Is it ever right to be angry? 10 Bible verses to help us decide

How can we tell the difference between good anger and bad?Pixabay

Christians often see anger as a bad thing. We're supposed to be self-controlled, after all, and Jesus himself said that "anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment".

But at the same time, there are lots of places in the Bible that do speak of anger and don't condemn it. So how do we tell the difference between anger that's righteous and anger that's selfish? There are three things that might help us.

First, we can develop an awareness of our own hearts. Some of us are prone to lash out when things don't go our way. We get irritated by small things. We don't bother to control ourselves and other people bear the weight of our bad temper. Acknowledging our tendency to be angry before God and asking him to help us control it can really help us.

Second, we can learn to make a distinction between anger at an injury we've suffered ourselves and one that other people have suffered. If we feel personally affronted by what someone has done, we need to step back, calm down and ask whether it's really right to be angry. Usually it isn't; we'll show far more grace by handling things differently. But there is a righteous anger that rises when other people are badly treated. That can be a strength, rather than a weakness. It fuels a desire for justice and can help us change things.

Third, we can cultivate a sense of God's presence. Sometimes we get angry when things don't go wrong at work or at home, and we want to blame someone. It might not be their fault – or it might be their fault, but it's just a mistake rather than laziness or carelessness, and being angry isn't appropriate. Knowing we are under God's eyes can make us behave better. He will forgive us – but he judges us by the perfect standards of Jesus, and we want to be the best we can be for him.

Here are 10 Bible verses about anger. What do they say to the different situations we might find ourselves in?

1. Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David (1 Samuel 20:34).

2. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practised divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger (2 Kings 17:17).

3. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

4. Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath (Psalm 78:38).

5. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

6. Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure – not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing (Jeremiah 10:24).

7. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man – the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities (Hosea 11:9).

8. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored (Mark 3:5).

9. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Ephesians 4:31).

10. Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:20).

Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods