Early in my teaching career in Florida, I had an interim headmaster who liked to quote James 1:20 to me: “For the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” I did not really like the man. We disagreed a lot theologically and had different philosophies of education, and looking back, I still don’t think he was a boss I would choose to work for today. So when he would recite James 1:20 to me after a difficult conference with a parent or a decision I had made in my classroom, I certainly did not like it. I would actually become more angry afterwards! But he was rightly applying the verse to my life, and it was counsel that I should have listened to more. The verse follows James 1:19, which tells Christians that we should all be “swift [quick] to hear” but “slow to speak, slow to anger.” This same teaching is found in today’s verses from Proverbs and is good advice for all of us.
The opposite of anger is patience, and it is a biblical virtue that God wants to develop in all of His sons and daughters. We are encouraged to always show “discretion,” which in this context means acting in ways that won’t provoke or offend others. We should be slow to get angry ourselves and slow to make other people angry (Proverbs 19:11a). To do that, we have to be willing to let go of a lot of little stuff that frustrates or annoys us or hurts our pride. Christians should not be people who love to start “quarrels” or fights, but rather peacemakers who bring healing to conflicts and broken relationships (Proverbs 20:3). If we learn to give our tempers to God and allow the Holy Spirit to produce patience in our lives, then we will enjoy peace with those in authority over us. The wrath or angry punishment of a king (for you that would mean parents, teachers, coaches, and one day bosses or customers/clients at your jobs) can be harsh and cause us to suffer (Proverbs 19:12a, 20:2). But if we let God tame our anger, then we can instead enjoy “favor” or kind blessings from our authorities (Proverbs 19:12b).
My hope is that we will all continually give our emotions to God and let Him keep producing the spiritual fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our daily lives” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Text (Proverbs 19:11-12; 20:2-3)
19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, And his glory is to overlook a transgression.
12 The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, But his favor is like dew on the grass…
20:2 The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion; Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life.
3 It is honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel.
Questions to Think About
- Do you struggle a lot with anger? Why or why not?
- In what ways during the past year has God been working to develop more patience in your life?
- Have you ever noticed better control over your temper after starting your day with time reading your Bible and praying? How do you think spending time with God helps you with your emotions and conflicts with other people?