The Devil’s Foothold

Eleven worshippers were killed on the Sabbath at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. A few days earlier, two shoppers were shot in Jeffersontown, KY, after the gunman failed to enter a black church, where 70 worshippers had been gathered a half hour earlier. The gunmen were obviously unstable and very, very angry.

It is always wrong to kill because of someone’s race, nationality, religion, or opinions. As with the first murder, when Cain killed his brother Abel, murder begins with anger. Anger is a natural human emotion, but one that our faith requires us to reign in and control. Like the LORD told Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7b)

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 when he says, “’In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26)

The problem with anger is that it gives the devil a foothold. That’s why Jesus equates anger with murder. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22a)

Anger is like smoking. Each little puff seems harmless enough, but each one weakens us and brings us closer to sickness and death. Each little angry word or thought seems like no big deal, but if they build up, they bring us closer and closer to making bad decisions, harming others, or destroying friendships.

But what about those people and groups who seem to deserve our wrath? The Bible is clear on taking revenge. Paul sums it up in Romans 12:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Some people do not live by these words, so it is even more important that we keep them in mind. One person’s anger inspires another, and before you know it, friends break up, marriages fail, churches split, or some unstable person goes on a rampage. But if we’re quick to listen and slow to speak, we won’t be making things worse.

In these days of heated rhetoric and divergent opinions, let’s remember what God’s Word says about anger, and pray that Jesus will help us be patient and forgiving.

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