Jesus and How to Know if You have Righteous Anger

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There are two events that took place early in Holy Week used to justify anger. If Jesus expressed righteous anger, then it's okay for you and me . . . right?
There are two events that took place early in Holy Week used to justify anger. After all, if Jesus expressed righteous anger, then it’s okay for you and me, too . . . right?

The following accounts are found in Mark 11:

Jesus Cursed a Fig Tree

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so He went over to see if He could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard Him say it.

The next morning as they passed by the fig tree He had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” Mark 11:12–14,20–21

Jesus Cleared the Temple

 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and He stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Mark 11:15–17

Anger at face value is just an emotion, it is neither good or bad, right or wrong.

The Bible talks about God’s anger in the O.T. and Jesus’ anger in the N.T.

But you and I have to be careful before we use Biblical examples of anger to justify our own.

Jesus is God . . . the sinless Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords. We know His anger was “righteous anger.”

Let’s take a look at the Biblical definition of righteousness…

“The word righteous in the Hebrew is “tsaddiy” which means just, lawful, and correct. The word righteous in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “dikaios” which means observing divine laws or upright, faultless, innocent, and guiltless.” ~Jack Wellman for Patheos

I’d like to think my anger is righteous because righteous anger is justifiable, honorable . . . even godlike. So, it’s easy for me to lie to myself thinking my anger is “righteous” when it’s really self-righteous.

You too?

And that’s why I can’t use Jesus’ anger as an excuse for my own.

There are two events that took place early in Holy Week used to justify anger. If Jesus expressed righteous anger, then it's okay for you and me . . . right?

When Jesus was angry He had:

Perfect Discernment

Jesus had the ability to know the motives, attitudes, and beliefs.

Jesus knew what the Pharisees were thinking, so he said to them, “Every kingdom that is divided against itself will be destroyed. And any city or family that is divided against itself will not continue.” Matthew 12:25

♥ Perfect Motivation

Jesus was motivated by His love for God the Father, the desire to bring the Father glory, and by His own humble obedience.

I tell you the truth, a servant is not greater than his master. A messenger is not greater than the one who sent Him. John 13:16

♥ Perfect Self-Control  

Jesus was never controlled by His anger. He was always in control of His words and actions.

People insulted Christ, but He did not insult them in return. Christ suffered, but He did not threaten. He let God, the One who judges rightly, take care of Him. 1 Peter 2:23

Without perfect discernment, motivation, and control how can you and I know when our anger is appropriate even if it’s not righteous?

When it is directed at sin.

Appropriate and righteous anger – is always and only directed at sin.

Which is why Paul wrote:

When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day. Ephesians 4:26 (NCV)

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Ephesians 4:26 (MSG)

We will get angry and honestly, it’s a hard emotion to control and if you’re like me . . . you react before you think.

But when I do stop and think, I know I haven’t reacted the way God wants me to.

The next time I’m angry I’ll ask myself the following questions:

1. What is the source of my anger?

Am I really angry because my family leaves the house a mess, or do I feel under-appreciated and taken for granted? Am I honestly angry because my child doesn’t check in and frequently misses curfew, or am I afraid that something terrible has happened to him/her? Am I angry just because my friend is always late, or because I question whether she values our friendship?

2. Why does this make me angry? What is the underlying feeling? 

Do I feel unloved? Unappreciated? Afraid? Worried? Hungry?

3. Does this make God angry?

Is this truth or emotion? Righteous anger is unselfish it’s not about me or my feelings . . . it’s about sin.

4. How should I handle my anger to stay honest with myself and humble with others? 

Slow down, breathe, count to ten if necessary, and use words . . . chosen with compassion and spoken calmly and carefully. 

There are two events that took place early in Holy Week used to justify anger. If Jesus expressed righteous anger, then it's okay for you and me . . . right?

The good news – I believe the answers to these questions will slow me down long enough to prevent a sinful selfish reaction to my anger.

The bad news – I will never do it perfectly this side of heaven.

What an amazing blessing to know God’s forgiveness – to safely take my emotions, bad news, and failures . . . even my angry outbursts and give them to Jesus.

I love that you and I can completely trust His compassion and love.

Look at just a few examples…

Jesus never expressed anger at the sinner (the woman at the well in John 4, the woman caught in adultery in John 8, the embezzling tax collector in Luke 19, or the Rich Man in Mark 10). Jesus knew the hearts and minds of people.

So, let’s go back to the two events in Mark 11.

Jesus did not curse the fig tree because He was angry. He did it to explicitly show the disciples the importance of having faith and a spiritual life that bears fruit.

Jesus cleared the Temple because people were taking advantage of God’s children and abusing God’s house for their own selfish purposes. He knew the hearts and minds behind the acts.

Until you and I are able to know, not assume, the motives, attitudes, and beliefs of those with whom we are angry . . . we will often find ourselves expressing self-righteous instead of righteous anger.

Maybe you’ll join me as I stop to know the truth behind my anger and ask God to give me wisdom, insight, and self-control as I react to it from now on.

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  1. What a thoughtful and practical post, Deb! I love the checklist to make sure your anger is righteous. Thank you for speaking the truth in love and grace.
    You BLESS me!

  2. You have provided some great ideas to think about, Deb. The question of whether my anger is self-righteous or righteous anger is a good one. Thanks for sharing, Deb.

    1. Thank you, Dawn. A question I have to remember to ask myself and when I do . . . it’s usually not righteous. 🙂

  3. This is a good reflection. My anger is not usually righteous anger. I’ve learned to stop trying to justify it but to pray it out (I can bring my anger to the Lord) so that I can deal with what angered me properly.

    1. I think most of us would have to admit that in general, our anger is more self-righteous than righteous. Taking those emotions to the Lord is prayer is the answer! Amen!

  4. “Until you and I are able to know, not assume, the motives, attitudes, and beliefs of those with whom we are angry . . . we will often find ourselves expressing self-righteous instead of righteous anger.” This is so good. I’ve been wanting to do a word study on anger. You have such great points here. I think as imperfect humans it is often hard to be angry at the sin alone and not the person.

    1. It’s so hard when emotions flair, isn’t it? And I think it’s especially hard with repeat offenses. When someone keeps doing the same thing knowing it pushes our hot buttons. Oooooh! I’m trying to do a better job of trying to look at each situation thoughtfully without letting my emotions rule the day. Not easy for this emotional Sanguine!

  5. I loved this article. Iv been getting angry and justifying it cause I v been very hurt recently. But as a believer…no I can’t get so angry. I must control myself. I humbly ask you to pray for me for inner healing on all my wounds and experience the Lords restoration.

    1. Thank you for sharing with honesty and vulnerability! That takes His courage and strength. I am praying that God will heal your pain and give you His amazing peace.

  6. Deb, such great truths! I always appreciate your solid, biblical posts. I know you are impacting many. Thanks for your ministry to us all! Happy Resurrection Day!

    1. Thank you, Donna! I so appreciate your kind encouragement. God bless!

  7. I love how you break it down for us. It is so easy to just react to our anger, but it is important for us to follow these steps and find the true source first.

    1. I agree, Sarah! Now, to just stop, breathe, and remember to ask God to guide and direct my responses. God’s blessings, my friend!

  8. Deb, This is so good. I am printing it out and putting it in my prayer notebook. These questions are such good ones to keep and consider when I deal with anger. Thanks for this insight and perspective that will help me be discerning when I have anger arise in a situation.

    1. Oh, Leslie, I’m so glad this blessed you. I just love it when God gives me something I need and it blesses someone else. It’s a journey of one step forward and two back trying to learn to manage my emotions with God’s help and grace. God bless.

  9. Edith Ohaja says:

    This is a very helpful guide to handling our anger. I love the use of Jesus, our perfect example, and the acknowledgement that we may not be totally free from failing in this area as long as we are in these houses of clay. Couldn’t locate your share buttons but will copy the URL to share as I feel it’s a very important topic and you have provided some hands-on and yet spiritual approaches to addressing it. God bless you.

    1. Oh, thank you, Edith! I’m so glad this blessed you. I know I need God’s help in handling all my emotions . . . even anger. God bless you!

  10. I love the questions you gave us to ask ourselves about our anger. Yes, anger is real but most time in relationships it will be problematic. Great post on anger.

    1. Thank you, Maree! It’s all in how we react, isn’t it? Praying to stop, breathe, and ask myself important questions first! Blessings!

  11. Perfect discernment, perfect motivation AND perfect self-control? Help me, Lord! Only He could respond like that, and only He can enable me to do so. Thank you for this post and for sharing it with us at Encouraging Word Wednesday this week!

  12. This was well thought out Deb, so comprehensive in helping me to examine my anger and be able to properly identify it. You enabled me to rightly see it without sugar coating it. Ouch! Thank you for stepping all over my toes! ?❤?

  13. Deb – great question in helping to determine if our anger is good or not.. is it self righteous? or righteous? hmm many good things to ponder and little truth bombs along the way in your posts. Thank you for linking up with #TuneInThursday this last week. I hope to see you again this Thursday at the linkup.