“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26-27). The beginning of our verse this morning seems to contradict Col. 3:8, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” And it is not only that verse, but many others in the Old and New Testaments seem to indicate that we should not be angry, so what does Paul mean, and is he contradicting God’s word? The answer is found in the following four words, so let’s take a look at the grammatical meaning of all six words. “Be angry” is an imperative, “and” is a conjunction, and “do not sin” is a prohibition.
That may sound like a lot, so let’s unpack it for clarity. An imperative serves as a warning or an instruction, a conjunction is a connector, and a prohibition is an order to stop. Considering all that, the meaning is, “You can be angry, but only when that anger is righteous and does not cause you to sin.” Anger that has a purpose and is controlled is not a sin, but when it is emotionally uncontrolled, vengeful, or wrathful, it is. We have to be careful not to allow our anger to lead us into sin. When a child does something wrong, and we punish them suitably, it is for their own good. But punishing them in the heat of the moment and allowing extreme anger to control our actions can lead to harsher than necessary measures and even abuse.
Paul then goes on to clarify his thought by saying we should not allow the sun to go down on our anger. In other words, we should address the issue and “move on,” so to speak. When anger is allowed to fester, it can cause intense feelings of rage, leading to words or actions that cause extreme responses. All that anger that is not allowed to dissipate leads to opportunity for the devil. Think of a situation concerning a family member or friend. At first, it is anger, even righteously so, but as the feeling is held onto, it grows from a seed into something much, much bigger. Before long, things are said or done that should not have been, and suddenly a once loving relationship dissolves, and the parties no longer speak to each other. They may never talk to each other again. The love they once shared is forced out as hatred is allowed to take over like a weed that suffocates a beautiful rose garden.
We all know that there is a time and place for righteous anger. Our Lord and Savior Himself, at appropriate times and for justifiable reasons, became angry, but He never stopped loving and always carried forgiveness for those who repented. When the person is sorry for their actions, we should release them from their prison of anger in our minds. Not only will they be freed, but we will as well. Anger given to the devil as an opportunity will weigh us down like an anchor in an ocean of rage and hatred until we drown in it. So, when Paul says, “…put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth,” he speaks of that kind of anger.
“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Pro. 14:29). Instead of letting your temper control you, control the situation. Examine the cause, take a moment to allow the worst feelings of anger to subside, decide on an appropriate course of action and punishment, and then do so without any resentment in your heart – and then let it go. Don’t give your anger to the devil to do with as he wishes; nothing good will come of it.