James 1:20 – our final prooftexted verse. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” “Wrath” here is, again, “orge” and that is the character quality of anger or indignation. James is warning that being an angry person will not result in you having the righteousness of God. But is anger, or wrath, a sin? If it is, then James’ instruction in verse 19 is odd indeed for he instructs: “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”. Be slow to get angry, don’t rush into taking offense, don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder – this will not result in God’s righteousness being worked out in your life.
And, I want to finish the examination of anger with a verse that I’m not surprised to see didn’t make it onto the prooftexted list. Ephesians 4:26 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath”.
I could go through a similar study on every emotion, but I don’t care to. If anger isn’t a sin then I think it’s safe to say that other emotions aren’t sins. But I want to talk about what I understand to be a Scriptural perspective on emotions and sin.
First, emotions are not a reason to sin. Be angry but sin not. A fool spews everything on his mind, but a wise person holds his tongue. And having an angry character isn’t going to bring about God’s righteousness being developed in your life. Just as the man who finds a woman attractive hasn’t sinned until when and if he lusts after her, someone who is angry hasn’t sinned until he acts on that anger in a sinful way. If he is wise and doesn’t give vent to his anger, then there is no sin. This means that I do not need to fear what will happen if I can’t get my children to stop being angry or having angry responses, but I do need to teach them how to handle their anger and what appropriate responses are. I’ve been known to tell a toddler or two my own version of Paul’s Ephesians caution, “You may be angry, you may not hit me.”