Of the 6 subjects pertaining to sinful anger, so far we have seen the first one where the question “What is Anger?” was addressed in the previous post. In this post, we will be looking at the 2nd subject.
II. What is the Source of Sinful Anger?
First of all, we need to realize that anger is not the cause―but a symptom―a symptom of a deeper problem―the problem of a sinful heart! Notice what Jesus says is the source of sinful anger:
Mark 7:21-23 “21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
The source of all evil actions―including the source of sinful anger can be traced back to the heart. The heart according to the Bible is that part of us which includes our thoughts, emotions and will. And when the heart is filled with wrong desires and those desires are unmet, the response is sinful anger. James makes this point even more clear.
James 4:1-3 “1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
The world or the devil are not the causes of anger―they only stimulate it! While we should not blame them for our anger, we would also be foolish to be unaware of their role in stimulating it. That is why we should also resist the devil and the world’s influences if we are to overcome this sin. However, the key issue to deal with is the heart―which is the root of sinful anger. Unfortunately, here is where we often fail. We tend to treat the symptom (sinful anger) and not the cause (sinful desires of the heart).
For example, let’s say we struggle with the aspect of needing constant affirmation from our spouse or close friends that we are very much loved by them. In other words, we have sort of an 11th commandment, “You shall love me the way I want to be loved, with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And when we feel we are not loved the way we want to be loved, we blow a gasket. That’s the danger of sinful desires lurking in the heart. Expectation soon becomes a demand—even a command that should be kept and when they are not kept, it leads us to explode in angry outbursts.
Since we don’t like these angry outbursts and want to change, we typically resolve to do something like this: “From here on, I will not get angry if others do not affirm their love for me. I will not get angry for feeling neglected.” The danger with such a resolution is this: The real problem is still left unaddressed! The source of the anger is still left untouched; all you have dealt with is the symptom―not the cause!
In order to deal with the cause, you must probe deeper and ask the hard question, “Why am I constantly seeking love from others?” And when we do that, we will be able to conclude that this desire of seeking to be loved stems from an attitude of selfishness―an unhealthy love of self! However, when we understand the biblical truth that God has loved us and still loves us despite our wretchedness and that in Christ we are fully and always accepted, we will see the sinfulness of seeking this type of a love from others. Then in order to deal with the problem thoroughly, we will seek to replace such a selfish desire with a constant thankful reflection of God’s love for us. Sanctified thinking has now replaced stinking thinking. This way, we have rightly dealt with the anger problem in this given situation by removing it completely with the roots.
The same can be applied to various other issues which cause sinful anger to rise within us. How often we get angry when:
- Someone did respond to our email or phone call right away. We have sort of a 12th commandment “You shall not let the sun go down on my phone call or email, but shall return it today, while it is still called today.”
- We are ignored, insulted or unjustly treated [though the Bible says we are to expect rejection, but yet maintain a forgiving heart].
- Our dreams are crushed [though the Bible calls us to deny ourselves].
The point is this: In order to deal with sinful anger, it is important to probe deeper and get to the root of the problem rather than simply cutting off some branches or pruning some leaves. Remember, anger is always the tip of the iceberg. The challenge is to look at the surface below. The reason many of us continually struggle with anger is because we do not deal with the deeper issues and why is that? Because we really do not want to deal with changing our internal desires. So, we just focus on some external changes.
At the end of the day, you and I need to realize that painting the pump white does not change the color of the water. In other words, external behavior modification cannot solve the problem. We must focus on inward heart transformation [Rom 12:2]. The world can only teach us to change the outside―it does not have the resources nor the power to change the inside. Only God―through his Spirit and his Word, changes us from the inside out!
That is why when it comes to changing the inside, it is not simply putting off bad motives and desires, but also replacing them with godly motives and desires. Once that is done, the outside will take care of itself. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Notice how the heart controls the entire body (Proverbs 4:20-22, 24-26). All actions flow from the heart. So, it is important to understand that the heart is the source of sinful anger and a change in the desires of the heart is to be sought if we want to get rid of sinful anger.
And with that said, we will look at the 3rd subject, “Who are the objects of sinful anger?” in our next post.