Does the Bible Say Anger Is Always Sinful?

Don Cole
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Most of the Bible’s references to anger are negative, and sometimes silly. Jonah was angry because God didn’t destroy Nineveh. The prodigal son’s brother was angry because their father celebrated the return of the prodigal. Jonah’s anger would have been understandable if directed at, say, a conquering Israelite general. But he was angry at God, and to be angry at God is to be ridiculous as well as sinful. The older brother sounded like a petulant child; he made a fool of himself.

Anger Is Not Always Sinful

Anger need not always be sinful. Sometimes, as when a sex offender abuses a child, or when an elected official steals public funds, anger is appropriate. A ho-hum response to such crimes would be inexcusable. However, Paul warns us, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26), and, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger” (Eph. 4:31). We probably justify anger that is really intolerable. As James observes, “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20).

God Is God

Two additional considerations: first, more than one word in the original languages is rendered “anger.” They are not entirely synonymous. Hence, a word study would be useful. Second, some of the writers of the Psalms were sorely distressed because of God’s apparent indifference to their plight, and they may seem to us to have been angry. But they were never angry at God. After registering bewilderment in the face of social injustice and other anomalies, they ended their psalms with expressions of faith in God, and praise. They remembered that God is God. So should we.

For Further Reading:

Do Angels Really Have Wings?

by Today in the Word

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims all pray to the same God? Is it okay to be mad at God? Did Adam have a belly button? We all have questions,...

book cover for Do Angels Really Have Wings?