Sacrifices in the Bible were often thank offerings. When the best was given, it was saying that they had been given the best. “Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4). He wasn’t holding back. His offering showed that he was truly grateful for heaven’s blessings.  Cain skimped on his offering. It is clear in God’s warning: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (7). Cain did not give the best, showing that he had little regard for God. His life following the judgment from the Lord proved the discipline he received. He did not repent and become a God-follower. Abel passed his test and Cain flunked. Rather than rejoicing with Abel’s success, he chose bitterness. Instead of dealing with his problem and changing his ways, he murdered his brother. Wow! Resentment is dangerous. Get a grip on yours!

God had shown mercy to Cain by saying, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?… If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (6,7). God gave him counsel on what he needed to do: 1) Improve his sacrificial giving, and 2) Take the upper hand rather than giving in to sin. Cain chose to ignore the voice of God and killed his brother, the epitome of irresponsibility. Cain was saying, “You are my problem, Abel. I need you out of the picture.” He should have dealt with his own misplaced anger, but he held back from giving an honorable sacrifice, and he took out his anger on a godly brother.

The story of Cain is a warning to all of us. Anger not attended to escalates. Jesus said that unrighteous anger unaddressed is step one toward murder (Matthew 5:21,22). An innocent man was slain. And Adam and Eve lost two sons–one to death and the other to life as a fugitive. What grief entered the human race so early. The heart of humanity is wicked and capable of murder. When God asked Cain where his brother was, he gave a snide response, attempting to cover up his wicked deed: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). How bold and brazen can you get?!

Cain was cursed by God to be a wanderer. He would no longer be able to work the ground and have it produce. And he was selfish enough to say, “My punishment is greater than I can bear?” He feared for his own life, but he wasn’t afraid to take his brother’s. Cain was not happy with the consequences of his behavior. He didn’t like God enough to give him the best, and he didn’t like the judgment imposed upon him. What did he expect? He had just murdered his brother in an act of sinful defiance. Should God give him a one-year time-out?

Lamech was a descendant of Cain, four generations down. His verse after a vengeful murder includes a strange sentence: “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” Cain must have spread the word that his punishment was unjust and that he had a right to seek revenge. Anger does funny things to people. I suggest you and I pay attention to ours and not justify it when we are wrong. The option is not a good one.



For God to not get angry at sin would invalidate his holiness. Not to react strongly to the New York vote regarding full-term abortion would suggest brain death. Anger serves us well in such conditions.  We cannot say, “That’s okay; they didn’t mean it.” They violated God’s clear laws of life, justice, and decency. Murder cannot be taken lightly at the throne of the Creator who made humanity is his image.”For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of man who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).


Difficulty with the wrath of God may mean we have seen human wrath up close at its worst. James wrote that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:20).  Human anger tends to take people out of control. They go from a 2 to a 9 in ten seconds, and they say and do things that should not be said and done. God is slow to anger. His wrath is deliberate, appropriate, justifiable, and godly. He doesn’t “lose it” like an oriental despot popping off in rage or an angry and screaming mother dragging her six-year old through the market. If he did, we would be ducking all the time. We can trust God’s anger as we trust his patience and kindness.


God did not express anger before the fall of Lucifer or Adam. Anger is not a necessary part of God’s character, as is love or mercy. Love is who God is. Anger is not who God is. Where sin is present, the anger of God shows up. Where sin is removed when God pours out his wrath once and for all at the end of time, he will no longer need it (Ps. 30:5). 4 IT


A little girl, thinking about God’s anger in the Old Testament, said, “That was before God became a Christian.” But God’s anger is shown consistently on this side of the cross, because sin is still rampant. God is storing up anger for the last day when his anger will be poured out (Romans 2:5; Rev. 6:16)). We won’t see God’s anger in the new earth. He won’t need it.


For God to forgive sin, justice had to be served. God doesn’t trade one part of his character for another. He is not loving one moment and angry the next. Justice and mercy do not collide with each other. They both describe the God of glory. Paul calls God “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). So wrath had to be shown for sin, but it could be taken out on someone other than the guilty ones. Habakkuk wrote, “In wrath remember mercy” (3:2). At the cross God did. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). Salvation is being saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). We praise God for his kindness. We can also thank him for his anger and learn to exercise it as he does–slowwwwly.


Moses talked to God regularly. “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). Then Moses went a step further. He asked, “Show me your glory” (18). And God agreed.  He wouldn’t let him see his face, but he allowed Moses to see his back. As he passed before him, he said, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6). Of all the things God could have declared about himself, he included “slow to anger” right behind gracious. He wants his children to know this truth about himself so they can be slow to anger like God. It wasn’t true of the kings in surrounding nations. Think Nebuchadnezzar. In God’s  statement we discover three truths about anger:


If God gets angry, then anger is a positive and even necessary emotion. Some people are unable to show anger. They repress it and it eats out their insides. A stomach ulcer is not the best way to deal with anger. When God expresses anger, it is righteous and justified. So it is possible for us to show anger without sinning. Anger is a valid emotion at the right times. Not to be able to access and express anger when New York takes a vote regarding abortion can stunt our emotional and spiritual health. Parents who say to their children (sometimes in anger), “Don’t be angry,” are not helping them deal with their emotions.

Paul said, quoting from the Psalms 4:4, “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Some things are worth getting angry about, like injustice to the poor, the slaughter of innocent children in the womb, and the abuse of children by their parents. Appropriate anger can sometimes lead to correction or punishment of the offense. Think Florence Nightingale or William Carey. Lack of anger may mean passivity in the face of hostility. God does not blink his eyes at injustice. His wrath is as real as his love, but thankfully, it is on the slow burner.


God gets angry. So can we. Being slow to anger allows us to stay in control of our anger rather than it controlling us. Anger can motivate us to right wrongs, to care for the abused, to release the captives, to show mercy to the disenfranchised. When it controls us, terrible things happen. Anger is step one toward murder. Maybe we stop by murdering with words alone. Some people don’t.


It is possible to be angry and not sin. Unfortunately, anger often moves us from self-control to out-of-control. We say and do foolish things, and the potential for an appropriate response is lost in over-the-top anger which is dangerous. Cain blamed Abel for his own insufficient offerings. Instead of heeding God’s warning, he took his brother out. Nebuchadnezzar was quick to anger. Had not God delivered three passionate young adults, they would have been toast. Stop and think what quick anger has motivated you to say or do. It turns adults into juveniles, mature people into monsters, sensible people into morons. Anger breaks up marriages that had a chance to survive. So be like God–slowwwww to anger! The Spirit can work it in you.


We are by nature slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. Where does that get us? In trouble–much of the time. We prejudge a situation, address it too soon, and in reaction. We don’t weigh it and pray it before we say it–and we often spout out half-truths.

I like Mike Bradley’s response (not reaction) when a celebrity messed up the Star Spangled Banner before an NBA game. People, of course, jumped on her quickly for disrespecting our country.  Mike said that she probably tried her best and feels badly that she performed poorly. Call it grace. She did apologize and said she loves our nation and wanted to make it special. She was sorry and embarrassed that she had blown it. (And she is not the first one who has). I think that Mike’s response may have reflected the heart of God more than a truckload of others.

My knee-jerk commentaries are too often misplaced judgments rather than a message combining truth and grace. What rubbed off on people when they encountered the Son of God was “grace upon grace” (John 1:17). That means heeding the admonition of the brother of Jesus, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19,20). What does it produce? Hatred, judgment, criticism–really bad fruit.

I have often said to myself, “I should have listened more before I opened my mouth and gave my less than sterling opinion.” Keeping one’s mouth shut is a helpful discipline for people who enjoy talking–like me. “Slow to anger” means not going from a two to a seven in five seconds. Five minutes would prove better. What about five hours? No one is slower to anger than God. Put the brakes on your anger–and you just became more godly.

The strong conclusion from James, “There put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness…” (21a). Whoa! Where did all that filth come from? An unchecked mouth opening the door to the free flow of bitterness. He goes on, “…and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (21b). So we are receiving rather than reacting. And we are doing it with humility rather than speak in pride and judgment. The infallible word from heaven is being planted in our souls where it can take root and grow up in righteous living.

People who respond rather than react…

  • care more about the people than their own opinion
  • are good listeners
  • have allowed the Holy Spirit to slow them down in their speech

People who react rather than respond…

  • cause some train wrecks
  • care more for what they think than listening to what others think
  • need to slow down their anger

Thank you, Brother James for helping us get a grip on our life.



…and that includes many. Sleeplessness isn’t close to fun. What do you do? I get up and walk. David found another solution. “Answer me when I call, O God of my right. You have given me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1).


Good decision—try praying. More effective to talk to God about people than talking to people about God. Sounds like he really wants an answer. It is hard twisting and turning when the mind is not distracted by duty. Need to remind ourselves when swallowed by anxiety that prayer worked in the past.


After addressing God, David takes on his opponents. Night terrors are robbers, stealing away sleep. “O men, how long will my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? (2).


People who oppose us keep us awake. David was angry and was letting them have it—in bed. Then he added “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him” (3).


He reaffirmed his position in God. He was loved and cared for. Attacks mess with our identity. Don’t let them mess with yours. You are who God says you are, not what an irate adversary or overbearing boss says you are. You are “set apart,” and choice implies worth! Take confidence in your election. God is awake and active even if you wish you weren’t.


“Be angry, but sin not; commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (4). Anger can work if not the aggressive and hostile type, which then escalates into bitterness and latches itself to our souls. Controlled anger facilitates sleep. Don’t suppress it—talk to God about it. Don’t sleep on it or by morning it morphs into resentment. Control it; don’t let it control you. Do it with silence, not an explosion. Learn from your pillow—be quiet. But you need an outlet—God! Try speaking in tongues—or worshiping.


“Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (5). Inner fights dislodge trust. Not good. Offering sacrifices (worship) reminds us that our center is found in the cross, the place of greatest sacrifice. Say yes to God many more times than you say no to obstacles and enemies.


“There are many who say, ‘Oh that we might see some good!’ Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord!” This line from the Aaronic benediction promises an impartation of peace, needful when the mind refuses to relax. “The fruit of the Spirit is…peace.” Take it now; it’s yours!


“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace [see] I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (7, 8). It’s working; joy is replacing worry and peace has overtaken restlessness. Harvest joy is explosive, and yet for the psalmist refreshing sleep under the canopy of God’s love tops even that. Good night!


I’m told people get angry (or frustrated) an average of eleven times a day. Probably good to deal with it. Here’s what Paul says (Eph. 4:26,27):

1. “BE ANGRY.”

It’s a God-given emotion, and there are some things worth getting angry about. The inability to get angry limits us from responding properly to injustice.

Florence Nightingale was angry for inadequate hospital care. William Carey was angered by the inhumane slave trade in Africa. Positive anger makes civil wrongs into civil rights.


Ah—that’s the rub. If God gets angry, it’s godly. Problem—it often leads to sin. Anger is an emotion, a response to a threat to our lives, our character, our opinions, our property. What we do with it determines whether we sin.

Anger turned out leads to aggression, like with Cain. God commanded him to put his desires under control. He chose instead to put his brother out of commission. Anger turned in leads to depression. Jonah was depressed because God didn’t do things his way, the passive-aggressive kind who says, ” I’m not angry, just hurt.” We are warned that “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).


Clench your fist. That is often the posture of angry people. And even if the fist is not clenched, the heart is. James wrote, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness…” (Js. l:l9,2l).


In other words, deal with it. Anger neglected leads to bitterness. One can have anger without sinning but not bitterness, anger gone to seed. We are not responsible for what people do to us—we are responsible for our responses.

One way to deal with our anger is to forgive. Unforgiveness can settle under our skin like a tumor and remain undetected.

Forgiveness does not mean…

.we overlook the offense

.we lift responsibility from the erring party

Forgiveness means that we release the other to the justice and mercy of the Lord. Our option is to hold onto anger—and play God.


When my car overheated, I thought I could make it over the top of a hill. $488 later with a blown head gasket said, “Let the engine cool.”

Damage to metal is one thing; damage to people is more costly. Anger not discharged leads to hostility, a fire that burns within. When we say, “That really burns me,” we are close to the truth. Even if anger is justified, it still ruins the engine.

Perhaps this prayer echoes your heart: “Dear Father, I am angry. I need to let it go and forgive. I have closed my heart off to your love. Forgive my wrong responses. Teach me to overcome evil with good. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.”