How To Deal With Anger
By Brian Anderson
Man's first crime was that of murder. Gen.4:8 says "And Cain told Abel his
brother, and it came
about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his
brother and killed him". In
our own day, we have seen the arrests of mass murderers whose names have
words. Over 25,000 murders are committed in the U.S. every year. That's
approximately 70 a
day! If we were to add suicide (self-murder) and abortions (pre-birth
murder), the numbers would
be staggering! Violence and killing fill our television and movie screens!
Admittedly, most of us
will never commit an actual murder. But Jesus is teaching us in this
passage that if we manifest
unrighteous anger, contempt or slander towards someone else, we have the
seeds of murder
growing already in our heart. This passage is relevant and applicable to
all of us because all of us
must deal with unrighteous anger in our hearts at one time or another.
But first, we need to back up and see the big picture! What is the context
in Matthew 5?
Christ here is giving new rules of conduct for the church. Under the new
covenant there are new
and higher demands than the Jews under the old covenant were governed by.
That is because the
new covenant is rooted in pure grace. Do you remember Ex.19:4-5? "You
yourselves have seen
what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and
brought you to Myself.
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you
shall be My own
possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine." The old
covenant was conditional: if
you obey and keep the covenant you will be blessed. If you disobey, you will
The new covenant is unconditional. Jer.31:31-34 "...but this is the covenant
which I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord, I will put My
law within them, and on
their heart I will write it, and I will be their God, and they shall be My
people...". I will and you
shall! God Himself fulfills in His people the conditions of faith,
repentance, obedience, and
perseverance. Because it is rooted in pure grace, the demands that rule
their lives are much
higher and more spiritual. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ is
contrasting the way of living
under the Old Testament covenant of law and under the new testament covenant
Another way to put it is:
- The old covenant was given to hard-hearted sinners as a ministry of death.
- The new covenant is given to saints having a new heart as a ministry of life.
- The Law of Moses was given to a physical nation of unregenerate sinners.
- The Law of Christ was given to a spiritual nation of regenerate saints.
- The purpose of the Law of Moses is conviction of sin leading to
justification by faith. (II Cor. 3)
- The purpose of the Law of Christ is to furnish the renewed mind of the
saints with truth leading to a more holy life. It is to furnish us with an objective standard, code of conduct, whereby we understand the kind of life that pleases God.
One popular view of this passage sees Jesus correcting the interpretation of
the Law given by the
Scribes. In other words, He was giving the true spiritual intent of the Law.
believe that the Old Testament law was designed to convict a man of anger
in his heart and mind
as well as to convict him of physical murder. The problem with that view is
that the breaking of
these laws was punishable with death. But if the true intent of the law was
to condemn man for
sins of the heart, how could the magistrates possibly punish them? I
believe, rather, that the Old
Testament believers did not understand the law according to this deeper,
more spiritual meaning
that Christ gives it. They couldn't understand it that way. No where in the
Old Testament did God
give them this deeper understanding. No, Christ raises those Old Testament
laws to a higher level.
He doesn't contradict the Old Testament law or imply that it is wrong. It
was good for Old
Testament believers. But with the new covenant, there needs to be a new rule
Well, now that we have seen a little of the background to 5:21-48, let's see
what Christ has to say
about unrighteous anger and having right relationships with others. In this
passage He teaches us
three things about dealing with anger:
1. Recognize Your Anger As A Serious Sin In The Sight of God
"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder'
commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone
who is angry with his
brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his
brother, 'Raca', shall be guilty
before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool', shall be guilty
enough to go into the
You Have Heard: Why did He say this? When Israel was taken captive in
Babylon, they had lost
their ability to understand the Hebrew language. When they came back, they
spoke Aramaic. They
couldn't read their Hebrew Scriptures. They were dependent on the Scribes to
tell them what the
Law said. The situation was similar to what occurred in the dark ages when
priests and bishops
of the Catholic church had the Bible translated into a language the people
didn't understand. But
to the credit of the Scribes, they had told the people what the Scriptures
said. In Ex. 20:13, God
gives the command, "You shall not murder"; and in Num.35:30-31, the Law
states "If anyone kills
a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses,
but no person shall be
put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall not take
ransom for the life of a
murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death."
But I Say To You (v.22): Mt. 7:28-29 "The result was that when Jesus had
finished these words,
the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one
and not as their scribes." They were amazed because He didn't parrot the
oral traditions of the
Elders; His teaching was different! Not only the manner of His teaching but
the content was
different. He wasn't just rubber stamping the Law of Moses. He is giving
us the Law of Christ! It
raises their law to the nth degree! The Jews were a physical nation, many of
unregenerate sinners, obeying an external code. Christ is saying here that
His standard for new
covenant believers is not just external. It reaches the heart, thoughts, and
motives of a man.
Anger, contempt, and slander are all liable to judgment - not just the
external act of murder.
Anger: Sometimes anger is the only right response in a given situation.
Take for example Jesus'
response to the religious leaders. In Mt. 23, He denounced their
self-serving hypocritical practice
calling them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, serpents, and brood of vipers
that should not escape
the sentence of hell! Pretty strong language from meek and mild-mannered
Jesus! Paul was angry
with the Judaizers. In Gal 1:6-8 he says "I am amazed that you are so
quickly deserting Him who
called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really
not another; only there are
some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But
even though we, or an
angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we
have preached to
you, let him be accursed." Both Jesus and Paul were angry with sin. Our
anger is righteous when
God's honor is at stake. Too often we are angry because of what someone does
to us. But this is
selfish anger. Jesus was unjustly arrested, tried, beaten, spat upon,
crucified, and mocked. He had
every reason to be angry, yet He only prayed for His persecutor's
forgiveness. His was a holy
anger against sin, but Jesus in this text is speaking about unholy anger
against people. In the Old
Testament when someone committed murder they were guilty before the Court.
The Court was
the local village council of elders. Likewise, we are guilty before God when
unrighteous anger towards our brother.
Raca: To say "Raca" was an insult in the tone of voice more than anything
else. It literally meant
brainless idiot; empty-headed blunderer. Today we would call someone an
Airhead! It speaks of
contempt and is built on arrogance and pride. To call someone Raca was to be
guilty of the
Supreme Court - the Sanhedrin. Unrighteous anger naturally leads to showing
others. Both are sins of the heart for which we are accountable.
Fool: The Greek word is moros from which we get our word moron. Christ
speaks of a moral
fool. The fool was someone who was wicked and ungodly and demonstrated that
moronic decisions. In the book of Proverbs, the fool is not just an ignorant
person; he is an
ungodly person. To call someone a fool was to participate in slander and
It was to become guilty of destroying someone's reputation with slanderous
anger and contempt lead naturally to verbal abuse of others. This sin is so
serious that it makes us
guilty enough to go into the fiery hell!
How serious is our anger which leads to contempt and character
assassination? It is serious
enough to send us to hell for eternity! That's pretty serious! The very
first thing we need to do is
to recognize the seriousness of unrighteous anger. Jesus says it's so bad
that we ought to be
thrown into hell for it! In 1 Jn.3:15 the Bible says "Everyone who hates
his brother is a
murderer." To hate is just as bad as murder, because the person who hates
would go ahead and
kill if he could get away with it! When we hate someone, we wish that person
was dead. What
about you? Do you carry around unholy anger, contempt, or slander for
family, friends, or
perhaps even people in the church? If so, you need to recognize it as a sin
worthy of hell! That is
the place to start dealing with our anger. God sees it as a very serious
offense. Until we do, there
can be no hope for our sanctification. If we see it as a serious sin, we
will confess and forsake it.
Our problem is that we view anger as just a little sin. It's no big deal.
Or, we think that our anger
is another person's fault. We think that another person's wrong behavior
justifies us in our anger!
It's so hard for us to come clean before God.
In May of 1931 "Two Gun" Crowley was captured in New York City. He was the
kind of man to
kill at a drop of a hat. Before he was arrested he was parked at the side of
a road. A policeman
came up and asked to see his license. Without saying a word, Crowley shot
the policeman dead.
Then, as the officer lay dying, he jumped out of his car, took the
policeman's revolver and fired
another bullet into his body. What did "Two Gun" Crowley think of himself?
Well, when he was
finally captured in his girlfriend's apartment at the end of an hour-long
gun battle involving
hundreds of police, a blood-stained note was discovered written by Crowley
during the battle. It
said "Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one -- one that would do
nobody any harm"
Later when he was sentenced to the electric chair he said, "This is what I
get for defending
myself." He didn't blame himself for anything! How typical Crowley is of
all of us! How slow we
are to admit and repent of sin. What about you? Are you willing to own your
sin?! We have to
own our anger as guilt and bring it before God in order to be cleansed from it.
2. Reconcile Yourself to Others Before You Worship In The Presence Of God
"If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there
remember that your brother
has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and
go your way; first be
reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Mt.
Let's try to put ourselves in that historical period of Jewish life. The
Jews were presenting their
animal sacrifices to the priests at the temple to atone for their sins.
Suddenly someone remembers
that somebody has something against him. Jesus instructs them that in that
case they were to
leave the place of worship and go and make it right. Perhaps the person you
remembered who had
something against you was someone you were angry with, had showed contempt
slandered. You have sinned against them because of your anger.
Jesus is teaching us here that going through an outward religious ceremony
is only a pretense and
sham if you have acted so poorly that your brother has something against
you. We would love to
substitute ceremonial aspects of religion for the demands of a clear
conscience. Our worship is
unacceptable to God if we are deliberately refusing to make things right
with others we have
wronged. It is more important to make things right with an alienated
brother before we come to
worship. Otherwise we are acting the part of a hypocrite, just going through
the motions, but our
lives condemn us. Isaiah cried out to the people of his own day against this
"What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the Lord. "I have had
enough of burnt offerings
of rams, and the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of
bulls, lambs, or goats."
"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from
My sight. Cease to
do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the
orphan, plead for the
widow." Is. 1:11, 16-17
What about you? Is there someone you have sinned against, but have refused
to reconcile with?
Have you become stubborn and unwilling to ask for forgiveness? You can sit
here in church and
sing and give, but that doesn't cut it with God. He's not impressed. You
might as well not even
have come. Instead, go home today, call that offended brother and make
arrangements to meet
him somewhere. Apologize and ask for his forgiveness. Your relationship to
Christ will never be
completely right while you neglect this!
3. Repair Your Relationship Immediately Before You Experience The Chastisement Of
"Leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be
reconciled to your brother,
and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your
opponent at law while
you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you
to the judge, and
the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you,
you shall not come out
of there, until you have paid up the last cent" Mt. 5:24-26
The first thing we must understand is that this was not meant to be an
allegory. Some have
interpreted these verses like that. They believe that the opponent is God's
law; the judge is God;
the officer is the devil; and prison is hell. They say the meaning is that
we must find something to
satisfy God's broken law before the judgment day when we're thrown into
hell. Thus we must
immediately trust Christ who satisfies the claims of His law. Though that
is true, I don't believe
that this is what Jesus is teaching, for the simple reason that it has
nothing to do with the context.
I believe Jesus is teaching that sin has consequences. If you want to avoid
the consequences, you
must make it right immediately. If you let the incident become a big deal
by not dealing with it
immediately in humility, it's going to become a big deal and you'll never
escape it. Avoid that. Be
wise. When you are on the road, talking with your adversary, and while you
communicating, be humble and transparent lest it become so complicated and
confusing that there
is no way out. If we won't repair our broken relationships, we will
experience the chastisement of
God. Eph.4:26 says "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go
down on your anger".
All of this hits very close to home for me. I know some people who are very
dear to my heart who
are at odds with one another and have refused to humble themselves and seek
happened over an incident several years ago, and to this day they won't talk
to one another. They
live on the same street, two houses down from one another. They both go to
church, but you
know it has to have affected their relationship to God. It has gotten so
bad, that though these two
persons are related, their immediate families won't get together at all.
It's very awkward on
holidays when one family is always absent. It has become such a tangled,
complicated mess, that
only a miracle will heal it!
Oh, repair your relationships immediately, before the whole thing becomes
such a tangled,
confused mess that you can't repair it! Romans 12:18 tells us "If possible,
so far as it depends on
you, be at peace with all men."
What about you? Are you living with messed up, broken relationships? If you
don't want to
experience the chastisement of God, act now! The situation may prove to be
like a prison of
bondage to you! Don't put it off! Seek reconciliation! Humble yourself!
Don't let anything come
between you and God!