Anger Management – James 1:19-21


Back to sermon series on ‘Faith in Action’ – The Epistle of James to the Jews scattered because of persecution.

Context – Going through Suffering – James says to consider it joy when you go through trials – Ask for wisdom from God.

From 19 onwards James is addressing some practical issues – and in our three verses today he is addressing the issue of Anger. Firstly, I wonder why he started with anger and not any other practical issues.

I guess maybe because the people who are now scattered for their faith in Jesus may have started developing the feeling of anger towards God for their current situation and it is now showing up in their relationship with one another.

As I was thinking about their situation I realized that in some ways we all go through these moments in life, especially as Christians. Yes, there is this eternal joy & peace that captures our heart when we repent of our sins and trust in Christ for sustenance and guidance, but in doing so there is also a huge transformation that happens in our mind, our perspective towards this earthly life starts changing, the worldly principles and lifestyle that we once walked on begins to look meaningless and waste.

And we take on a very different journey which is unlike the ways of the world. Kingdom values and kingdom perspective take a strong position in our life.

It’s like all this while we were running with the waves and all of a sudden we now running against the waves, the harder we try, the painful the experience, because the waves become stronger and stronger trying to push us back. And because of the pain & tiredness we experience, instead of finding joy in life’s moments, we tend to become angry, angry with God and angry on people.

And I suppose that is the reason why James felt it important to deal with the issue of Anger before talking about anything else. When we are angry we shut ourselves down, we don’t listen, and even when we listen we don’t pay attention. In anger, Our heart starts beating like a fast running horse, instead of being calm like a Dove.

And trust me, everyone has anger issues in life. They show up in different ways.

Therefore, what we will explore today is What does God’s word teach us about ‘Anger Management’. Unless we have the right perspective about Anger and learn how to deal with it we will never be able to enjoy our Christian life.

Perspective #1 – Human Anger does not produce the righteousness of God.

v20 –  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Isn’t that an interesting statement to read? I never paid attention to that passage in the bible before until someone pointed it out to me in relation to an incident that came up where this Christian brother expressed sorrow for acting in anger with his parents for some reason.

Human anger does not produce the righteousness of God because it is rooted in Self. And anything that is rooted in self is against God. When God created the world, he created man and women and put them in this beautiful garden, by design everything, every living creature, every aspect of creation was supposed to worship God.

And while every aspect of creation still continues to obey God and follow the orders given by the Almighty, Humans, who were created in God’s likeness and image, when given the authority and power to worship God by choice, we decided to choose Self. We believed the devil when he said we can be like God, and instead of walking in obedience to our creator, we disobeyed him by eating the forbidden fruit and decided to choose our own path. And God couldn’t tolerate that behaviour anymore and threw us out of His presence.

Why do we get angry?

The main reason we get angry is …

Because of unmet Needs resulting in hurt,  unmet Expectations resulting in frustration & because of Insecurities we develop because of an unbalanced and unstable life.

Because our forefathers sinned, we too were born sinful, it’s like a spider web, where we continue to experience the pain and misery because of the consequences and actions of our parents, and their parents … eventually traced back to Adam & Eve where it all began.

Therefore, in the natural, since the time we are born, we are sinful human beings, And in our sinfulness, all that matters to us is whether my Self needs are been met. If you want to more insight on human behaviour especially in children, the best people to talk to right now is Jinson and Angela.

Ask them How often does Baby Hannah before crying and demanding for food checks whether her mother is ready to feed, or check on the Father whether he is busy with work or not. She’s like I don’t care how my mother is feeling or what my Father is doing, I want food, I want attention, and I want love, right now right here.

Brothers & sisters, whether we are small babies or big boys and girls, we all behave in such manners when it is about our needs, and the way we express it is by showing anger.

And BTW, it’s not just the people who scream and yell are angry people, we show our anger in many ways. There are two broad categories of angry people – The Open Aggressive ones and the Passive-aggressive ones.

The Open Aggressive ones are those people who have a tendency to lash out in anger and rage, becoming physically or verbally aggressive and can often time hurt themselves or others.

This comes out in fighting, bullying, blackmailing, accusing, shouting, bickering, sarcasm and criticism. Open aggression comes from a need to be in control. I would identify myself as an Open aggressive person when I get angry.

The Passive-aggressive people are those who may not admit that they are angry because they don’t like confrontation. This comes out in things like becoming silent when you are angry, sulking, procrastinating (putting stuff off you need to do), and pretending “everything is fine”.

Passive aggression too comes from a need to be in control. My wife Jane I believe is mostly a passive-aggressive person, but she has changed a lot. I could never stand her going silent on me.

Brothers & sisters, sin has tainted our desires so badly that from birth itself, our needs have always been the focus of our life. Everything we are taught, day in & day out is pushing us towards seeking our own needs, with our own strength.

Therefore, we expect everyone to meet our needs, we expect our parents to love us, provide for us & bring us up in a certain manner, and when that need is not met we get angry at them.

We expect our family & friends to have behaved in a certain manner, and because that need is not met, instead of been loved and cared for we get angry. Some of us instead of being loved have gone through abuse, trauma, torture, disrespect etc, and we have become angry.

But then, there comes Jesus, the son of God, the creator of the universe, giving us a heavenly perspective, unlike what the world has been teaching us. In Matthew 6:25-33 he says ….

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

In John 15:18 he said

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Brothers & sisters, our sinful action in the Garden of Eden has birthed hatred in all our heart towards God and as long as people reject and hate the true and living God their behaviour & responses to one another will always be hurtful.

Therefore, we need to understand that our true NEEDS will never be met by another sinful person or a thing, we should completely stop having that expectation, instead, we should all turn to God who meets our real needs, the needs of our heart, and we will feel angry no more on our circumstances or other people. 

Jesus said “Come to me and I will give you rest”, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Perspective #2 – Anger is a God given emotion, for a purpose

You see, not all anger is bad. In fact, it is an emotion given by God for a purpose.

Yes, we have to be angry, but we have to angry towards our sin, towards injustice, towards everything that God is angry with. James would suggest in our passage to use our holy anger towards putting away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (verse 21)

Yes, there is redemption for us, there is a safe place which we can create for ourselves, in a world that is broken and filthy. But that redemption comes only from Christ and His saving grace.

Certainly, God was angry with us when we sinned and rebelled against Him but instead of killing us he found another way, he sent His only beloved son Jesus to take our place. Instead of punishing us, he took out all his wrath and anger on himself on the cross of Calvary. Brothers & sisters, this is the greatest proof that he loves, loves us dearly.

Psalms 145:8-9

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Psalms 103:12

as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

We did not deserve His Love and yet He poured it out in abundance and continues to do so even today.

Therefore, we don’t have any right to get angry on God or on others. Instead, as children of this loving God, we ought to be torchbearers of this loving God to this dying world by having the right perspective towards one another and by not reacting in anger when we see and experience brokenness in others, whether it’s our unbelieving family or friends, or whether it’s our believing family or friends who are been sanctified just like us.

But how do we practically deal with Anger?

James gives us three advice which we can apply to our lives.

Advice #1 – Be quick to Hear

When we feel anger, instead of expressing a reactionary response let’s become receptive listeners (again). The angry moments are the best moments to dig deep into our hearts and pull out all the selfish unmet needs, expectations and insecurities and evaluate them against the word of Truth, but to do so we have to train ourselves to be good listeners – listen to God, listen to people.

I can’t explain how better our marriage life has become, just by abiding by this rule. Most of our disagreements and fights have resolved well when we’ve deliberately taken time out to time to search our sinful heart and apply the word of God. And at the end we’ve always found ourselves feeling miserable and end up arguing and saying I’ve been the worst person, please forgive me.

Here’s an advice from the wisest man on earth that will help, Mr Solomon the King.

Proverbs 28:9 – If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination

In John 10:27-28, Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Brothers & sisters, from my own experience, I would say this is really good advice if you want to manage your anger.

Advice #2 – Slow to Speak

Slow to speak doesn’t mean speaking slowing, because some people can speak slow and yet spit venom, the best example is Kaa the Snake in the movie Mowgli. But what James is meaning is to begin speaking slowly, not to be in a hurry to speak, especially when you are angry.

Here’s what Mr Solomon the King has to say

Proverbs 10:19 – When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

Proverbs 13:3

3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
    he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

Proverbs 29:20

20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.

The famous president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson said “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”

Brothers & sister, even this one is great advice and you consider practising it as often as you can. Personally, this advice has saved me from many troubles.

Advice #3 – Slow to anger

And finally, be slow to anger.

As we discussed earlier, God has been slow to anger towards us all this while, apart from being merciful and gracious. When we are slow to anger towards others we are displaying a godly characteristic that they need to see so that they can see for themselves the transforming power of the Gospel in your life.

Even when the other person has done the worst of things to you, think of your own position before God, we have in fact done the worst of worst against God. Seek to be humble in such moments and allow the Spirit of God to give you the strength to forgive and instead show love.

Finally, remember, in going through all such experiences in our Christian life, allowing God to break you, mould you & make you, he is saving the world through you, the Gospel work he is doing in your heart is for a purpose, for a glories purpose.

Let us pray.

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