Over the past several years we’ve become more and more familiar with fits of rage and anger infiltrating most every arena of life. On November 19, 2004, we watched the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers take on the fans at The Palace after a fan threw a cup of beer on Ron Artest. Nine players were suspended and some fans were banned from ever attending any events at The Palace ever again.
It was interesting to me that there was such an uproar over the brawl because our entire society has been becoming increasingly short-fused for many years. We are a nation that seems to be becoming more and more characterized by rage and anger. During the last two decades we have heard phrases like “road rage” and “anger management” for the first time. We’ve seen video of parents at little league baseball games fight one another like Mike Tyson in a bar room brawl. Studies have shown us that police officers are at their greatest risk when they are called in to deal with domestic disturbances. We’ve read reports of people going “postal” in their offices and killing folks. We are a nation of angry folks and the things that we fume and explode over are limitless.
Over a decade ago, on July 5, 2000, a hockey scrimmage took place at the Burbank Ice Arena in Reading, Massachusetts. It was a scrimmage for 10-12 year old boys. Michael Costin’s three sons were playing on one team and Thomas Junta’s son was on the opposing team. It was a scrimmage, it didn’t even count, but the events that transpired radically changed two families. The two men got into a scuffle during the game because of a disagreement they had over the roughness of play by the boys. Following the scrimmage Mr. Junta and Mr. Costin got into it again and Mr. Costin was beaten to death. Today, Thomas Junta is sitting in prison while Michael Costin’s sons are left without a daddy.
How can that happen? We’ve all been to ballgames, little league and up, where fans acted like fools. Maybe we’ve even said things or done things that made for poor examples for the kids, but kill someone over a little league hockey match? How does that happen?
Even though I find it impossible to relate to the situation that cost Michael Costin his life, I can more closely relate to the frustration Karen Morgan must have felt while she stood in the express line at the grocery store. How many of you have ever been in a hurry as you rushed to the grocery store to pick up a few items? You hustled through the store, made a beeline to the express check-out, and found that somebody who couldn’t count was right in front of you. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what happened to Karen Morgan.
Karen Morgan was in a hurry. As she got into the express lane at the Market Basket grocery in Lowell, Mass. She noticed that the lady in front of her had more than the “12-items-or-less” express lane allowed. The 38 year-old woman mocked the math skills of the lady in front her and began cussing out the 51 year-old woman in front of her.
Humiliating the woman wasn’t enough, Mrs. Morgan followed her out into the parking lot. The 51 year-old customer said, “She grabbed me by my hair, pulled me to the ground and kneed me in my stomach. I was on the ground and she kicked me in my head and on my side, and I got all scratched up. She drew blood.”
I know we can probably identify with Karen Morgan’s frustration, but I sure hope none of us have ever cussed folks out or followed them into the parking lot to pull their hair or knee them in the stomach over a few extra items in their shopping cart. Are we a nation that is going insane? If you ever find yourself in Karen Morgan’s situation and you feel your frustration level rising just let it go. Just let it go.
That’s really the message of Solomon to his son today. “Let it go.” Solomon writes in Proverbs 19:11,
11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 NIV)
This little nugget of wisdom holds so much benefit for those who will have ears to hear this morning. The benefits of “overlooking an offense” are far-reaching if we will allow Solomon’s advice to lead us and guide us in our relationships with other people. Not only will we be able to preserve relationships and see God develop patience within us, but medical doctors say that we will do untold damage to our bodies if we allow anger and rage to ravage our hearts and minds. Let me read to you an excerpt from the book, Mind/Body Health: The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions, and Relationships.
One of the major physiological effects of anger is on the release of chemicals and hormones, principally adrenaline and noradrenaline…adrenal hormones act on all organs of the body reached by the sympathetic nervous system, stimulating the heart, dilating coronary vessels, constricting blood vessels in the intestines, and shutting off digestion…chronic or prolonged anger, some of the most serious effects are high blood pressure, headache, heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems…results of repressed, chronic, or prolonged anger can be devastating. And, say researchers, if there’s enough anger, almost any part of the body can be harmed. The effects can be as serious as cancer and heart disease or as minor (but annoying) as the common cold or skin disorders. (Hafen, B.Q., Karren, K.J., Frandsen, K.J. & Smith, N.J. Mind/Body Health:The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions, and Relationships. p. 175. 1996. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.)
Do you see the harm that we bring on ourselves and those around us when we dismiss God’s counsel and allow the frustrations of life to stir the pot of anger in our hearts? I think we all would agree that more harm than good comes to those who rage, fly off the handle, blow a gasket, or suffer from a short fuse. Yet, we see anger all around us. Coaches blow up on their athletes, supervisors rage against their employees, husbands and wives fly off the handle and attack one another with everything from words to the kitchen sink, angry commuters use sign language to convey their frustration to incompetent drivers, parents rant and rave to their kids, and the list could go and on.
Even though most of us would agree that this type of behavior is unproductive and destructive we continue to allow our anger to get the best of us. How can we get a handle on our anger? How can we better deal with our frustrations so that we don’t explode on others? Those are great questions! I want us to understand this verse from Proverbs 19:11 so that we can hopefully gain some tools to help us overcome our bouts with destructive anger. I say “destructive anger” because I see instances in Jesus’ life when He became angry and yet the Bible teaches us that He was without sin. What was it that angered Jesus? We need to know the answer to that question because the things that angered Jesus should anger us. Let me give you an example.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Mark 11:15-17 NIV)
The money changers were keeping the Gentiles from worshipping God. The ‘temple courts’ were the only place where the Gentiles were allowed to worship and yet the money changers and merchants had turned the Gentiles ‘sanctuary’ into a marketplace. Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” When we see barriers being built to keep anyone from God then we should become angry, with an anger that leads to action!
There is another instance where we see Jesus become angry and it is found in Mark 3:1-6. Take a look at this passage with me.
1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ 4 Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6 NIV)
Jesus became angry with the Pharisees because they had turned the Sabbath into an endless list of rules to be observed by the people when in actuality the Sabbath was given to give people a day of rest and worship, a time to be replenished and refreshed. The Pharisees were so concerned with making sure that everyone kept their man-made rules that they overlooked those who were hurting and in need of help.
Have you noticed any similarities in these two stories that show Jesus’ anger? Jesus became angry when others suffered injustice, when others were being led astray by a misrepresentation of God and His ways, when others were mistreated or treated as insignificant. Jesus suffered the greatest injustice the world has ever known, He suffered for our sins, not His own, and yet this didn’t anger Him. After Jesus was arrested, He stood before Caiaphas, the High Priest, to answer the allegations brought against Him. We read in Mark’s Gospel,
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. 57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. (Mark 14:55-61 NIV)
In the very next chapter of Mark’s Gospel we see that the chief priests took Jesus to Pilate, the governor of Judea.
1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. 2 ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate. ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. 3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ 5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15:1-5 NIV)
“They are accusing you Jesus, speak up! Stand up for yourself! Demand your rights! Speak up!” Not a word. Jesus didn’t need to defend Himself–He knew His Defender! So should we.
What we’ve just learned is so important. Jesus became angry when He saw others suffer from injustice. Jesus didn’t invent this righteous anger. We read about God’s anger at those who take advantage of others in Zechariah 7:9-12.
9 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” 11 But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. (Zechariah 7:8-12 NIV)
In Jeremiah 22 we read about God’s judgment on King Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah. An interesting point in this passage is that Jehoiakim grew up in King Josiah’s house. Josiah loved God, he looked out for the poor and needy, he defended the cause of those who tended to get trampled under foot, and yet his son thumbed his nose at all of this and sought to take care of himself instead of others. God speaks up in Jeremiah 22:13-17 and says,
13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. 14 He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red. 15 ‘Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. 16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the LORD. 17 ‘But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.’ (Jeremiah 22:13-17 NIV)
Josiah is praised and Jehoiakim is judged because of the way they defended, or failed to defend, the cause of the poor and needy. Josiah became angry when he saw the poor and needy taken advantage of in society. Jehoiakim never noticed the poor and needy being taken advantage of because he was always looking out for himself.
Have you noticed that our anger tends to be stirred because of what happens to us and not what happens to others? When we see stories of others being taken advantage of it hardly even registers, but let someone treat us harshly and we will rise with vengeance in our hearts.
We suffer from misguided anger and we misdirect our anger because we allow anger to control us, rather than keeping our anger under control. If you are a follower of Jesus then you have the Spirit of God living within you. We read in Galatians that one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. We can’t say, “I just can’t help it. When somebody tries to take advantage of me I just lose it.” Through the grace of God and the empowering of the Spirit of God we can get a handle on our anger. We are not to live like we use to live! We are not to live like the rest of the world lives. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said,
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin:” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:22-27 NIV)
Here, in Ephesians, Paul gives us some very practical advice. He says, “In your anger do not sin.” John MacArthur writes in the MacArthur Study Bible about this verse. He says,
By New Testament standards, anger can be either good or bad, depending on motive and purpose. Paul may have been sanctioning righteous indignation, anger at evil. This type of anger hates injustice, immorality, ungodliness, and every other sin. When such anger is unselfish and based on love for God and others, it not only is permissible but commanded. (MacArthur Study Bible, pg. 1810.)
Even when we feel “righteous indignation” over sin that mistreats, mischaracterizes, and hurts others we are given parameters–we are not to let the sun go down on our anger.
This is godly counsel and great guidance for us as see the evils that are taking place in the wider context of society. I get so angry when I see the way that Hollywood and Madison Avenue are selling our kids down the river. Young people are bombarded with messages, through various means, that if they buy into them they will be led down a dead-end road. I get so upset when I see God’s gift of sexual intimacy, given to husbands and wives as a wedding present, characterized on television and in movies as something casual rather than holy. These things and more disturb me, but I am not to let the sun go down on my anger. I am not to harbor and dwell on these things. I need to let them go and trust God. Pray continuously? You bet! Live a life that doesn’t lead others astray or treat them in an ungodly way? Always! Stew and fume and make myself sick over something that I can’t control? No way!
This wisdom, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” is also wise counsel to help us in our inner-personal relationships. Stop and think with me for a minute. Can you remember when you had an argument or misunderstanding with someone that went on for days, or months, even years? Maybe you and your wife or husband argued over money, or how to discipline the kids, or what color to paint the bathroom. You went to bed at the end of the day and rolled over as close as you could possibly get to the edge of the bed while they did the same. The next morning you woke up early so you could leave the house before ever seeing your adversary. You went to work and smiled at everyone, laughed at jokes that were told, and shared your pleasant personality with everyone in the office, but when quitting time came your heart started racing and you plotted and planned how you would resume the war once you arrived at home. Paul says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Deal with it, forgive one another, work through the quagmire, compromise, and let it go. Was it really that important?
James gives us some good advice on how we should relate to all people. He says,
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21 NIV)
You’ve probably heard the wise saying, “We have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you talk.” We are to be slow to become angry and slow to speak. We are to humbly accept the word that has been planted in us–the Word of God that is able to save us and our relationships if we will only heed God’s Word.
This kind of teaching flies in the face of conventional wisdom. We are taught to stand up for our rights. Some of us were taught as kids, “Don’t ever throw the first punch, but if he hits you then wear him out–win the fight!” Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.” You may say, “Well, John Wayne would never turn the other cheek. Rocky Balboa would never let somebody get the best of him. Vin Diesel would never take it on the chin.” You know what? You are right, but I’m not following John or Rocky or Vin Diesel–I-m following Jesus.
Paul wrote to the people in Ephesus and told them to forgive one another just as God had forgiven them. That is our standard! This is our precedent for overlooking the transgressions of others instead of lashing out.
Let’s end our study where we began it by taking one final look at Proverbs 19:11. Read along with me.
11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 NIV)
Godly wisdom will give us patience with others. It will allow us to not fly off the handle and lash out at others who hurt us. Solomon contrasts the godly man with the hot-headed man in several verses. Take a look with me at Proverbs 15:18.
18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. (Proverbs 15:18 NIV)
Now let’s take a look at Proverbs 29:22.
22 An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. (Proverbs 29:22 NIV)
Do you see the stark contrast? If you are a hot-head you are going to get knots on your head. Your life will be characterized by broken relationships and hardships for all of your days. You will lack peace and contentment because of the drama you cause in your own life and the lives of others. Little things will set you off. Your anger will become a ravaging fire that will burn ever-brighter until you find yourself sitting amidst the ashes all alone. Is that the kind of life you want? If you are a hot-head this morning you need to enroll in the King’s “anger management” course. Turn your life over to Jesus Christ. Confess to Him the problem that you have with anger. Lay your cards on the table and be honest about the rage that has ravaged your heart and your relationships. Ask the Prince of Peace to come in and give you His peace so that you might learn of His ways. He will give you the power to overlook the transgressions of others when they hurt you instead of lashing out. He will give you the power to forgive even when you think you’ve suffered the unpardonable. He will allow you to lay your head down on your pillow at night with your anger resolved. Won’t you invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church