James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
I’ve noticed that anger is somewhat readily embraced in the American Midwest, and that’s far from the will of God. There is very rarely any value in anger. These verses (James 1:29-20) tell us why.
First, note that James makes it clear that human anger cannot bring about a righteousness that pleases God. That means time and energy spent on merely human anger is squandered by a person seeking God’s interests and pleasure. There’s an opportunity cost for entertaining human anger. So anger is to have no place in a Christian’s heart.
Second, these verses give insight on how we often become angry. By telling us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak” James tells us we are to prioritize listening over speaking. That’s because, “When your mouth opens, your ears shut.” Human anger often arises out of ignorance and impatience. In fact, the difference between godly and godless anger is the appropriateness of one’s expectations of human behavior. In Romans 1:18-32 we find God himself angry as a just response to humanity failing to meet his more than fair expectations of loyalty and gratitude and his knowledge that such sinful behavior is “without excuse.” This means merely human anger arises out of expectations informed by merely human understandings. That’s why James tells us to be “slow to anger.” It is very difficult for someone to know a situation so completely that they can have certainty they share God’s perspective on a person’s actions.
God expects you to have the patience to understand the people in your world and to interrogate your own expectations of them before you become angry about his or her actions. As a precaution I try to put aside my anger as soon as I feel it. Remember how God questioned Jonah’s anger, “Do you do well to be angry?” When I get angry, I try to find the where-with-all to ask this same question of myself. With unsurprising frequency, careful reflection requires me to say “No.”
This is the bottom line: If unjustified anger cannot give pleasure to God, I know I don’t have enough time this side of judgement to even risk entertaining it. Do you?