“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27
When was the last time you were angry? When were you last really frustrated, irritated, or annoyed? Last week? Today? Was it because someone offended you? Was it because someone spoke poorly of you or misrepresented you to others? Did someone betray you, rob you, or turn their back on you? Or was it because someone offended God? Was your anger induced because someone spoke poorly of your Savior or misrepresented Him to others? Was it because someone betrayed the God you love, robbed Him of His glory, and turned their back on Him? When was the last time you were angry, and what was the cause?
We are given many commands throughout Scripture: commands to abstain from evil and commands to do good. Seeing as God does not offer us many suggestions in His Word, we would do well to listen up whenever He instructs us on how we are to live our lives. Ephesians 4:26-27 is no different in that we are given instructions here on how to act when we are angry. However, it actually goes a step further than that. The first two words in verse 26 are a command.
Ok, hold the phone! You mean to tell me that God is telling us to be angry? Yes, He is. Now, before you run off and starting screaming at your spouse or cussing out the person who cuts you off on the road, take a moment to finish reading. According to Deuteronomy 32:4, all of God’s ways and works are perfect, just, and upright. Therefore, God would never instruct us to say or do anything that isn’t good. So, what does Ephesians 4:26 mean, and how are we to appropriately apply this to our lives?
Anger can either be good or bad, righteous or sinful, depending on the driving motivation behind it. A righteous indignation (anger at or against evil, injustice, immorality, and ungodliness) is permissible, but not without boundaries. Jesus Himself expressed this kind of anger in Matthew 21:12-13 when He overturned the tables in the temple. His anger stemmed from a love for God and a love for His people. The money-changers in the temple were charging astronomical amounts of money for the animals they were selling for sacrifices, thus preventing the poor from worship in God’s house. This infuriated Christ that some would prevent others from worshiping the Father. This is a righteous anger.
Unfortunately, our anger often stems from selfishness and pride, and this kind of anger is sinful in God’s eyes and without excuse. As much as we would like to be able to justify our sinful emotions based on what others have done to or against us, our excuses will fall flat before a Holy God. The command we are given in Ephesians 4:26-27 is to have a righteous anger – to be angry over what angers the heart of God: sin. Still, even with this instruction, God also included a very specific boundary.
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”
Being that we are painfully human, the natural state of our hearts is bent on sin. This is precisely why God put a time limit on even a righteous anger. Because given enough time, even a godly anger can turn to bitterness and hostility. The reality is that it’s incredibly difficult for us to be angry and not sin. Anger is a strong emotion that isn’t controlled easily, certainly not without the power of Christ in us. Anger is also an emotion that affects us all, so we need to know what to do when we are angry. The next time you’re angry, ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I angry because I was offended or because God was offended?
2. Am I bitter towards the person or angry at their sin?
3. Am I entertaining thoughts of repaying evil for the evil that was done against me?
If we can be honest with ourselves in answering these questions, we would more than likely find that much of our anger should be displaced with repentance. It’s not a matter of “if” you’ll ever be angry; it’s a matter of “when.” And when you are angry, what will you do with your anger? Because every time we operate in sinful anger, we give our enemy opportunity to influence and deceive us. The word “opportunity” in Ephesians 4:27 literally means “a place.” Friends, don’t give the devil a place to sit at your table. Don’t offer him a place to reside in your heart. Don’t allow him to have a place in your mind. Be angry, but do not sin in your anger.