By Mike Willis
Have you ever seen a fire burn uncontrolled? It destroys everything in its path. Yet, when controlled, fire can heat a house, power an automobile down a highway, send a rocket to outer space, and many other good things.
A man’s temper is like that. A temper that is uncontrolled can destroy and hurt those around it. When controlled and disciplined, the temper of man enables him to do some of his best work. The proverbs emphasize the need for control over one’s spirit.
What An Uncontrolled Temper Does
The proverbs repeatedly discuss the dangers of having an uncontrolled temper. Consider the following facts about an undisciplined temper:
1. It acts foolishly (Prov. 14:17,29; 29:20; Eccl. 7:9). “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly . . . he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” Those who lose control of their temper do many foolish things, such as kicking a car.
2. It abounds in transgression (Prov. 29:22). “. . . A furious man aboundeth in transgression.” James said that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). Paul warned, “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Here are some sins frequently committed while angry:
Simeon and Levi murdered a man in their anger (Gen. 49:6). Saul attempted to slay David when his envy gave place to anger. David was ready to slay Nabal in his anger (1 Sam. 25). Ahasuerus deposed his wife as queen of Persia in his anger (Esth. 1:12). These examples confirm that when a man is angry, he frequently falls into sin.
3. It stirs up strife (Prov. 10:12; 15:18; 29:22). “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife” (Prov. 15:18). An angry man is looking for a fight and generally finds one, not necessarily with the one at whom his anger should be directed.
4. It is outrageous (Prov. 27:4). “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous. . . ” The NASB reads “anger is a flood.” Like the flash floods of the mountains destroy everything in their paths, uncontrolled anger attacks everything in its path.
5. Is sometimes related to pride. Proverbs 21:24 describes “proud wrath.” Much anger is related to an individual’s pride. In an effort to save face, an insulted person may start a fight or otherwise defend his territory.
6. It leaves an individual exposed to the devil. “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Prov. 25:28). In ancient time’ a city without walls was unprotected and vulnerable to attack. An angry man is vulnerable to Satan’s assaults against his soul, as is evident from a consideration of the sins committed in anger (#2).
7. It is a work of theflesh. The word “wrath” (thumos) describes hot anger. William Barclay wrote this description of this kind of anger:
Thumos, the Greeks said, was like fire in straw, quickly blazing up and just as quickly burning itself out. . . . Many a person is well aware that he has a violent temper; and many a person claims that he cannot help it, and expects others to accept and to forgive his bursts of passion. The NT is quite clear that such displays of temper are sinful manifestations that a man is still in the grip of his own lower nature. It may well be that such a person is never fully aware of the way in which he wounds others and produces a situation in which fellowship becomes very difficult. Because he blazes and forgets he thinks that others should equally be able to forget the pain he has inflicted. Let such a person remember that such displays of temper are sin, and that the way to overcome them is through the power of the Spirit in his heart (Flesh and Spirit, pp. 52-53).
In Ephesians 4:3 1, Paul forbade “wrath, and anger, and clamour (yelling, shouting)” as things characteristic of the old man of sin.
8. It disqualifies a man from being an elder. ” An elder must not be “soon angry” (Tit. 1:7) and “not a brawler” (1 Tim. 3:3). A man with an undisciplined spirit who becomes angry at the drop of a hat and is ready to fight cannot serve as God’s elder.
The Results of Uncontrolled Temper
What will happen to the person who never learns to control his temper? In his anger, he will inflict pain and injury on those around him. Friendships and relationships with others will be permanently injured. This will force him into isolation and the consequent loneliness. He will become more involved in sin because godly people will not put themselves in jeopardy of being victimized by his wrath by rebuking him (Prov. 9:7-8). Indeed, the wise man said that godly people will not make friends of the man who has an uncontrolled temper (Prov. 22:24-25).
How Controlled Anger Acts
Anger is not sinful! Jesus, who lived without sin, was angry (Mk. 3:5). Many Bible passages refer to God’s anger and wrath (cf. Num. 11:1, 10; 12:9; consult a concordance). We see that anger is not inherently sinful. We can learn how our anger should be by looking at God’s anger. Compare God’s anger with sinful anger:
|God’s Anger||Man’s Anger|
|Controlled, with purpose||Uncontrolled, without purpose|
|Not with hatred, malice and resentment||With hatred, malice and resentment|
|As an expression of concern||As an expression of indignation|
|To correct or curtail destructive behavior||To destroy the individual|
|As an expression of care||As an expression of revenge|
|Not to break relationships||To break relationships, to hurt|
|At injustice||At violations of self|
|At willful disobedience||At those who cross me|
|From Tim LaHaye, Anger Is A Choice, p. 105|
“Wherein lies the antiseptic which turns the strong poision of anger into a useful medicine? The broad answer is simply this – anger which is selfish, and which comes from pride, and undue sensitiveness to one’s own feelings is always and invariably wrong; anger for the sake of others, anger which is cleansed of self, can often be a weapon to be used by God” (William Barclay, Flesh and Spirit, p. 53).
This kind of anger shows great understanding (Prov. 14:29; 19:11; Jas. 1:20), appeases strife (Prov. 15:18), and prevents further problems (Prov. 25:8).
The Value of A Man With Controlled Temper
The man who has learned self-control is valuable. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32). We tend to exalt national military heroes. To show their regard for David, the Israelites sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). Yet, the man who has conquered his own spirit is greater than he who captures a city. Indeed, the former may be a greater battle than the latter.
Some of us have been raised in environments where little effort was made to control the temper. Consequently, we have learned to use abusive speech (cursing, yelling, etc.) in the heat of anger. Sometimes a man becomes so violent in his anger that he will kill his fellowman. These have learned to express their anger but not in an acceptable manner.
Others of us have been raised in environments in which anger is so suppressed that we learn to be men without backbones, compromising and yielding in order to avoid someone’s wrath and conflict. This kind of character needs to develop his temper, learning to express his anger.
This disciplining of one’s soul is not easy. Let us study the example of Jesus and learn the proper manner to handle anger in order that we not leave ourselves open to the temptations of the devil.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 21, pp. 642, 660
November 6, 1986