James 1_19-21 (Anger)

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James 1:19-21 Getting a Grip on Anger

James 1:19-20

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow (long fused) to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Easier said than done isn’t it?



One could argue that anger is an emotion created by God; just like other emotions.

Fear is created by God as well and it is designed to protect and preserve us. 

But there are occasions when fear limits us; and in doing so it keeps us from fulfilling our potential.  It is during those times that we have to overcome the emotion of fear.

Now, just as fear has a purpose, so does anger.


* One of the obvious purposes of anger is to stimulate dissatisfaction with and promote action against injustice.  We often call this RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION!

Ill.  Jesus turning over the tables of the moneychangers.

Matt 21:13  "It is written," he said to them,

 "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"

So we might call anger an emotional response or reaction to the negative or negatively perceived circumstances of life. 

It was created by God; it has a purpose that is often abused, and it is set off by certain triggers.


Eph 4:26-27  "In your anger do not sin":

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

This passage leads us to the obvious question,” at what point does anger become sin?”

I read a story about two friends at an all-night café.

They got into a discussion about the difference between irritation, anger, and rage.

Bill said, "Hi, this is Jones. Have there been any calls for me?"

Now we don’t know the rest of the conversation…it probably couldn’t be told from the pulpit anyway; but we can assume with fair certainty that the dialogue that ensued was a good example of rage.

* Why anger?  Why do we get angry in the first place?  Here are a few reasons.


1.     Pain is a common trigger for anger. 

Physical Pain.  Ill. Pulling off part of a fingernail into the quick while washing clothes.

Emotional Pain.  Sometimes anger can last for years, because of events that took place in the past.  Ill. This is especially true for someone who has experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

2.     Sometimes we get angry out of frustration.

We get frustrated for a variety of reasons.

Loosing an argument, being offended, feeling neglected and extreme annoyance like the man on the other end of the phone line.

When things don’t work out the way we want or expect our frustration has the potential to turn into anger.

3.     We also express anger out of insecurity.

When we feel threatened whether real or perceived.

After David killed Goliath the people sang in the streets,

1 Sam 18:7 "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands."

The bible says that this refrain “galled” Saul.

King Saul felt threaten and responded with jealousy which led to anger, which in turn led to attempted murder…on more than one occasion.

Whether it is our position; our values, our opinions, or anything else we hold dear; when challenged our insecurities can to turn into anger as well.

Anger impacts our health.

According to WebMD, Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems.

Another source says that men who have a high score of hostility on standard tests are four times more likely to die prematurely than those with low scores. 


Not only does anger impact our lives, it impacts those around us. 

We might call this Collateral Damage.

“for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

When James wrote these words I can’t help but think that he was referring to our influence and witness as children of God.

An angry Christian will have a hard time convincing anyone of God’s love and forgiveness.

God has called us out of the darkness into the light; He has drawn us away from evil into the goodness of His Son. 

If we are angry all the time we cannot live “the righteous life that God desires”.

Anger provides a false sense of gratification.

Ill. Girl in film that said she felt great when she unloaded on someone but she felt guilty the next day.

Satan often tries to take something that God created to be good and useful, and use it for his purposes.


Anger is contagious.

*  In his autobiography, “Number 1”, Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle.   Anger can be dangerously contagious.

* Sinful anger tells us to “get back at our offender” but the bible says,

1 Pet 3:9

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”


* Sinful anger tells us to “get revenge” but the bible says,

Rom 12:19  “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.”


* Sinful anger wants us to “hold a grudge” but the bible says,

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”




Many experts believe that repression of anger is dangerous.

We repress our anger when we sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Repressed anger is unresolved anger and will more than likely resurface again.

Besides, Paul said Eph 4:26  "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

That text alone infers that our anger issue, whatever it may be, needs to be resolved by the end of the day.


Other experts suggest that we “express” our anger.

They teach that it is most healthy to “let it all out”.  To vent without limits.

But this contradicts many teachings like:

Eph 4:31  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 

Ill. James Dobson’s story about a boy threatening to get naked in the dentist office.

If we have to vent our anger there are more productive ways to do it.


We may not be able to overlook our anger but we can overlook the offense that caused it.

Prov 19:11 “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense”.

We don’t have to have the attitude of, “I’m not taking anything off of anybody”.

The wisdom of God teaches us that “it is to our glory to overlook an offense.”

We might call it learning to ‘not to sweat the small stuff’.

Because if we are not careful, the small stuff can quickly turn into the big stuff.

Ill. It is kind of like the temptations of life…they begin as a seed.

We can either entertain it or disregard it; we will either allow it to be planted in the recesses of our consciousness to grow or we will purge it out and not waste valuable time on it.



When I say “refuse it” what I mean is to refuse to be influenced by those with hot tempers.

Prov 22:24-25

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,

or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

*  An author for Reader's Digest writes how he studied the Amish people in preparation for an article on them. In his observation at the school yard, he noted that the children never screamed or yelled. This amazed him. He spoke to the schoolmaster. He remarked how he had not once heard an Amish child yell, and asked why the schoolmaster thought that was so. The schoolmaster replied, "Well, have you ever heard an Amish adult yell?"

So just as anger is contagious, so it the attitude of peace .



James 5:16a  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Although anger is not always a sin, when we do cross the line, one of our first lines of defense is confession.  It is only after confession that the healing process can begin.

As with every other sin we have to realize that there is a problem.

It would be an even better idea to surrender our anger to Christ before it turns into sin.

Paul Stanley tells this story from his military experience: "As an infantry company commander in Vietnam in 1967, I saw Viet Cong soldiers surrender many times. As they were placed in custody, marched away, and briefly interrogated, their body language and facial expressions always caught my attention. Most hung their heads in shame, staring at the ground, unwilling to look their captors in the eye. But some stood erect, staring defiantly at those around them, resisting any attempt by our men to control them.

They had surrendered physically but not mentally.

After landing, I picked him up and walked toward the medical tent. As we crossed the field, I felt the tenseness leave his body and his tight grasp loosen. His eyes softened, and his head leaned against my chest. The fear and resistance were gone —he had finally surrendered.”
* Maybe that’s how it is when God tries to capture us!

In our pride, we get angry at Him and we fight and push Him away claiming our own territory and rights.

But when we finally see that He is on our side; not our enemy but our Savior, we surrender.

Yes, God wants to take us captive, but not for His own good.

He wants to take us captive for our good.
It is only when we set aside our anger and defiance that we will surrender to Him.

It’s time to set aside anger and defiance of God.

Besides, “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

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