But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. (Colossians 3:8–10—NKJV)

One of the things that used to “burn me up” when I was a kid occurred during Scripture memory in church. One of our sixth grade memory verses was found in Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Well, wouldn’t you know it? There was always someone in our bunch who would add an extra vowel to grievous and the word came out “grievious.” Wasn’t there some adult who could say to my fellow scholars, “Please don’t grieve us by not saying grievous!”? The admonition of the verse was lost to me because I couldn’t get beyond the massacre of the “King’s English.”

Anger is teased out of us through many avenues. Depending upon your personality, your self-control, or your circumstances, the evidence of roiling anger may not be easily seen by the onlooker, but you know of its presence, nonetheless. Ecclesiastes 7:9 states, “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.”

Please allow me to express that there is a place for “righteous indignation.” Any spiritually awakened person knows the grievance of heart and rebellion of spirit when evil is empowered, when depravity is on the ascendancy, when biblically defined injustice is commonplace, and when the conscience of man is dampened. Is it any wonder that the future day of judgment is called “the Day of Wrath” (Romans 2:5, Revelation 6:17)? Righteous indignation, anger which is provoked by error, is never unbridled anger. Proverbs 19:11 reads, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger.” Proverbs 16:32 states, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city,” and James 1:19–20 admonishes, “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Remember the words of Paul found in Ephesians 4:26–27, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” For a believer, the absence of righteous indignation is the mark of stunted spiritual growth in Christ and a calloused heart to the things of God. Coldness in devotion to God will promote a languid desensitization toward all that incenses the Almighty.

Unbridled anger is heavily warned against in the Scriptures. “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly” (Proverbs 14:17). “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention” (15:18). “A man of great wrath will suffer punishment, for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again” (19:19). “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (22:24). “It is better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (25:24, 21:9, 19). “Whoever has not rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (25:28). “A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them. Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?” (27:3–4). Dads are rightly challenged in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

Our text quoted above explains the process required of the genuine believer to deal with his own weak-tempered disposition toward anger (deep, smoldering bitterness) and wrath (sudden, eruptive outbursts). The believer must put off these old habits of the flesh, as if they were grimy, stained, stinking clothes, and put on, as befitting a blood-washed saint, the new, clean clothing of righteousness. Clean clothing is appropriate for someone who bears the image of the Son of God! No bad habit dies without being replaced with a good habit to which you have truly dedicated yourself. Your daily devotion to your Lord is what will enliven your effort in the battle with your temper. God will enable you to throttle the wrathful anger which brings nothing but shame, and replace it with a righteous heart that beats like His!

How goes the battle with your temper? Be reminded that it is never really won until we stand finally in glory. Live in the might and newness of the power of God (Ephesians 4:31–32). Trust and obey.