fist through a window

Do We Really Have to Turn Off Anger and Envy at Someone Who Deserves It?


 

We all experience feelings of anger, temptations toward envy, jealousy, and other troublesome emotions.  When trying to navigate how to deal with them biblically, the first step is to determine whether these emotions are justified or not.  Certain types of anger are justified and righteous, but even in these cases, the Bible cautions us not to sin:

“Be angry, but do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down on your anger — Ephesians 4:26, NHEB

So, what counts as justified?  Always be slow to anger.  If you find yourself losing your temper on a regular basis, chances are pretty good that you’re not having righteous anger and instead are experiencing what the Bible calls “man’s anger” (see James 1:19-20).

What is righteous anger?  Generally, righteous anger is anger over sin, or moral wrong.  Jesus Himself displayed righteous anger:

Jesus entered into the temple, and drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers’ tables and the seats of those who sold the doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the son of David.” they were indignant, and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Did you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of children and infants you have prepared praise?'” He left them, and went out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there. — Matthew 21:12–17

So, the feeling of righteous anger is acceptable–but sinning isn’t.  And that brings us over to jealousy and envy.

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Jealousy is, in many circumstances, acceptable, whereas envy isn’t.  A husband may be jealous over his wife, and he should be; he doesn’t want anyone else to sleep with her.  That’s appropriate jealousy.  Envy is covetousness, and that’s not appropriate: Coveting, or allowing your desires to go unchecked so as to lead to one’s own unhappiness or even to tempt one into fantasies of theft, is a sin.

Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. — Exodus 20:17

See also:

He said to them, “Beware. Keep yourselves from all covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.” — Luke 12:15

and

Be free from the love of money, content with such things as you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” — Hebrews 13:5

…and more. You get the picture.

Envy/covetousness goes much further than thinking about buying a big house or fast car.  The difference between a righteous reaction and a covetous one to, for example, a Lamborghini, is that the former says, “Wow, that’s nice!” and moves on.  The latter thinks to himself about how he might just steal it if there were no consequences.

To learn to fight against the temptation to covet, the Bible says we are to guard our hearts and stop comparing ourselves to others.  Instead, we are to be honest when assessing the quality of our own work.

Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life. — Proverbs 4:23

But let each one test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. — Galatians 6:4

Keeping anger in check is a similar story.  It’s not an overnight thing (for most people!) and necessitates that we practice self-control on a regular basis, avoid getting into pointless arguments (worthwhile debates are great, though!), and be led by the Holy Spirit so that the fruits of the spirit show up in our lives more and more over time.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. — Galatians 5:22–24

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Now everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. — 1 Cor 9:24–27

But refuse foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing that they generate strife. — 2 Timothy 2:23

We are also given wise advice for setting healthy boundaries, using our brains, and focusing on the positive:

(again)
Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life. — Proverbs 4:23

“Look, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be cunning as snakes and innocent as doves. — Matthew 10:16

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things. — Philippians 4:8

Where are you at in your Christian journey?  If you’re not sure, and need the Holy Spirit in your life, click HERE to take the next steps.

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