Everybody has suffered from foolish outbursts of rage. It has many names all over the world. It is so common on the road, that it is called road rage, and incidents are quite popular on youtube. It’s easy to see in others. It’s horrible to experience. And, it’s embarrassing to do it yourself. But, if you’re honest, you will admit you have been guilty of foolish outbursts of rage. So, why do we self-righteously pretend it’s righteous anger? What’s the difference?
Jesus Christ’s example of righteous anger
Many religious people will excuse themselves by saying Jesus did it (Mark 11; Matthew 21; John 2). Really? Is that where you’re going. Let’s look at it.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17)
And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. (Mark 11:17-18)
- Jesus is Lord of Lord and King of Kings, Almighty God, the God of Armies (Amos 3-6)
- The Temple is the dwelling place for His name on Earth (2 Samuel 7)
- The Lord explained Isaiah’s prophecy of the universal message of the temple (Isaiah 56:7)
- The Lord judged their disobedience of Jeremiah’s prophecy against robbery (Jeremiah 7:11)
Is this a description of your “righteous anger?” I doubt it.
Nehemiah’s example of righteous anger
Some religious people will say there are accounts in the Scriptures of men who were angry and acted upon their anger. Let’s consider Nehemiah.
I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After thinking it over, I brought charges against the nobles and the officials; I said to them, “You are all taking interest from your own people.” And I called a great assembly to deal with them, and said to them, “As far as we were able, we have bought back our Jewish kindred who had been sold to other nations; but now you are selling your own kin, who must then be bought back by us!” They were silent, and could not find a word to say. So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God, to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? (Nehemiah 5:6-9 NRSV)
7. Then I consulted with myself] The word in the original belongs to late Hebrew usage, and is only paralleled in the O. T. by the word rendered ‘my counsel’ in Daniel 4:27. Literally the clause runs ‘then my heart took counsel within me.’ –Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
When Nehemiah got justifiably angry with the outrageous oppression of these nobles enslaving their own relatives, he thought about it.” Is that what you do with your “righteous anger?” I doubt it. Most people who excuse their behavior by claiming “righteous anger” have really vented a foolish uncontrollable emotional outburst of rage.
Ezra’s example of righteous anger
Some religious people give the example of Ezra’s righteous anger to excuse their behavior. Really? Let’s look at it.
When I heard this, I tore my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.
At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,
“O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. (Ezra 9:3-6)
When Ezra heard of the horrible sin of the children of Israel, before announcing judgment upon the sinners, he took out his anger on himself first, because he trembled at the words of the Lord. Is that what you do with your “righteous anger”? I doubt it.
Biblical righteous anger
The Scriptures are very clear that the wrath of man doesn’t work the righteousness of God. Even when confronted with genuine sin that needs to be rebuked, there is no need for foolish outbursts of rage. You can check up on yourself by comparing your anger with the following Scriptures.
- The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
- A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. (Proverbs 15:18)
- Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. (Psalm 4:4)
- Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
- So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Ephesians 4:25-27)
- A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
- You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. (James 1:19-20)
- But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. (James 3:17)
If you find that you have been guilty of foolish outbursts of rage, then confess, forsake, and repent by making a real, genuine, sincere apology.