“If you become angry, do not allow exasperation or resentment to lead you into sin. Never go to bed angry, for by so doing you give the devil an opportunity. The thief should steal no more, but let him make an honest living so he can assist the needy. Foul words are not to pass your lips, for your communication should serve to bless and edify others. Do not offend the Holy Spirit of God, for through Him God has sealed you until the Day of Redemption. All bitterness, indignation, abusive language, anger, defamation, and contention must not define you. Have compassion and be tenderly affectionate to each other, forgiving each other as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (paraphrased)
A reminder of the old nature is unjustified anger. However, “angry thoughts” (orgizesthe) need not result in sinful actions (Ps. 4:4). Orgizesthe refers to a passionate state of mind aroused under stressful conditions. Moses was justifiably incensed when He broke the Tables of the Law (Ex. 32:19). However, striking a rock in frustration when he was instructed only to speak to it to obtain water brought repercussions (Num. 20:8-10).
Although righteous anger is a sign of spiritual health, it should be directed at sin rather than people. Seething resentment and bitterness can develop into a type of anger that leads to sin. A motorist may be cut off in traffic by another motorist, but his agitation need not lead to road rage.
The hardheartedness of the Jews angered Jesus, yet He did not become bitter or vindictive (Mk. 3:5). He overturned the tables of the corrupt money changers and drove them from the Temple because they prostituted His Father’s House (Jn. 2:14-16). The righteous anger exemplified by Jesus did not lead to sin because He kept His emotions under control. When He was cursed, spit upon, and slandered, “He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
Anger should be as short lived as possible. “Not letting let the sun set while one is still angry” includes not retiring for the night while in a bad mood. The human race has learned that agitation often breeds violence and revenge. Maxims reminiscent of this verse can be found throughout the world. The ancient Pythagoreans established a social rule that two men in disagreement are to “shake hands before sunset.” An old Latin proverb based on this verse expresses it succinctly: “He that goes to bed angry sleeps with the devil.”
Solomon knew that if one is angered when insulted, it is because “only by pride comes contention” (Pv. 13:10). When we allow anger to transcend the cause of the irritation, it can spark an irrational desire for revenge. We must not allow the day to end with “wrath” (parorgismos) in our hearts. This term also refers to a form of anger that includes bitterness, resentment, and exasperation. The longer a person cherishes and ruminates over an injustice, the more difficult it becomes to forgive. Sleep deprivation is often the result.
God allows daily annoyances as a test of character. But the safeguard against sin is the time restriction regarding anger mentioned here. Our frustrations with others are not to be harbored past the day in which they begin. Postponing forgiveness makes it more difficult to make amends. Before the final rays of the sun leave the western sky, the spirit of reconciliation should manifest itself. We are urged to “commune with our own hearts while in bed” (Ps. 4:4). This is only possible through sincere self-examination and by making any apologies necessary.
To “not give place to the devil” is an addendum attached to the previous verse. A person should exercise extreme caution when considering how to vindicate himself for the sake of his reputation. Since an unforgiving disposition is promoted in the demonic realm, we are warned to not give Satan opportunities. The apostle urges his readers not to permit the devil to manipulate our emotions, for he uses anger to lead us into sinful actions. This calls for self-control and vigilance, for we give Satan a foothold when we foster resentment.
Paul continues to provide pragmatic advice about discarding certain characteristics of the former sinful life. The apostle realized those who shun honest work usually resort to dishonesty. Unemployment never justifies larceny. The Corinthians are warned about pilfering (I Cor. 6:10). He tells the Thessalonians that lazy persons in the congregation had become “busybodies” (II Th. 3:10-11).
To “steal” (klepto) is the basis for the English term “kleptomania.” Since theft deprives others of their goods, Paul suggest we help people instead. We are not to “labor in order to become rich” (Pv. 23:4), for “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10). The word “work” (kopiao) signifies strenuous labor resulting in fatigue.
God expects His people to be honest and gainfully employed. David was a shepherd, Luke was a physician, and Jesus was a carpenter. Lydia sold cloth for a living (Acts 16:14). Paul made tents and was not ashamed of his calloused hands (Acts 20:34-35). Christians are obligated to find employment that honors Christ. This prohibits jobs like dealing cards at a casino, selling drugs, or serving drinks in a bar.
Dishonesty concerning finances was a way of life in the first century and is common today. Fraudulent insurance claims and income tax evasion are contemporary examples. Honest labor not only precludes stealing, it provides the worker with extra funds to share with those who deserve assistance. Christ’s maxim, “Freely you have received so freely give” promotes generosity (Mt. 10:8). A good work ethic honors God and blesses the impoverished. In addition, it helps them eliminate the temptation to resort to thievery.
From its inception, the Church felt a responsibility to feed the poor (Gal. 2:10). Many who are elderly, handicapped, or ill cannot work. Rather than being employed simply to pad our bank accounts, we are urged to accumulate funds for charitable purposes. Receiving money through the grace of God should motivate us to be gracious in our giving. Consistent tithing rewards us with the surplus funds necessary assist others (Mal. 3:10).
Although many of Paul’s Gentile converts had escaped their former heathen environment, he warns them perverse conversation has no place in the Christian community. “Corrupt” (sapros) means “putrid or rancid” and is used in reference to rotten food. Sapros is used here to analogize vulgarity and obscene jokes which are depraved and offensive. This includes gossip, swearing, obscenity, and off-color humor. Paul suggests we edify one another instead. Jesus said, “Every idle word that men speak they will account for on the day of judgment” (Mt. 12:36). Conversations can be easily guided toward pragmatic spiritual discussion. We are to use words that build others up rather than tear them down. Believers should focus on what is constructive rather than destructive.
Paul’s previous statements call for deep self-examination:
~ What is the test of my anger? Do I cool down by sundown (v. 26)?
~ What is the test of my financial accountability? What I am willing to give away (v. 28)?
~ What is the test of my conversational skills? How can I minister grace to those I converse with (v. 29)?
The Holy Spirit is a Person who can be saddened by a Christian’s inappropriate conversation or behavior. In our interactions with others, we can potentially vex Him. The term “grieve” means “to snuff out or extinguish.” His sweet counsel is not to be “quenched” (I Th. 5:19). We are temples of the Holy Spirit in which the suggestions of Satan have no place (I Cor. 6:19). By allowing the Spirit to guide us, we control our interaction with others.
The Holy Spirit has a distinct personality. He can be blasphemed, lied to, resisted, blasphemed, and insulted (Mt. 12:31-32; Acts 5:3; Acts 7:51; Heb. 10:29).
Here is a short list of the numerous attributes of the Holy Spirit:
1. He comforts (Acts 9:31).
2. He convicts (John 16:8).
3. He discerns (I Corinthians 12:10).
4. He empowers (Acts 1:8).
5. He guides (Acts 11:12).
6. He mentors (John 16:13).
7. He restrains (Acts 16:6-7).
8. He regenerates (Romans 8:11).
9. He sanctifies (Romans 15:16).
As the most unique gift offered to every Christian, the Holy Spirit is worthy of our utmost reverence and respect. He is offended by unholy living, but yielding to His gentle influence helps Believers eliminate the very sins Paul has listed. The presence of the Spirit within us is the guarantee of our eternal inheritance, for He assures us of our relationship with God through Jesus. The Spirit of God “seals” or guarantees our salvation as we continue our relationship with Him.
As we listen and obey the Holy Spirit, we eliminate what displeases Him:
1.“Bitterness” (pikria) depicts an attitude of smoldering resentment that refuses to make reconciliation.
2. “Wrath” (thumos) often springs from bitterness. Wounded pride can cause a wrathful man to resort to violent outbursts of temper (Pv. 21:24). It pictures a straw fire that blazes quickly and subsides just as fast.
3. “Anger” (orge) springs from personal animosity and long-cherished hatred.
4. “Clamor” (krauge) refers to rude manifestations of anger. No home is peaceful in which loud voices, insults, and potential hostility are the norm. Krauge often manifests itself in brawls and fights.
5. “Evil speaking” is blasphemia from which the term “blasphemy” is derived. The word means “abrasive and abusive gossip intended to damage the reputation of another.” Blasphemia is most often used regarding verbal assaults upon God, but is equally applicable those who slander others (I Cor. 10:30).
6. “Malice” (kakia) is the root of the problems listed above for it means having ill will toward others. Kakia is a perverse disposition that takes delight in injuring another. It includes the antagonistic attitude that seeks opportunity to “get even” with someone who has wronged us.
Alternatives to anger include acquiring and developing opposite character traits:
First, we are to practice kindness (chrestos), which is not what most offended persons expect. The English word “kind” originates from “kin” which bespeaks the sweet relationship of close relatives. Jesus affirms our Heavenly Father is kind even to the unthankful and unholy (Lk. 6:35).
Secondly, we are to be “tenderhearted” (eusplagchnos), sensitive, courteous, compassionate, and empathetic.
Thirdly, we are to be quick to forgive. Believers are more likely to understand and practice forgiveness because of the dynamic standard Jesus established by His sacrifice. While we were still sinners, Christ demonstrated His love for us on Calvary (Rom. 5:8-10). To pardon someone graciously, sincerely, and permanently is an indication we comprehend the sacrifice the Son of God made to forgive sin. We are emphatically warned in The Lord’s Prayer we will not be forgiven if we do not forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). God’s people honor His atonement by “putting on hearts of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and forgiveness” (Col 3:12).
Points to Ponder
1. Who displayed anger in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:28)? What was the cause of his anger? How did he attempt to justify his resentment?
2. What stirs up anger (Pv. 15:1)?
3. Where does anger reside (Eccl. 7:9)?
4. How does Solomon describe the potential of the human tongue (Pv. 18:21)?
5. How does James describe the human tongue (James 3:6-8)?
6. What type of person does not make a good friend (Pv. 22:24)?
7. What is David’s prayer concerning his tongue (Psalm 141:3)?
8. Paraphrase Paul’s final advice to the Ephesian elders regarding labor (Acts 20:33-35).
9. According to Philippians 2:4, what should be our attitude toward others?
10. What did David pray would never be taken away from him (Ps. 51:11-12)?
11. What does Peter urge his readers to do concerning revenge (I Pet. 3:8-9)?