Three Anger Management Principles from Jesus

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,” you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:21

We all get angry. And of course, some things should make us angry! Injustice, abuse, deceit, betrayal. But anger comes at a price. Anger floods the body with stress hormones, and blood races from our core to our muscles preparing us to attack or to escape. Anger can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, eczema, heart attack, stroke, and that’s just a partial list.

Phineas Gage had a problem with anger. But he had a good excuse. It had to do with the three-foot seven-inch long steel rod that had blown through one side of his head and out the other in a construction accident in 1848. He survived but as an angry man. It seems that without a left frontal lobe to his brain, there was little left to manage his anger. According to some sources, he never regained control of his emotions after the accident.

We all need help with our anger. Anger is serious enough that Jesus goes so far as to associate it with murder. And just to illustrate how serious Jesus is about it, he says that failure to manage your anger will result in the fires of hell and unrelenting imprisonment.

So here are Jesus’ three anger management principles. First, be careful what you say when you are angry. Don’t insult people. Don’t speak contemptuously of others. Words really are as deadly as sticks and stones.

Second, don’t bury your anger. Jesus uses an interesting picture here of a religious person going to church to offer a sacrifice instead of facing his anger. Sometimes Jesus’ disciples are the ones who have the hardest time facing anger because it seems so … unChristian.

Finally, don’t waste time leaving it up to others to manage your anger. Make friends quickly, or they will hand you over to others . As the old saying goes, "If you have to eat crow, you might as well eat it while it’s fresh.”

All of this is far, far easier said than done. So remember my earlier thesis that the Bible is not a book. It’s the Living Word of God made flesh in Jesus. You might say the Bible is a person. When you decide to take these words into your life, you’ll be getting far more than words; you’ll be getting Jesus himself. And when it comes to anger management, Jesus’ presence is far better even than the left frontal lobe of your brain.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What is your typical response to anger: fight or flight? In what areas of life are you most likely to experience anger? Which of Jesus’ three anger management principles are easiest for you? Most difficult?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of anger. Anger equips me to respond to danger and injustice. But I know that my anger can also be petty and small as well as overblown and vicious. Help me with my anger. If there is a place in my life where anger is gnawing at me, help me to face it and move on. Amen.


Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.

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Featured image by Cindee Snider Re. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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