In Ephesians 4:26 we are commanded, “Be angry and sin not.” If you really were honest with yourself, can you ever think of a time when you were angry, and did not sin in your heart? Personally I don’t think I can.
So, what is righteous anger? And how often have we justified our behavior under the guis of “righteous anger.”
The Passage: John 2:13-22
- What angered Jesus when he entered the temple and what did He do about it?
- How did His disciples interpret what they saw?
- How did the religious leaders respond to Jesus’ actions?
- Seeing that Jesus is The Word, and therefore His actions are God Himself at work through the body of Jesus, what does Jesus’ actions here reveal about God?
Jesus revealed Himself to the lowly and the poor in the little town of Cana. But, it was now time for Him to make Himself known to the rest of the nation. What a better time to do that than in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration.
Jesus had been to Passover celebrations many times. As a child, with his family, or maybe just with his father on some occasions. As an adult, he would have attended every year. He knew the scene well. He had seen it many times. Those desiring to fulfill their expected duty were being taken advantage of. And the only place that gentiles could worship was a circus.
Fruchenbaum gives some more insight into what was happening.
Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus observed two groups of people in the Temple (Jn. 2:14). First were those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, which were sacrificial animals, and second were the changers of money. What Jesus observed is also recorded in some detail in Pharisaic writings, and the Pharisees did not like what was going on either. All of this was the business venture of one man, the former high priest, Annas. Annas and his family essentially took firm control of the Temple and turned it into a private family business. The Pharisees referred to it as “the Bazaar of the Sons of Annas.” Annas was a Sadducee. Josephus described him as being a hoarder of money, very rich, and despoiling the common priests by open violence.
If a person brought his own sacrifice, the priests appointed to inspect the animals would invariably find some spot or blemish. So with his sacrifice disqualified, the owner had two options. The first option was to go home and get another animal, which was fine if he lived near Jerusalem, but not so fine if the journey home was long. The second option was more convenient. In the Temple, there was an area of stalls where the oxen, sheep, and doves which had passed inspection were sold. Of course, these were sold at highly inflated prices, and the money went into the private coffers of Annas and his family.
It was during Passover that everyone had to pay the annual half-shekel Temple tax. However, because Roman coinage was imprinted with an image of Caesar, it could not be used to pay the Temple tax. The money had to be exchanged by the changers of money (Jn. 2:14), and there was a service charge with each exchange. The service charge also went to the family of Annas.
So, as His first act in revealing Himself as the Messiah to the nation, Jesus walks into the temple and begins over turning tables and throwing the merchants out of the temple court. Jesus was very clear, He wanted God’s house to be a place where people of both Jew and Gentile, could worship His Father without distraction!
I don’t know how you have pictured this scene in your mind. Ken Gire in his book, “Moments with the Savior,” eloquently describes how he pictures the scene. Many of us picture this as a very intense scene. And I have heard many people use this scene as an excuse for anger. “Well, Jesus got so angry in the temple that he turned over the tables, therefore I am justified in my anger too.” If that is the conclusion you come to from imagining this scene, you would be wrong.
God is always consistent with His character. He never acts contrary to Himself. Jesus is the perfect representation of God on earth. He is the living, breathing, acting Word of God! So, when God is angry, how does He act?
- God has never and will never sin in His anger.
- God’s anger is ALWAYS self controlled (controlled by God).
- Gods anger will ONLY display or manifest fruits of the Spirit, fruits of God-Likeness!
Now, taking those 3 things, how does that affect your perception of the scene that took place in the temple? I have to be honest and tell you, I have a really hard time picturing what that would look like. Why? Because I don’t think I have ever, nor have I ever seen a man act in anger in the way it describes what Jesus did, and not be sinful!
So, what is God talking about when he commands of us in Eph 4:26 “Be angry and sin not…?” What are characteristics of “righteous” anger? Here’s a few things that we see in Jesus.
- Jesus focused on God’s name
- Jesus focused on God’s rights
- Jesus focused on God’s kingdom
- Jesus was self controlled… not out of control
- Jesus displayed the fruits of the Spirit Gal 5:22-25
In contrast, here are some characteristics of sinful anger
- Focused on self and what I want
- characterized by more talking than listening
- attacks the person rather than the problem
- speaks harsly and rashly
- manifesting sinful tendencies Gal 5:19-21
So, what does righteous anger look like?
- Anger at injustice should lead us to show God’s love to those who experience it, instead of becoming a activist.
- Anger at sin in a brother’s life should lead us to correct with the motivation of restoration and Christlikeness in their lives, instead of judgment or punishment for being sinned against.
- Anger at sin and disobedience in our children should lead us to correct so that Christ is the center of their lives and He is the motivation of their behavior, rather than punishing them because their actions affected our reputation or because we are tired of their sinful behavior.
Self should never be the source for our response to anger.
When people witness our anger, the response should be like the disciples response to Jesus’ anger, They remembered that He said, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Zeal for God’s righteousness, Godly characteristics, Godliness, should be what motivates us in our relationships with others!
May we display God’s righteousness in every situation. Even when we are wronged against. May our passion be for God’s name, God’s character God’s kingdom and filled with the fruit of the Spirit. May the things we are passionate about never be driven by our self and what we want.