wage. In modern terms using an average yearly salary of $60,000 it works out to about $900,000.
The king was legitimately upset and ordered the servant and his family thrown in jail — debtors prison. When the servant pleaded for his life, the King forgave the man’s debt and let him go free.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The servant scoured the neighborhood and found a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii, a day’s wage. In modern terms, this is about $250.
But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ (Matthew 18:28 NASV)
As we read the verse, the servant literally had his hands around the man’s neck. He was strangling the man over a couple hundred bucks. Despite the man’s promise to pay back the money, the servant had him thrown in jail.
The anger displayed far exceeded what the man owed.
A person does not lose $1 million because everything went right. The servant had lent money to dozens of people who had not paid him back. Sure fire investments had gone sour. Others had simply disappeared with the cash.
He was not strangling the man over $250, but over the $1 million everyone else had walked off with.
A root of bitterness fueled by dozens of people who had taken advantage of him was now all being poured out on this one man.
The anger exceeded the situation because he had not forgiven all those who had robbed him.
There is only one way to deal with this type of anger root — we must forgive all those in our past who have offended us or taken advantage of us.