Bible Wisdom From Proverbs For Dealing With Anger

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Aristotle once wisely said:

“Anybody can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

We live in a world that is very angry. Each time we turn on the television, we see examples of it! People insulted, tempers flaring, people suing each other left and right, and on and on we could go!

How are we supposed to deal with anger?  
In this article we will look at the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs for how to deal with anger.  

The New Testament Words For Anger 

Before we delve deep into Proverbs, it will help us to have some basic definitions of anger in mind.  

“Anger: A feeling of extreme displeasure, hostility, indignation, or exasperation toward someone or something; rage; wrath; ire. In the New Testament, three Greek words are used to describe anger: Orgē: A settled or abiding condition of the mind. Rises slowly. Has the view of taking revenge. Tends to be lasting in its nature. An active emotion. Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:26a; Hebrews 3:11. Spoken against in Colossians 3:8. Thymos (Wrath): A very agitated condition. An outburst from indignation that is within. Quick to rise up. Not as long-lived as orgē. Sometimes carries the idea of revenge, but not always. Quickly blazes up and quickly disappears. Ephesians 4:31. Parorgismos: A stronger form of orgē. Ephesians 4:26b, 6:4. Carries the idea of righteous resentment. Carries the idea “to quiver with strong emotion.” Irritation and exasperation.” (Tim LaHaye & Bob Philips, Anger Is A Choice: 2766-2799 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan) 

Anger itself is not an evil thing! We are often reminded of how God is angry at times (Psalm 7:11), and how Jesus became angry on occasion (Mark 3:5).

Anger itself is not evil: but anger unchecked can lead to horrendous consequences.  

With that in mind, let’s notice some principles from the Book of Proverbs about dealing with anger.  

Ask The Lord To Help You

This first suggestion is so obvious it is easy to not mention it, but is perhaps the most important principle here.  
We need to ask God to help us with anger. 

All through the Book of Proverbs, we see the wisdom of the “wise man” in seeking God’s help in dealing with the issues and obstacles of life: 

Proverbs 3:5-6-5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 18:10-The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.

The whole Book of Proverbs is about learning to trust in and obey God. He is our Helper that we need to help us.  

If we want to gain more self-control, then we need to ask for God’s help.

We need to allow His Holy Spirit to work in is beyond what we can think of imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21), and to allow Him to bring forth His fruit in our hearts and lives (Galatians 5:22-23).  

Try To Be Slow To Anger 

One of the great lessons from Proverbs in regard to anger deals with the subject of being slow to anger.  

For example:

Proverbs 14:29-He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.

Proverbs 14:29 (GW)-A person of great understanding is patient, but a short temper is the height of stupidity.

Proverbs 15:18-A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.

Proverbs 15:18 (ERV)-A quick temper causes fights, but patience brings peace and calm.

Proverbs 16:32-He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

There are many Proverbs which speak of the foolishness of being hot-tempered, and of reacting in anger.  

Proverbs 12:16-A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.

Proverbs 12:16 (GW)-When a stubborn fool is irritated, he shows it immediately, but a sensible person hides the insult.

Proverbs 14:17-A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of wicked intentions is hated.

Proverbs 14:29-He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.  

People often get into trouble when they are easily provoked.  

Be Cautious Whom You Choose To Be Close Friends With 

The people that we choose to surround ourselves with have an impact upon us, for good or for evil.  

Several Scriptures bear this out: 

Psalm 119:63- I am a companion of all who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts.

1 Corinthians 15:33-Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Proverbs 13:20-He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

Proverbs warns us against having close friends who are easily angered: 

Proverbs 22:24-25-24  Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go,
25  Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.

Charles Swindoll has this excellent note on this verse:  

“The phrase in Proverbs 22: 24 rendered “a man given to anger” reads, literally, “Do not befriend an anger-owner” or “Do not befriend a lord of anger.” The adjective translated “hot-tempered” suggests a pot of boiling poison. This kind of person responds to virtually every negative experience with venom because he or she remains angry with everyone and everything. Because anger begets anger, strife follows this person like a dark cloud. The sage warned that this kind of anger can be a learned trait. Associate with a habitually angry person and you will soon become like him or her.” (Charles Swindoll, Living The Proverbs: Insight For The Daily Grind, 1424-1429 (Kindle Edition); Brentwood, Tennessee; Worthy Publishing) 

Proverbs 29:22-An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression.

Avoid Contentious Situations (And People) As Much As Possible

One of the best ways to handle anger is to avoid situations where there is trouble brewing.

The Book of Proverbs gives the advice for God’s people to avoid personal contention and trouble as much as possible.  

For example: 

Proverbs 14:16-A wise man fears and departs from evil, But a fool rages and is self-confident.

Proverbs 14:16 (ERV)-Wise people are careful and avoid trouble; fools are too confident and careless.

Proverbs 22:3-A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished.

Proverbs 22:3 (CEV)-When you see trouble coming, don’t be stupid and walk right into it— be smart and hide.

Proverbs 22:3 (ERV)-Wise people see trouble coming and get out of its way, but fools go straight to it and suffer for it.

Proverbs 26:17-He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.

Proverbs 26:17 (CEV)-It’s better to take hold of a mad dog by the ears than to take part in someone else’s argument.

There are, unfortunately, a lot of people in the world who thrive on drama. They enjoy stirring the pot and they want mischief and division.

What do we do in those situations?  

Do what you can to avoid them if possible.

If we have to, we simply need to stay away from people who cause contentions!  

Titus 3:10-11-10  Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition 11  knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.

Be Careful What You Say When You Are Angry

Speaking in anger is often a mistake.

Ambrose Bierce-“Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you ever regretted.”  

Sometimes the best thing we can do is close our mouths and not say anything.  

Proverbs 15:1-A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 29:22-An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression.  

I love the words of Warren Wiersbe here:

“Third, in order to control our anger, we need to be careful how we speak. In Proverbs 15: 1 we are told, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Conversations are like small fires: The more fuel you add to them, the more they blaze. Nothing cools a person’s temper faster than a calm, quiet response. We need to remember that it takes two people to have an argument. Many angry arguments and hurt feelings could be avoided if people would learn to control their tongues. If we are allowing the Holy Spirit to control us, He will give us the ability to speak the truth in love (see Eph. 4: 15).” (Warren Wiersbe, Angry People: And What We Can Learn From Them, 130-135 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books) 

Try To Overlook Personal Offenses 

We live in a world that is consumed with personal rights.

While our personal rights do have their place, we need to realize that sometimes it is better to suffer a wrong!

This is what Paul told the church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 6:7-Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?  

The writer of Proverbs also points out that it is sometimes a good thing to let go of our “personal rights” and suffer wrong.  

Proverbs 12:16-A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.

Proverbs 12:16 (CEV)-Losing your temper is foolish; ignoring an insult is smart.

Proverbs 19:11-The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.

There are times to simply ignore an offense.  

If it is of such a nature that it is very serious, then Jesus gives us a formula for dealing with such (Matthew 18:15-18).   

Sometimes, our desire for personal honor and satisfaction can cause a lot of problems and we would be wise to simply overlook the offense.

Deal Quickly With Anger

Proverbs 20:3-It is honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.

Anger that is allowed to fester becomes like an angry torrent, a raging inferno that continues to grow.

With each passing moment that the anger is left unchecked, more damage (to others and to yourself) will take place.  

Proverbs 26:21 (ERV)-Charcoal keeps the coals glowing, wood keeps the fire burning, and troublemakers keep arguments alive.

Proverbs 29:22-An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression.

Proverbs 30:33-For as the churning of milk produces butter, And wringing the nose produces blood, So the forcing of wrath produces strife.

Proverbs 30:33 (CEV)-If you churn milk you get butter; if you pound on your nose, you get blood— and if you stay angry, you get in trouble.

Proverbs 30:33 (GW)-As churning milk produces butter and punching a nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces a fight.

When I think about this topic, I am reminded of an episode of Touched By An Angel that I saw years ago.  

In the episode, Monica is cut off on the road and then a rude person sends her an “inappropriate gesture” with his left hand. Monica goes to a restaurant where the people are loud and impolite, and a cell phone is continually ringing. She finally loses her temper and takes the phone, throwing it into a fish tank!  

What she didn’t know is that the anger she had manifested then spread all through the restaurant. The waiters yelled at each other, one person who was angry missed a chance to see his brother (who had been missing for a few years), one of the waiters spoke unkindly to a customer (who just happened to be the banker who was going to make the decision to give the restaurant a loan that would keep them open) who then decided to close the restaurant!  

We also need to remember that when I refuse to deal quickly with my anger and allow it to build and build and grow hotter, the Bible teaches that I am allowing Satan and his forces to have greater influence in my life!

Ephesians 4:26-27-26  “BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,27  nor give place to the devil.

Ephesians 4:26-27 (CEV)-26  Don’t get so angry that you sin. Don’t go to bed angry27  and don’t give the devil a chance.

Look at that phrase, “nor give place to the devil.”

The Greek of the passage is quite illuminating, as is the original cultural reference here: 

“The danger of persistent anger lies in the fact that the devil will exploit it for his own purposes….Although it is possible to take this term in the metaphorical sense of “chance” or “opportunity,” 13 it is best interpreted according to its spatial significance of “place.” 14 This is in accord with the fact that spatial language abounds in this letter, especially as illustrated by Paul’s frequent use of the language of “filling” (; 3: 19; 4: 10; 5: 18) and indwelling (2: 22; 3: 17). It is also significant that the term “place” is used elsewhere in the NT to refer to the inhabiting place of an evil spirit. Luke records Jesus as saying, “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places () seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left’ ” (Luke 11: 24). A similar usage is found in the Apocalypse: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place () in heaven” (Rev 12: 7–8). First-century Judaism saw anger as a magnet that attracted the working of an evil spirit: “Anger and falsehood together are a double-edged evil, and work together to perturb the reason. And when the soul is continually perturbed, the Lord withdraws from it and Beliar rules it” (T. Dan 4: 7; see also 5: 1). In fact, the same work speaks of a “spirit of anger” that attacks the people of God (T. Dan 1: 8; 2: 1, 4). The earliest allusions to Eph 4: 27 interpret “place” spatially and speak of anger and sinful practices as making one susceptible to the work of a demonic spirit (see Herm. Mand. 5.1.3; 12.5.1–4; Origen, Princ. 2.3.4)….By allowing anger to fester and grow, believers can surrender space to a demonic intruder. This is how Origen understood this passage. He warned believers that by thinking intently about and following the wrong inclinations of the soul, “these assents summon the devil to enter our souls” (citing Judas as an example; John 13: 2, 27). 15 Similarly, Ambrosiaster notes, “An angry mind will necessarily think evil thoughts, as the devil desires. If the devil finds a mind ready for evil and slipping toward it, he deceives the person who was created for life. The thought, you see, is human. But the devil completes it.” 16 Calvin notes, “I have no doubt that Paul was warning us to beware lest Satan should take possession of our minds, like an enemy-occupied fortress, and do whatever he pleases.” 17 Similarly, Robinson warned that persisting anger “gives immediate opportunity for the entry of an evil spirit.”…O’Brien is probably correct in observing that this warning not only provides a motivation for controlling anger, but is equally applicable to any behavior that is characteristic of the old self. 19 The implication of this would be that unchecked sinful behavior will eventually yield a place to the enemy to further his goals of stunting the sanctifying work of God.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians: Zomdervan Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament, 8242-8277 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan) 

If left unchecked, anger will spread and cause destruction as we open ourselves up to the influence of the devil and his forces.

So the Bible encourages us to deal with anger quickly.  

Heap Up The Coals Of Fire

Finally, notice that the wise man of Proverbs encourages God’s people to do good to our enemies instead of giving in to our anger. We are told: 

Proverbs 25:21-22-21  If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you.

What does the phrase “heaping coals of fire” mean?  

“Some scholars have traced the metaphor to an Egyptian practice of carrying a tray of burning coals on one’s head as a sign of contrition; see esp. S. Morenz, “Feurige Kohlen auf dem Haupt,” in Religion und Geschichte der alten Agypten. Gesammelte Aufsätze (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus, 1975), pp. 433–44. For other suggestions for the origin of the metaphor as a reference to shame, see J. E. Yonge, “Heaping Coals of Fire on the Head,” The Expositor, series 3, vol. 2 (1885), 158–59; A. T. Fryer, “Coals of Fire,” ExpTim 36 (1924–25), 478; J. Steele, “Heaping Coals of Fire on the Head (Pr. xxv.22; Ro. xii.20),” ExpTim 44 (1932), 141.” (Douglas Moo, The New International Commentary On The New Testament: The Epistle To The Romans, 28263 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

“In ancient Egypt, there was a special way to show shame and a change of heart. A person would carry on the head a dish of ashes topped by burning charcoal and go to those one had mistreated, likely to cook a meal celebrating renewed friendship. Proverbs 25: 21-22 and Romans 12: 20-21 tell us to heap coals of fire on the heads of evildoers. This means that we are called to return good for evil, to give our enemies food and drink, and thus to invite them toward change for the better—repentance. We might return hate for hate and kick for kick, or make sure to repay more than what is even, to teach the enemy a lesson. If so, we are overcome by evil and join the enemy’s bad game. Instead, followers of Jesus are to overcome evil by making friends out of enemies. We try to help them change by acting in kindness and goodwill. But if they do not change, we continue to love them, because this is Jesus’ way. Following Jesus is not always easy, and others may sometimes hurt us, but we leave that in God’s hands.” (Elizabeth Hershberger Baan, Coals Of Fire: -25 (Kindle Edition); Harrisonburg, Va.; Herald Press)

The hope is that in doing good to our enemies, we will motivate them to repent.

The best way to kill an enemy is to make him a friend! 

Conclusion

In conclusion, we find the following suggestions from Proverbs about dealing with anger: 

Ask The Lord To Help You

Try To Be Slow To Anger 

Be Cautious Who You Choose To Be Close Friends With 

Avoid Contentious Situations (And People) As Much As Possible

Be Careful What You Say When You Are Angry

Try To Overlook Personal Offenses 

Deal Quickly With Anger

Heap Up Coals Of Fire

The Word of God reminds us about the perfect and holy anger of God towards sin and sinners (Habakkuk 1:13; Psalm 7:11; Isaiah 59:1-2). Even with His perfect, God has a perfect love that found a way to save mankind from sin (Colossians 1:16-21). Jesus Christ, God’s Son, went to the cross and died for mankind (1 Timothy 2:6). He was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Why not today as a believer in Him repent of your sins, confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-47)?  

If you are a Christian who has been unfaithful to the Lord, why not come back to Him today in repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9; James 5:16)?  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s