Fools and their Anger
Tom is driving down the road. He has his radio playing light jazz and he is moving along with the speed of the end of the day traffic. His mind is paying attention to the surroundings about him, but he is also thinking about the weekend soon to come. He is really looking forward to getting home to his wife and children. Presently, he hears loud long blasts of a car horn next to him. When he turns his head to look he observes another man all red faced, eyes bulging, apparently screaming at the top of his lungs. The man’s voice cannot be heard through two closed windows, road noise, and the radio, but it is obvious he is not trying to share a prayer. Quite clearly, he does mention God’s name a few times and makes a number of crude gestures. Next, he swiftly accelerates down the road weaving in and out of traffic. “What was that about?” Tom thinks to himself, then he mutters, “What a fool.”
Situations like Tom’s happen every single day in cities across the world. There are incidents when it is very clear why the anger is being demonstrated and other times when the recipient of the anger has no idea what is going on. “Road Rage” is not the only form of anger that man encounters each day. Whether at work, the shopping center, a sporting event, or at home, sad performances of anger are not infrequent. Unfortunately, many occurrences of anger will escalate into physical confrontations and injury to property or persons. Anger often engages the two characteristics of fools that have been discussed in this series thus far: disobedience to God’s will and uncontrolled speech. These are sinful works of the flesh and anger can certainly be sinful.
Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It may be surprising to some to see anger included in a list such as this. It is and it carries the same penalty as the other sins mentioned. However, a discussion of consequences is to be saved for the final article in this series. The objective here is to understand the relationship between fools and anger. As with both disobedience and the speech of a fool, anger and the behaviors that go with it are a choice. Contemplate the following example and the likely difference between the reactions to a stray, growling tea cup poodle that has stolen a hot dog off a man’s plate, and a stray, growling German Shepherd that has stolen a hot dog. The tea cup poodle is probably hollered at and either stomped into the ground or punted 50 yards away. The German Shepherd is more likely spoken to gently and calmly while the owner of the hot dog backs away. The same event happened, but with different results. What was the difference? The difference was the choice to exert self control instead of exploding in anger.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 – Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
The Bible is once again clear as to the behavior of fools. The term “hasty” used in the verse above means “quickly”. Consider these other verses which mention the same issue in regard to the foolish.
Proverbs 12:16 – A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.
Proverbs 14:17 – He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
A “prudent man” or wise man, “covereth shame”. This means he holds his anger in and does not shame himself. He understands that with such anger a poor example is given. The man who has no control over his temper loses influence and respect. Now it is at this point, that critics of the Biblical prescription for behaviors will point out that God is presented as wrathful or angry (I Kings 11:9-10, John 3:36) as well as Jesus when he walked the earth (Mark 3:5, John 2:13-17). There is no need to deny such occurrences, but understanding is in order. Examine the following:
Ephesians 4:26 – Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
In this passage anger is commanded, but anger with the absence of sin. Such anger is called righteous indignation. It does not diminish with the falling of the sun, but always burns against sin. The anger is best understood as a form of disappointment. God does not want man to do things which bring harm to himself and others. Christ did not want to see men reject the commands of God or defile the holy things of God. In their anger, no sin was committed. Yet, often with man, we see sinful anger. It is an anger which is chosen and exercised with blasphemy, vanity, and intent to harm. It is anger which is not controlled but a swift and raging storm which brings destruction. Yes, anger is commanded against sin. However, the wise man with self control approaches anger with a patient concern for the recipient as God does.
Proverbs 16:32 – He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
James 1:19 – Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Titus 1:7 – For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
Psalms 103:8-9 – The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
That sinful anger exists and is a temptation is certainly a fact. Every young man’s testosterone rages at times. Shamefully, such behavior is often carried through into adulthood. Jobs are lost. Friendships are severed. Marriages are shattered. Lives can be destroyed. All of these because foolish choices resulted in poor behavior. And without a doubt, these behaviors are not only applicable to males. Women too make such mistakes. Words are hurled, violence is engaged, and reputations deeply scarred because of ungodly behavior. The realization of the battle that exists to control such actions is indeed great and at times the anger is aimed even at God.
Proverbs 27:3 – A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.
Proverbs 19:3 – The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.
The greatest shame for a fool is not in the loss of control, but a refusal to change course. God desires man to change his ways (Luke 13:3, Revelation 3:19). God will forgive (I John 1:9). A number of people when they foolishly rage, come to erroneously believe that God cannot forgive. He will forgive and he will give strength to those who come to him and ask for it (Philippians 4:13, Romans 8:31). The question is: if a man has been a fool with regard to anger, will he make the choice to change?
Colossians 3:8 – But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
The next article in this series, “Are You a Fool? Part 4”, will examine “Fools and Their Knowledge”.