Anger Resteth in the Bosom of Fools

ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.

JUNE 1994

ANGER RESTETH IN THE BOSOM OF FOOLS


 "Be no hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools"
-Ecclesiastes 7:9 


The Bible proves itself divine over and over again by the revealing insight it has into our very nature.  Who, but God, could know so much about us and reveal unto ourselves, our very own character and expose the sin which lies within.  When a particular sin, such as anger, is a recurring subject in the word of God, we can be sure that particular sin is prolific in man;  such is the subject of "anger".  

How true the words of William Arnot ring in our ears 'A man of great wrath, is a man of little happiness.  The two main elements of happiness are wanting; for he is seldom at peace either with his neighbor or himself.'  Indeed, an angry person enjoys little peace or happiness, for "anger resteth in the bosom of fools".  If they are not angry with other people, they are miserable because of the heartache their anger has produced in their lives. The abundant life springs from a balance of both: peace with our neighbor and contentment with self.  These two maxims are achieved by pleasing the Lord and obeying the principles of His word.  The principles of the Kingdom of God are not just for Sunday;  they are a way of life.  

Anger destroys lives.  It eats away like a gnawing canker and divides family, friends and loved ones; it also destroys self.  Anger may be directed towards a wife, a husband, the tax man, the bill collector, a church member, the preacher, or family members and loved ones, but regardless of who our anger is directed towards, we need remember: "anger resteth in the bosom of fools".  God made the first day and we must remember when we wake up each day we make our own day.  Let us not make it up with anger for "anger resteth in the bosom of fools".  

The other day I was driving down the road and as I glanced in the rear view mirror I saw an angry face; it was my own.  I had to ask myself the question: "why am I angry?"  I had forgotten my reason for being angry so I began to go over the events of the day so that I might recall why I was angry.  After all, if we are going to be angry we need to remember why.  Isn't it interesting, the way we dwell on negative things, as if it would be a loss if we actually forgot about some thing that made us unhappy.  It occurred to me that the Lord didn't put me here to go around being angry all the time.  I considered how much of the day I had lost to anger and then I began to wonder how many other days and even how much of my life had been wasted by anger.  Have you ever thought about that?  How many times a day do you become angry?  How many times a day have we allowed anger to dominate our lives? If it is frequent, there is a problem we need to identify and deal with; we need to grow in grace. This is one of the great benefits of scripture:  to identify sin and root it out that we might enjoy the blessings of each day.

    When we stop and think about it, anger is a recurring reality in our daily life.  It invades our privacy and destroys our joy; our peace; our very lives. Its poison is a contradiction to the very spirit of God which abides in us and tortures our souls when we give it a place in our heart.  The heart is the field of battle.  We can become victors over this deadly enemy or we can become anger's slave; puppets to a passion;  prisoners to ourselves; for anger is our own progeny and the offspring can destroy the parent.  This is the greatest battle any one of us will ever fight: the battle over self.  Do we control our passions or do our passions control us?

     One who masters self and the lusts of the heart is greater than mighty conquerors for "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city"-Prov 16:32.  Controlling one's own spirit affords joy which can never be known by mighty conquerors.  Brute beasts, killers of men, can take a city, just as a herd of animals or a swarm of locusts.  But this is a spiritual battle; a battle over sin; a battle in which the natural sword can not profit.  A city may be taken in one day but this battle is an ongoing warfare which is never finished as long as we dwell in this tabernacle of clay. Even Alexander the Great, the conqueror of great lands said when he had conquered the great world: "but I have not yet subdued the little world--myself."  This is a spiritual battle in which "we draw nigh unto God" and find "rest unto your souls."

The greatest joys this earth has to offer are enjoyed by those who have conquered self.  The most cheerful people in the earth are not the ones who always get the last word; they are not the angry; they  are not the kings, nobles and conquerors of great countries; they are the meek for "the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace"-Psalm 37:11. God said it so it must be so.  Meek people enjoy not only peace in their lives, but an "abundance of peace."  Why is this so?  Because a meek person is slow to anger.  They inherit and enjoy the blessings of the earth, this life, because they have self under control.  Is it so with you?  Have you enjoyed peace today?  How is your anger today? These people are not full of anger and strife, but "delight themselves in the abundance of peace."  Just to recite these words, "abundance of peace", is soothing to the heart.  How much better to actually live in such a way.  

     The word meek means "mild, humble and gentle"; quite the contrast to anger and wrath.  Jesus said "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls"-Matthew 11:29.  Learning about Jesus, how He lived, and conforming our lives unto His is the most profitable life we can find in this world.  Jesus said that in so doing "ye shall find rest unto your souls." Jesus was not a coward but was still meek. He stood boldly for the principles of God's word, yet submitted himself unto it.  His life was conformable to the Father and even though we may be crucified in the flesh, we can find peace and rest by pleasing our Father which is in heaven.  The joys this earth has to offer: loved ones, children, wives, husbands, moms and dads are most enjoyed by the meek for "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."  That is why Jesus called them "blessed" because blessed means "well off" or "happy".  

Anger is a very deadly and destructive force, destroying not only self, but also all of those who land in its path.  Anger is like a Frankenstein, a great monster, who will eventually turn on his maker and then others it can find.  Once the monster is loosed, he becomes uncontrollable.  One writer wrote 'there is much anger springing secretly in human hearts, and its outbursts greatly imbitter the intercourse of life.  It disturbs the spirit in which it dwells, and hurts, in its outgo, and all who lie within its reach.'  Yes, it is a fact that lives that are filled with anger and strife are very lonely and unhappy ones because just as sure as "the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife"-Prov 29:22.  Here are some things we can count on, which we know to be true.  Butter is the by- product of churning milk which requires a repetitive stroke until the desired product is accomplished.  Wringing the nose is not only painful but also harmful, producing blood. Just as surely as these are true, we know that strife is the painful product of "the forcing of wrath." Forced wrath takes a meditated and repetitive effort to produce and is injurious to the one who forces it.  The word "forcing" implies pressure: to push and persist until anger is produced in another person.  Certainly, people who find pleasure in forcing wrath are not happy people.

Some people are experts at exciting this passion in other people.  They know just the right buttons to push to cause another person to become angry: either to start an argument or to enlist them in to their warfare.  Our nature tells us to strike back when our buttons are pushed but to learn to avoid wrath is a great blessing for "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly" -Prov 14:29.  When one is slow to wrath they understand not only self, but also the principles that God has given us to deal with anger; they are of "great" understanding.  But when one is not slow to wrath, they exalt folly.  This means they place it in a position of importance above all other things, even the things they allow it to destroy and in doing so make it known to all around.

     The best way to elude such encounters is to avoid those who enjoy irritating others.  One of the best ways to avoid getting involved with angry people is to "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul"-Prov 22:24-25.  The Bible reminds us over and over again to carefully choose our friends and associates because habits and patterns are learned and copied.  We are to "make no friends with an angry man", for the ways of anger,  as with any other sin,  can be learned and imitated.  It is like throwing a red towel in the washing machine with a white shirt.  The red wears off on the white.

     We must be careful to not become robots to button pushers.  How we respond when anger is directed towards us has a lot to do with avoiding anger for "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger"-Prov 15:1. "Grievous words" stir up a volatile mixture of anger and wrath.  The cup is poison!  Grievous words are like throwing oil on a flame: it gets bigger and hotter.  We become angers playmate.  But "a soft answer" is like water on the flame; they cool and subside the heat.  Soft words absorb the shock of the blow.  They absorb the punch and most of the time the second blow never comes. A soft answer turns away  wrath like a lightning rod diverts a deadly force into the ground where it can do no harm.  But, oh, how difficult this is to practice!  Old habits must be unlearned and new ones implemented.  It is like learning a skill over again for proverbs teaches us skillful living.  If we have been taught to hold our knife or fork improperly it takes time and practice to relearn the skill until it becomes second nature to us and we do it automatically.  The principle is true in our lives as we conform our lives to the principles of God's word whether it is with anger, the tongue or any sinful habit. 

     Anger causes suffering. 'Suffering springs from sin, as the plant from its seed'.  Our bodies can handle only so much anger.  Anger can cause us to suffer both mentally and physically.  Anger affects our health for "A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment"-Prov 19:19a.  Our society abounds with great testimony to the truth presented here.  Not only does God punish for the sin of anger but a person given to anger actually punishes themselves.  Anger affects our body:  cheeks flush, palms sweat, breathing changes, bodies become tense, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, the stomach ph becomes more acidic and people become walking time bombs.  Anger can cause depression, headaches, high blood pressure, ulcers, sleepless nights, explosive behavior, fear of other people, distrusting attitudes, withdrawal from friends, family and society and can unleash our tongue "that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell"-James3:6.   Anger can lead to alcohol or drug abuse and its deadly force can lead a person into committing other sins. Lets face it, anger destroys lives! 

      The issue of anger can penetrate every aspect of our lives.  It can cause us to lash out at innocent bystanders, even the loved ones which bring so much joy in our lives.  I'm quite sure that there would be a lot less ulcer medicine and sleeping pills sold if anger were dealt with daily as the Bible teaches.  Paul knew this and wrote "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil"-Eph4:26-27.  If anger is not dealt with daily and it is carried over into the next day, it wears us down.  It is like an avalanche which gets bigger and bigger until its rising force finally ends at the bottom with a destructive crash. The reason for this is explained by Paul.  Carrying anger around day after day is giving "a place to the devil."  The devil likes nothing better than separate loved ones and destroy lives.  We must remember: when we carry anger around day after day we are giving the devil a place in our life; we have become his captive. 

     Many people live in unrepentant and recurring anger day after day after day. They may be angry at people for years and years; even people who are now dead. Their whole life becomes devoted to it. Their anger is a continual stream.  Notice the second portion of Prov 19:19.  "A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again"-Prov 19:19.  A "man of great wrath", is a person that is angry over and over again.  If you help them out of one angry bout "thou must do it again".  That is why psychoanalyzing anger will not cure the problem.  Anger must be properly observed as sin for "an angry man aboundeth in transgression"-Prov 29:22b..  Anger is probably one of the most deadly forces we deal with on a daily basis.  

     In his book, "Competent to Counsel", Jay Adams made the observation that "depression is anger turned inward".  Unresolved anger eventually leads to sleepless nights, troubled hearts, and discouraging lives.  Much anger is a result of not accepting particular circumstances in life; as we have observed: not getting things our way.  Children who have had their way all the time grow up to be adults that expect the same.  Sooner or later we all come to the place in our adult life that we do not get our way about everything.  As the songwriter put it "Thy way, not mine, O Lord, How ever dark it be; Oh, lead me by thine own right hand; choose thou the path for me!"   Accepting God's sovereignty in our lives can make all the difference; knowing we have prayed about the problem and if God wanted to, He could certainly change the circumstances. Many times this kind of anger is over the people we love the most: husbands, wives, children, and even friends.  We may become angry about a situation and there is nothing on this green earth we can do about the situation but live in it; we can not change a stitch.  We must come to that place in our lives that we recognize the bitter root of anger as it begins to spring up in our soul and weed it out by prayer and placing matters in the hands of the Lord for "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust".

We can allow anger over just one facet of our lives to ruin all of the other blessings around us.  For instance, if we become angry at a person at work, we can bring that anger home and allow it to permeate our very household and destroy the place of our greatest joy and rest.  This loss is demonstrated in the live of Haman which is found in the Book of "Esther".  Haman was promoted by king Ahasuerus and set above all the princes that were with him, but because "Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence", "Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom".  Haman couldn't enjoy his new and privileged position because of one little facet of his life: Mordecai the Jew would not bow down to him.  Haman said "Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." Haman's anger, wrath and malice ruined his life as he was ultimately hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.  Anger ruined Haman! 

People may believe that their anger is hurting the person they are angry at but they are actually destroying themselves. The world will tell us to get back; don't take that; get even "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you"-Matthew 5:44.  How different is the philosophy of Jesus as compared to the philosophy of the world.  The doctrine of Christ was for the "healing of the nations", not opening up of wounds.  Who knows more about anger and strife, the physicians of this world or the Master Physician?  There is never a profitable time to get in the flesh and be angry.  Jesus has taught us, to do good to those who despitefully use us and pray for them.  If they are in such error, let's be honest about it and pray for their souls that God may turn them around that they might please Jesus Christ in their lives. How difficult it is to pray for a person  and stay mad at them for very long.

     Many people believe that it is a noble thing to become angry and let off steam.  Some people even brag on this sinful lust because of their hair color, background, family tree or their upbringing.  Modern day psychologists even have group therapy where people pay to go and blow up to "vent their anger".  The word of God teaches just the opposite for "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression"-Prov 19:19.  It is the glory of a person to "pass over" a transgression rather than venting their anger in return.  Some People would never "pass over" or miss an opportunity to let someone have it.  But notice the word "discretion" in this verse.  It means "wisdom, prudence, intelligence" and even "success".  Success in living comes from making intelligent decisions based on the wisdom which is found in the word of God. To "pass over" anger is not only Godly but it is also intelligent. 

This verse also reminds us to "defer" anger as opposed to venting it.  Defer means to tarry before we act upon it or to put it off as long as possible.  Augustus Caesar had a wise philosopher in his day that advised him to recite the Greek alphabet before he acted upon his anger; today we are told to count to ten.  The longer we can learn to put it off the wiser we become.  The wisest do not put anger off until a later date; they defer it.  Oh, the misery that could have been saved in our lives if anger had been deferred.

Anger has many children and they are all vicious. Paul mentions them time and time again in his epistles as he instructs us to "put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth"-Col. 3:8.  As we read these words we should be careful to notice the sinful progression that anger leads us into: anger first; then wrath; then malice; then blasphemy which opens up to filthy communication of the mouth.  This is the exact pattern Haman followed as he plotted the death of Mordecai.

     Wrath is mature anger.  It begins with the emotion and builds in intensity until it becomes a fierce passion.  It is anger out of control; temporary maddness.  God's wrath is not sinful for God is just.  God, and not ourselves, is the judge of the universe.  God knows when and how to avenge.  Paul reminded the church at Rome "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord"-Romans 12:19.  Paul is telling us here to give place unto our wrath and do not become engaged in it.  If punishment is due because of an offense upon us God will take care of it.  I wonder where Paul read and learned this?  Many encounters in life are for a purpose.  They may be there to whittle us down a little closer to perfection.  People engaged in wrath never learn the lesson; they never grow up:  they just explode. 

Anger, in, and of itself, is not sinful if it is over sin and unrighteousness; if it is jealous for God.  It is just to be angry with sin for "God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.  Psalm 7:11  Just the thought of something like abortion should make us angry. This force can be channeled into prayer and move us to do something about it.

     Malice is the will to do harm to another; plotting, scheming and planning the attack. This is exactly where Mordecai allowed his anger to lead him as he plotted and planned to destroy Haman. Anger becomes sin when we begin to act upon it in a sinful way, whether mentally or physically. We might not show our anger outwardly, but we might allow our imagination to lead us to other ways of revenge.  We might even begin to think in our minds over and over again how we are going to get even; perhaps imagine a confrontation of some sort with the person we are angry with and letting them have it one way or another. There is the danger, which often occurs, of our doing exactly what we are imagining in our minds.  That is why anger has lead not only to words, but also to fights and even murder.  But whether we think it or actually do it, both avenues are sinful and should be repented of. If we have the key to our anger, we may open many doors of freedom. 

 --Sonny.

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