Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UB May 31

Which bucket will you pour?

Would you say you’re an angry person? Would others say you are? Got a short fuse? I’ve never really been an angry person, but as a teenager, I confess I did some things when angry I’m not proud of. When a smart aleck was hitting tennis balls at me, I punched him in the mouth (he’s a well-known TV weatherman in Indianapolis now). When I felt betrayed by a good friend over a girl he “stole,” I gunned my car fast down the road (well, as fast as a Ford Fairmont could go). When a girlfriend (yes, Penny) was driving me up the wall with her jealousy, I punched a hole in it (fortunately it was only drywall).

Anger leads to danger. It can damage your body with high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers, & heart attacks. It can harm your spirit with depression, bitterness, hatred, & guilt. It’s dangerous whether repressed as an internal poison or released as a destructive blast. People usually fall into two categories: spewers & stewers. If you’re a spewer, you go off & get it off your chest. You say regretful things in the heat of the moment that you can’t take back. Scripture says: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Prov. 29:11). Spewers leave a path of devastation. If you’re a stewer, you suppress it all within. Stewers don’t think they’re doing any damage, but they put up invisible walls to keep people away. It eats them alive, & often builds up before eventually boiling over.

Most of the Bible’s teachings about anger are warnings (Prov. 27:4, 14:17, Ecc. 7:9). Yet, anger, itself, is not the problem. It’s just an emotion, & you can’t help but feel emotions. It’s a God-given emotion that can reflect God’s own anger. You can be angry but not sin (Eph. 4:26). The sin occurs when the emotion is not handled correctly. Anger crosses the line when it’s malicious, with a desire for revenge or harmful retaliation. We’re not to return evil for evil, insult for insult, punch for punch (Rom. 12:17-21).

Anger is sinful when it’s selfish. 99% of the time we get angry because we’re tired, frustrated, uncomfortable, & irritable. That’s why lakes are filled with bent golf clubs, & garbage dumps are filled with smashed computers. Anger so often goes hand in hand with cursing & swearing (Rom. 12:14, Eph. 4:29, James 3:9-10). Anger usually doesn’t lead to righteousness (James 1:19-20), which gives credence to the phrase: “being mad as hell.” It truly can be hellish.

But anger can be righteous. God gets angry at evil! We can get good & angry at the things that anger the heart of God. That would mean “getting mad as heaven.” Jesus got angry at the right things. Many assume he was sinning when he flew off the handle & violently drove the moneychangers out of the temple. But Scripture doesn’t say he acted in irrational, uncontrollable rage. Jesus was justly angry & sinned not. Those greedy merchants were ripping off people in the name of religion, exploiting the poor, & mocking God. Jesus also got angry over the Pharisees weighing down God’s people with burdensome human rules & traditions. We should still be angry today over all the deception & corruption committed in the name of Christ.

Jesus rightly got angry when his disciples tried to prevent people from bringing their children to Jesus (Mark 10:14). He got angry about children being abused or mistreated (Matt. 18:6). We should be getting angry over children today being killed, demeaned, warped, exploited, & their innocence stolen. But when Jesus was personally wronged or insulted, he didn’t respond in hostility or violence. Love isn’t easily angered (1 Cor. 13:5). Even when we have the righteous kind of anger, we still must not do harm to others, but leave vengeance to the Lord & His delegated authorities. Instead, we control & channel that anger into doing something helpful to right the wrongs & alleviate the hurt.

You may claim, “That person just makes me so mad!” But nobody can MAKE you mad! Someone might give you cause to feel angry, but they’re not responsible for your raging. Other people don’t create your spirit, they only reveal it. “Let all bitterness & wrath & anger & clamor & slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).

When you feel the fire start to burn, blood rushing to your neck, & smoke coming out of your ears, picture yourself carrying a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water, the other is filled with gasoline. Which one are you going to pour?