“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
Yesterday, we talked about the Godly wisdom of being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
We notice immediately that we are never exhorted to merely “keep silent” – but to weigh our responses carefully (taking the time to honestly perceive how our words might be heard by the one to whom we are listening).
But we also notice that we are taught to be slow to anger. What is interesting is that there is no command (or implication) to avoid anger altogether.
This is important because so many Christians are under the distinct impression that anger is wrong… and that to be angry is a sin.
This is taught nowhere in Scripture.
There are admonitions against “fits” of rage and warnings against contentious persons (someone who seems to delight in picking fights with people). But I find no place where anger is regarded as a sin.
BUT… anger can often lead us to sin. And it is a pretty quick path. Anger can get us into acts of unrighteousness often without being aware of what we are doing.
Anger causes us to lose self-control – and without self-control, each and every one of us can get pretty ugly in a hurry.
This is why, in today’s verse, the apostle follows up on his sage advice (in v. 19), by explaining why it is so essential that we are slow to speak and even slower to get angry. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
In its simplest understanding, the “anger of man” is something we must guard against. It is the kind of anger that often wells up from within us and explodes like a volcano (deluging our target with molten ire!). It is volatile in nature… and abrupt in process – it is the proverbial can of gasoline just waiting for the match to strike.
And here’s the really bad news… every one of us can access the “anger of man” at any moment. We don’t even have to work at it. It is inbred within us. It is indelibly attached to our sinful nature.
That’s why people who struggle with “anger issues” are such ticking time bombs. They are usually the most wounded inside, they usually have the deepest hurts, and it is in their greatly-damaged nature to lash out (almost as a defense mechanism).
But ALL of us are prone to anger. Whenever we are frustrated, irritated, upset, confused, tired, or inconvenienced… our default mode is to express what we are feeling – and to let our feelings lead us down the slippery slope where we can lose our self-control and allow our anger consume us (even if just briefly).
James points us to the reason why we just can’t allow human anger to have its way in our lives. Anger cannot help us to do the one thing we need to do most. We were born again to “produce the righteousness of God.” This means right actions, right words… just as God does. The works of God, the goodness of God, the right actions of God are intended to flow from our lives. Each and every day.
But these are the things that are missing whenever we allow our human anger to take charge. All that flows from our anger is the virulent stuff of the worst that human beings can be.
Nothing at all like the character and nature of the God we are called to imitate.