Is My Anger Righteous?
God calls us to be angry about the right things.
By Paul David Tripp, Guest Contributor
It’s unavoidable: this week you were angry. Everyone was in some way. When you look back on your anger, what do you see?
The prophet Micah writes, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). This passage calls us to a lifestyle of righteous anger.
But how do we know if our anger is considered “righteous” by God?
Righteous anger is selfless
In Micah 6:8, the Lord requires us to 1) act justly, 2) love mercy, and 3) walk humbly.
Ask yourself: What will cause me to act justly? Is it not righteous indignation at the perversion of justice, which causes innocent people to suffer and permits the guilty to go free? What will cause me to respond to others in mercy? Is it not anger at the suffering around me in this broken world? If I want to be part of what God is doing, will I not hate what He hates?
If I want to be part of what God is doing, will I not hate what He hates?
Suffering must not be okay with us. Injustice must not be okay with us. The immorality of the culture around us must not be okay with us. The deceit of the atheistic worldview, the philosophical paradigm of many culture-shaping institutions, must not be okay with us.
Righteous anger should yank us out of selfish passivity. Righteous anger should call us to join God’s revolution of grace. It should propel us to do anything we can to lift the load of people’s suffering, through the zealous ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to bring them into the freedom of God’s truth.
Righteous anger is compassionate
What does this holy anger look like? It’s kind and compassionate. It’s tender and giving. It’s patient and persevering. It’ll make your heart open and your conscience sensitive.
Though you are busy, it will cause you to slow down and pay attention. It’ll cause you to expand the borders of your concern beyond you and yours. It’ll cost you money, time, energy, and strength. It’ll fill your schedule and complicate your life. It’ll mean sacrifice and suffering.
When your anger is righteous, you won’t be content with comfort and ease. When you’re both good and angry, you won’t fill your life so full meeting your own needs or realizing your own ministry dreams that you’ve little time for being God’s tool to meet the needs of others.
But all of this requires a fight. Not a fight with people or social movements or political institutions. No, this is an internal fight. It’s a fight for the heart.
Kindness, compassion, gentleness, mercy, love, patience, and grace don’t come naturally to us. They only come when powerful, transforming grace progressively wins the fight for our hearts. Only grace can win the fight between God’s will and our will, between God’s plan and our plan, between God’s desire and our desire, and between God’s sovereignty and our quest for self-rule. As long as sin still lives in our hearts, this fight rages in every situation and location of our lives.
Only grace can win the fight between God’s will and our will.
Righteous anger desires good
If we’re ever going to be tools of the gracious anger of a righteous and loving God, we must begin by admitting the coldness and selfishness of our own hearts. We must cry out for the rescue that only His grace can give. We must pray for seeing eyes and willing hearts. We must make strategic decisions to put ourselves where need exists. We must determine to slow down so that when opportunities for mercy present themselves, we’re not too distracted or too busy.
Most of all, those of us who’ve been called to represent the character and call of God in local church ministry need to pray that we would be righteously angry. We must pray that a holy zeal for what’s right and good would so fill our hearts that the evils greeting us daily would not be okay with us.
We must be agitated and restless until His kingdom has finally come, and His will is finally being done on earth as it is in heaven.
We must pray that we’d be angry in this way until there’s no reason to be angry anymore. And we must be vigilant, looking for every opportunity to express the righteous indignation of justice, mercy, wisdom, grace, compassion, patience, perseverance, and love. We must be agitated and restless until His kingdom has finally come, and His will is finally being done on earth as it is in heaven. For the sake of God’s honor and His kingdom, we must determine to be good and angry at the same time.
As you look back on your week, evaluate your anger: Did your anger result from building your temporary kingdom or seeking God’s eternal kingdom? Did your anger propel you to be a healer, a restorer, a rescuer, and a reconciler? Or did your anger leave a legacy of fear, hurt, disappointment, and division?
God calls you to be good, and He calls you to be angry at the same time. This broken world desperately needs people who will answer His call.
Paul David Tripp
Dr. Paul David Tripp (M.Div, Westminster Theological Seminary), a longtime fan of BSF, is a pastor, speaker, and award-winning author known for the bestselling everyday devotional New Morning Mercies. He and his wife, Luella, recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. They live in Philadelphia and have four adult children and six grandchildren.
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I respectfully disagree that God calls us to anger. Though I have not specifically studied the topic of anger in depth, I have looked into what God’s Word says about anger before and am convinced the Bible makes it clear that humans are incapable of an anger that is totally righteous. God is capable of that but not us. The book of James says, “…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
(James 1:20 ESV)
I do, however, agree that God clearly calls us to “…do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”
(Micah 6:8b ESV) as the author of the blog mentioned. And I agree that we should definitely not be ok or apathetic about injustices in the world, suffering, sin, or anything else God is not ok with. But love—unselfish, Christ-like love—for God and for people (even those who feel like enemies), as well as Jesus who lives in us, is sufficient to be our motivation to not be complacent or apathetic. We should leave “righteous anger” to God–the only One truly capable of such a thing–and we should let love (as God defines love) be the driving force of our passion and motivation instead where doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God are concerned. And in all things for that matter! 🙂
Although I did not see, it specifically, walking humbly with God means to realize that He is in control of everything, not us.
Angry enough to compassionately help, not to hurt!
Would you consider John The Baptist’s anger Righteous? He surely wasn’t calm and he didn’t weigh his words. He was ANGRY.
Yes, he .olive for “preparing the Way for Jesus” was not selfish.
Thank you. I Ask the Holy Spirit to help me to stop the wrath that s’not point to the sake of m’y Lord and King Jésus . May l thank about His kingdom
Thanks for the words of wisdom regarding anger.
I have been angry because of the injustice at work, it kept me from praying right, this article helped me realize i was in the wrong because clearly i wanted justice to satisfy me and not God’s will for my life.
I really enjoyed what you had to say about anger. Thank you for sharing God’s Word with us.
Thank you for sharing this! I especially found the second to last paragraph a measurable call to self evaluation of one’s personal anger.
This blog post confuses the emotion of anger with a conviction of the wrongness of a thing that is prone, initially, to cause anger, and a commitment to action to resolve that situation.
So-called “righteous” anger is most normally a rationalization that attempts to justify our emotional upset and the (usually harmful) actions we take while in its grip, and to shift the blame for the consequences back to the situation that made us angry.
In Galatians 5:20 Paul describes anger [“wrath”] as a “work of the flesh,’ and continuing, “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He implicitly contrasts such works of the flesh with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, including peace, patience, goodness, kindness, and gentleness.
Anger is prone to lead to hasty, rash, ill-considered action to eliminate the situation that provokes our anger. Generally, such action creates reactions in others that expand the zone and duration of conflict.
Most normally, only after we have surrendered our anger to God’s control, resolved to trust Him with all our heart, (rather than to rely on our own understanding and action), will we experience the peace to listen for the whispers of the Holy Spirit, guidance that will make our path(s) straight, and lead us to effective solutions for the basic problem.
Thank you for your comment, Bill. I was confused a bit with the blog. It sounds hard to do.
Thank you Bill for posting your sentiment in words I could not so clearly articulate regarding what the pastor wrote about righteous anger.
It’s nice to know this is a safe space to express a different opinion or take on things.
I also thank you for your comments, Bill. I strongly agree with what you said and really appreciate that you took the time to write what you did. And I also really appreciate it that you wrote it in the way that you did (in a respectful and Christ-like way).
A great insight on righteous anger. I would also call it compassionate anger, merciful anger…. that spurns me into action., to love as God commands.
Thank You so much for this information. Someone said to me today that God does not want us to be angry. I asked the person what about righteous anger. In will be sharing this with her.
We ought to emulate Jesus Christ, slow to anger, fierce in anger and Love.
It is true that Christ experienced anger this cannot be sin, since He was without sin. But I think anger can quickly turn into hate, and hatred is evil. So instead we should be passionate, tenacious, determined … to love as Jesus loved. Nobody ever took advantage of him. No-one gained the upper hand against Christ. Those who killed him only contributed to the fulfilment of his destiny. Injustice was not able to have a negative effect on him, and sin or wrongdoing never hindered his life.
Finally. Thank you both for standing firm. I read this last week and have been sick over this. What causes someone to act justly is not anger over something. Feeling are never to be the rationale for acting. To act justly is to be obedient to the truth written in G-d’s Word. We can’t know the truth unless it is read and understood – not felt. This is bending scripture and the reader towards their own feelings and psychological issues, instead of to the character and the person of G-d, the problem of sin, the need for repentance, and praise to G-d for what Jesus accomplished and how He is changing us and bringing us into the knowledge of the truth.
I didn’t agree with this blog post. It started with his statement that Micah 6:8 “calls us to a lifestyle of righteous anger”. That’s really reading into it to make a point that he wants to make. I believe most human anger is not “righteous”. Jesus could be angry and without sin, but most of us can’t handle it. Self gets in the way. Also, he says “We must pray that we’d be angry in this way until there’s no reason to be angry anymore.” Number one, nowhere in the Bible have I ever seen a prompting to “pray to be angry”. Also, his statement says that we should remain angry until there’s no reason to be angry anymore. This world will be fallen until Christ comes again. Nothing we do will “fix” this world and turn it into a utopia. I wish BSF would just stick with the study we’re doing and the truths we’re gleaning from the Word, not from a Guest Contributor.
Well, this will be one for “God’s timing is perfect”. Long story short, I had just been a target of a scam, where I was told I needed to pay $1500 in fines to the Co. Sheriff Dept. and I was actually starting to follow their instructions, they were the Sheriff’s dept. right, I didn’t give them any secure information, they actually had some correct information on me, anyway God got my attention, and I called our County Office and asked them if these fines were real. The first words out of the clerk’s mouth were that is a scam! I got back on my mobile phone because these guys were actually waiting on the phone for me to drive down to the Co. Office and pay (they had the correct County Office address). I confronted them and told them they were scammers and to go do something good with their life! Then I remembered the email on anger. I did not fall into any of the proper ways to respond. I was so mad. I even thought about calling my brother-in-law because he likes to turn the table on these people and lead them on. At the moment, I have all that you shared swirling around in my head along with anger in my heart of being fooled, but thanks be to God in His perfect timing I have godly wisdom to guide and direct my thoughts and heart.
A similar thing happened to me. I felt angry also.
However it is true that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. I say give them all the attention they deserve (which is none 🙂
I sense the battle raging between my will for myself and God‘s holy will. Trusting. His grace will be sufficient… The following paragraph was such a help: Kindness, compassion, gentleness, mercy, love, patience, and grace don’t come naturally to us. They only come when powerful, transforming grace progressively wins the fight for our hearts. Only grace can win the fight between God’s will and our will, between God’s plan and our plan, between God’s desire and our desire, and between God’s sovereignty and our quest for self-rule. As long as sin still lives in our hearts, this fight rages in every situation and location of our lives.
Thank you for this article. It was very helpful as I seek to learn more about God and his word.
Now did I need to read this.
Last night I was angry at my husband. And I shouldn’t have.
I’m going to try to not be angry the way I’ve been in the past but to be angry with love behind it!!
I’m so thankful to have just read your blogpost with Dr. Tripp. Will be passing on this wisdom to my significant others and friends as well!
Thank you I have learned more about being angry but wanting to do express kindness in expressing what is making my feel that way and I will be sure to pray for guidance in this matter ..an eye opener for sure .
Thank you for helping me to better understand the meaning of Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry and sin not.”
Good to know righteous anger produces compassion, love and zeal for God’s kingdom to prosper! Amen!
Righteous anger is God’s attribute. Only by grace can I be loving and compassionate yet angry at the evil in this world. My prayer is that God would continually regenerate my heart until I can manifest His attributes towards mankind.
So you are saying righteous anger should compel us to share the gospel more broadly, but what about in my family where adult kids have decidedly left the faith flatly saying they don’t want to hear it and glaze over anytime The Word is spoken, Yet want acceptance for their chosen identities, which the church would call immoral.
Julie, I feel your pain. My wife and I have a daughter, now 51, who, from 8th grade was rebellious and wanted nothing to do with church or God. In fact, as she got older she was actually consciously RUNNING from Him and any thoughts about a belief in Jesus. All we could do was keep her in our prayers, quite honestly, to be truthful, I wondered if God was even listening. But we know differently, praise be to God! Because in His perfect timing, after years of living in darkness, God had had enough of our daughters running from Him. In one of those 180-degree, miracle moments only God can orchestrate, our daughter was transformed by the light of His Grace into His daughter whom He loves perfectly. She was transformed into a person with faith that only could have come from Him. She continues to this day loving Him, with a heart for Jesus and a mission for helping those out of the old life she once led. Continue praying for your children that He would finish the work in their hearts that he began and never give up!
They don’t want to hear but they want to be loved. Love them but not their sins nor their immoral chosen identities; the same way as God loves each of us – undeserved sinners.
Thank you, Dr. Paul David Tripp. It helps me understand clearly that “God calls you to be good, and He calls you to be angry at the same time”.
Well said. Thank you for the timely comments on anger!
This article encourages me to pray more vigilantly for God to help me with expressing rightous anger coupled with mercy, grace and truth. Thank you .
I am only too challenged by my anger, typically in evenings (with my children’s disobedience) and my extreme chronic fatigue. Thank you for your encouragement to ask the question, did your anger leave a legacy of fear and disappointment? Good question! TY for your insights and writings.
So enlightening & well explained. So appreciate this biblical instruction on righteous anger as it is something we daily deal with. May God show me all the areas of my heart that need to be examined & changed. God’s continued blessings to you for sharing this & hopefully more enlightening truths to help us each grow more Christ like.🙏
This was good to read. I am currently reading your book “War of Words” Getting to the heart of your communication struggles.
This book has been eye opening and I am taking it slowly to absorb as much as I can.
Thank you for writing this book.
I loved the piece Mr. Trip did about Righteous Anger. I really had to think about what upsets me in this world today & would GOD approve.
I like that we (BSFers) we’re sent this. Can we look forward to more, I pray?
Your words were a such a blessing for me. The eloquence of your words were only eclipsed by how you framed your message. I felt the power of the message and of your own righteous indignation.
Please, keep them coming.
This message could not be more timely regarding righteous anger … how we as God fearing, God honoring , lovers of Jesus Christ should base our actions and responses to the swirling concepts in which we are daily confronted.
Thank you for sharing with us serving in BSF.
I just came back to the church after a 15 year recovery from a head on collision on the freeway. In the journey I faced hunger, being poor, ostracized behadue to disabilities. I couldn’t read my Bible, remember scriptures, and could not attend church.
Much humility, great desire to know the Lord.
I have come back to church to find strong racism, huge buckets of self righteousness.
So much that I am broken completely with the behavior of the Christians.
Today I’m not attending BSF and did not go back to church last Sunday. I need to process what I have experienced.
The self righteousness is staggering.
Susan – praying you find a church home that can help you heal and discover the abounding love of Jesus! Thank you for sharing
So sorry this has been your experience and pray (right now) you find a church that is truly after Christ’s heart as I know there are many! More importantly, we can’t look to people to satisfy our hunger for Christ, but only Christ himself. We are a broken, imperfect people in need of a Savior. So, fix your eyes on Him.
So sorry that u had to go thru this head injury I too was in a car accident and took many years for complete recovery, there are many churches to choose from if u r not happy with the one u went too pray ask God to lead you to another one, remember we r all sinners fallen people we need to admit this, and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help in our times of need, we all need one another confess our faults to one another and be healed….Remember God loves you even when you and I sin.
Always good to remember that the interpretation/definition of a word varies bc of experiences/emotions attached. To some receiving or having anger might be terrifying. To others it might be a flag to reflect on the reason you feel agitated. It can be displeasure which we all should have when we commit or witness sin. Or it could be rage if we saw someone being beaten. It is a human emotion. The point is that we don’t nurse it or refuse to heal. If that is the case it will spiral into bitterness and revenge. It is a sign of maturity to be angry at the right time in the right way at the right thing for the right reason. So I guess anger is like any other emotion. It must be recognized and responded to but not necessarily acted out on without good reason. It would be sad to be numb to certain circumstances as well as foolish to rush into something without good reason. We are not robots nor are we God all knowing. But He did create us in His image. That includes emotions.