Age of Rage

by Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: "Road Rage" is a term that defines an alarming new phenomenon in North America. Angry motorists shoot and kill or deliberately crash their cars into drivers whom they feel have performed some inconsiderate maneuver. This growing problem is so real that the Automobile Association of America is running a series of TV adds to teach drivers how to keep their cool and avoid becoming a victim.

A young mother began studying the Scriptures and believing the Bible truth. Her live-in boyfriend was infuriated because she insisted that they either get married or separate. One evening as she was nailing a copy of the Ten Commandments up on the wall, he suddenly became so enraged that he grabbed the hammer out of her hand and began to bludgeon her with it. When he thought he had killed her, he then went into the next room and killed their 10-month-old baby.

When the couple's landlord heard the commotion, he came in and shot and killed the enraged father. Miraculously, the mother survived with minor injuries. I learned of the terrible tragedy when the woman contacted me and my associate, Pastor Ray Bailey, to conduct the funeral for this beautiful little baby boy who had been murdered because his father lost his temper.

Fruit of the Flesh
We are truly living in the "Age of Rage." People are simmering and seething inside. Ulcers and antacids are not the only byproducts of this angry world. Daily the headlines are peppered with stories of people who lost their tempers and then committed some horrific act of violence against total strangers, fellow workers, or (even more commonly) members of their own families. In fact, the first act of murder recorded in the Bible happened between brothers as a result of uncontrolled anger (Genesis 4:3-8).

Prophecy warns us that in the last days unbridled anger, tirades, and temper tantrums would become typical behavior. The apostle Paul tells us this is one of the fruits of the flesh. "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath." Galatians 5:19, 20, NKJV.

I want to address this topic because some people think that a bad temper is just an inherited idiosyncrasy and shouldn't be taken too seriously. They say that as long as your temper tantrums are sporadic, there's no need to worry. "It's just part of your character, part of your nature." However, the Bible lists outbursts of wrath as one of the works of the flesh, which means that it is not something to be taken lightly. You cannot say, "Well, that's just the way my family is" or "I can't help it; I'm just Italian (or Irish)!" Biblically it's a sin, and there's no excuse.

Those who lose their tempers do not realize that they are at least momentarily demon-possessed. When you lose your temper, the devil is the one who finds it, and before you know it you'll be manifesting the fruits of the flesh.

A Costly Commodity
An Italian proverb says that "anger is a very expensive commodity."1 I heard about a talented athlete who lost his temper and struck his coach. That momentary eruption cost him a $32 million contract! Similarly, you might have read in the news last year that heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson popped a cork during one match and decided it wasn't enough that he was permitted to hit Evander Holyfield. He lost his temper and decided to bite off a piece of his ear! That outburst cost him millions, as well.

If you start tracing through the Bible, I think you'd be surprised at the staggering cost of losing one's temper. After experiencing 40 years of miracles, Moses was not permitted to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Why? Because he lost his temper. He had managed and controlled it through years of their persistent rebellion and stubbornness. But then one day, Moses shouted while standing by the rock, "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" Numbers 20:10. Then he lifted his hand and struck the rock twice in a rage. Moses wasn't supposed to hit the rock at all. He was supposed to speak to it. God told Moses and Aaron, "Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." Verse 12.

The cost of hot tempers is astronomical in terms of lost fortunes and families, as well. Countless marriages, businesses, and other partnerships have been dissolved because one party or the other uttered some very cutting, toxic words without thinking. Wounding words spoken in haste are never easily retracted. Will Rogers said, "Don't fly into a rage, unless you're prepared for a rough landing."2

Ruined Health
I've heard some people say: "Losing your temper is good for your health. We all need to vent from time to time." I don't believe that for a minute. In fact, I see evidence in the Bible that the opposite is actually true.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 26, we read that King Uzziah was basically a good king. But toward the end of his life, he became proud. Only the priests were supposed to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. It was a duty restricted to the Levites and the priesthood. But Uzziah thought: "That doesn't apply to me. I'm the king!"

One day Uzziah took a sacred censer and marched right into the holy place to burn incense. When the Levites saw the king coming, a contingent of 80 priests confronted him as he stood there in the temple with the incense censer in his hand. They said: "Uzziah, it's not right for you to do the priest's job. It is for the sons of Levi. This is very clear in the Scriptures." At that, King Uzziah became furious. "Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar." Verse 19. The king lost his temper, blew his cool, and got sick. As a matter of fact, Uzziah eventually died of leprosy (verse 21).

I sometimes wonder how many people are physically ill because they are simmering or bitter inside. The Bible says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Proverbs 17:22. If that's true, then it's probably also safe to say that the opposite would be true-that anger and bitterness and an unforgiving spirit can make a person sick. Christians must learn, through Jesus, to conquer all bitter anger.

Not a Mark of Intelligence
Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools." This is another negative result of anger-it will lessen your perceived IQ. When people lose their tempers, they usually say and do things that intelligent people don't say and do. Someone who starts throwing dishes or banging his head against a wall when he loses his temper never looks very bright! I've heard it said that "The less water in a pot, the quicker it boils." Yet there are people in the world who respect that kind of lunacy. For example, I used to work with a bunch of men in a mechanics shop. There it was considered "macho" to lose your temper. From time to time, one of the mechanics would get frustrated while working on a diesel engine. He'd start screaming and stomping and cursing and throwing tools and slamming things. I was amazed that this type of childish behavior was nearly applauded!

Unbridled, uncontrolled anger is usually a sign of poor judgment. Thomas Kempass said, "When anger enters the mind, wisdom departs."3 Remember, if you are constantly giving everybody "a piece of your mind," soon you won't have any left!

Good Anger?
Now, having said all this about temper and uncontrolled anger, I must add that not all anger is necessarily bad. Anger is like fire. It can be a very good force-if controlled. Take an internal combustion engine, for example. Its "controlled fire" propels the cars that take us to church each week. We also cook food with a type of fire, and many of us heat our houses with fire. So fire, when controlled, can be very beneficial. But uncontrolled, it is devastating.

Anger works exactly the same way. Aristotle said: "Anybody can become angry; that's easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not within everybody's power and is not easy." Measuring, channeling, and directing this "fire" within takes a little more practice and patience.

Did Jesus ever become angry? Yes. Did He ever lose control? No, not once. You read in the New Testament that "Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer [allow] that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." Mark 11:15-17.

It was God's design for His temple to be a holy house of prayer for all nations. It was to be a reverent dwelling place for Jehovah, but instead, it had become more like a smelly stockyard or flea market. Local businessmen had brought all kinds of animals into the courtyard to sell to pilgrims who had come to offer sacrifices. Everyone was arguing over prices, and it was hard to hear anything except the lowing of oxen, the bleating of sheep, and the cooing of doves. When Jesus entered the courtyard and witnessed this cacophony of confusion, a holy indignation was revealed in His face. With power and authority He walked over and took a string of cords that were used for tying up the sacrifice victims. He made a little whip and held it in His hands. Then He said with trumpet tones, "Take these things hence." John 2:16. There was so much power in His word that all the greedy salesmen, without ever questioning his authority, began to flee. Next Jesus flipped over the money tables, and the coins went bouncing off mingled with dove feathers. The Son of God was clearly angry. We call this "righteous indignation." Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be ye angry, and sin not." So it is definitely possible to have a righteous indignation-to be angry-and not sin. This is the type of anger Moses displayed when he descended from Mt. Sinai and found the people worshiping a golden calf.

God has moments of wrath, but it is never uncontrolled. This is the only type of anger that should ever be demonstrated in the life of Christians. God measures His anger when He disciplines us because it's designed to bring about good. Likewise, parents should never discipline their children in uncontrolled anger. It's not wrong to be angry when they've done something wrong, but we must never let those feelings provoke unjust punishment. Always discipline children in love. The purpose of parental correction is to bring reform, not to seek revenge.

Have a Long Fuse
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "We all boil-just at different degrees."4 The Bible doesn't say to never be angry. It says, "Do not be angry quickly." Notice these Scriptures: "A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife." Proverbs 15:18. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." Proverbs 16:32. Now, does Solomon say, "He who is never angry," or does he say "he who is slow to anger" and "he who rules his spirit"? You must have control, because what you do not control is controlling you!

James 1:19 and 20 cautions: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." A Christian should always be slow to heat up and quick to cool off. We need a little bit of "sanctified antifreeze" in our veins to keep us from boiling over!

What Causes Anger?
Let's next address some of the things that typically cause anger. Following are six specific things I have observed.


  • Frustration
    When people get frustrated because they feel like they've lost control, they often get angry. This pattern can start at a very young age. Nathan, our two-year-old, is going through a stage where he wants to wear Daddy's shoes. As soon as he comes into our room, he opens up the closet and pulls out all of my shoes; then he tries to walk in them. The problem is that I wear a size 11, and his foot is tiny. He gets his foot in the shoe, but then as soon as he tries to take a step, he falls. Boy, does he ever get frustrated!

    Unfortunately, some of us never grow out of that. I've seen grown men get very frustrated if they feel like they've lost control of a situation or that they're not getting anything accomplished. And when they get frustrated, they sometimes lose their tempers. A person who is given to fits of anger and temper tantrums needs to know how to keep a grip on it and not become so easily frustrated. Christians are to be known as a people who have peace, because we've got the Prince of Peace!


  • Lack of Appreciation
    Neglect can also inspire anger. Some people get angry when they feel like they're not being appreciated or their efforts aren't noticed. For example, sometimes my wife will work for hours to cook a wonderful meal, and then I'll come home and say, "Did it really take that many pots to cook this meal?" (That's the first thing I'll notice because I'm the economist in our family, and I also help Karen with the dishes!) She might get upset about a remark like that-probably with good reason.


  • In the Wrong
    I've also noticed that when people know they are wrong, they'll often react with anger. In a debate, the person who becomes most frustrated is often recognizing the emptiness of the cause he's defending. When someone is calm and peaceful in his conclusions-no matter how ridiculous-there's a tremendous power present. On the other hand, when a person starts getting irritated and derogatory while defending his position, you automatically question whether or not it is the right one.

    Why did Cain kill Abel? Abel's sacrifice was received, while Cain's was not. Abel was right and Cain was wrong, so Cain became infuriated and killed his brother. That still happens today. A person who knows the error of his cause will sometimes try to compensate by getting loud and angry.


  • Hunger and Fatigue
    Some people get upset because of physical hunger and fatigue. Karen and I try to schedule all of our arguments for times when we're low on food and sleep! One time around our first anniversary, we arrived at the Sacramento airport feeling hungry and tired after a long flight from the East Coast. To help celebrate our anniversary, our family met us at the plane with flowers, balloons, and other special treats. Afterward we had to drive four hours up to our home in Covelo. No sooner had we left than we had a doozy of an argument-over balloons, no less!


  • Storing Up Resentment
    Some people with bad tempers participate in the "frequent flier program." When offended, they won't say anything right away, but they'll create a mental file and begin storing your "miles." You know the people I'm talking about? They appear to smile through every incident of disagreement, but in reality they are marking up your card and placing it in the file. This might go on for years. Then one day, out of the blue, you'll do or say something offensive and they'll decide to send you on an international trip with the mileage points they've been storing for you!


  • Offended Pride
    Other people become angry when someone injures their esteem. They may even want to retaliate. King Asa, for example, got upset because a prophet came and reproved him for a bad decision he had made. The Bible says, "Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing." 2 Chronicles 16:10. King Asa was proud, and he responded to the divine message by getting defensive and angry. Furthermore, he took his anger out not only on the prophet, but also on the people (verse 10). God was displeased with the king's behavior, and soon afterward Asa died of a severe malady-quite possibly gout.

    How to Control Your Anger
    I want to conclude by offering seven suggestions for how to control anger.

    1. Pray.
    Now you may be thinking: "Pray when I'm angry? That's when I feel like it the least!" This may be true, but when you feel the least like praying, it's typically when you need it the most.

    As you pray, claim the promises in Scripture, including promises for peace. We have been given "exceeding great and precious promises" in God's Word, that through them we can be "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Because Jesus had the peace of God, His emotions were always under the control of the Holy Spirit.

    2. Give a soft answer.
    Regardless of whether the anger begins with you or someone else, it helps to practice the counsel found in Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger." I've been in many situations where I've had to intervene and mediate. Sometimes in the midst of a marriage counseling session, one person will suddenly throw a mean word in, "turning the knife" a little bit, so to speak. I always try to stop right away and say soothing things, because otherwise the discussion can flare up and get out of control very quickly. It's no wonder that so many families are falling apart when people say such harsh, cruel, and cutting things to one another.

    3. Cool off.
    Another secret for dealing with anger is not to respond too quickly. You've probably heard the expression "Count to ten." Thomas Jefferson is the one given credit for having first said this. When you're angry, always take a break before you say anything. Time is often the greatest remedy for anger.

    4. Avoid bad company.
    Some people get angry because they observe outbursts of temper all the time and think it's normal behavior. Not until they get around functional people do they find out that's not the way to communicate.

    King Solomon advised, "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul." Proverbs 22:24, 25. You become like the people with whom you associate.

    5. Exercise.
    Exercise releases the endorphins that help you to cope. Some people are angry because their bodies are just congested and they don't feel good. Get out and run a little bit. This will release some of the energy and tension that sometimes comes from stress.

    6. Good music.
    Music is a powerful thing. What did David do for Saul when he would become brooding and upset? He played music! But it wasn't just any music; it was the right kind of music. I've heard some music that will instantly make me angry! As a matter of fact, they've done medical research by taking the pulse of a person at a rock concert. It accelerates practically to the beat of the music, and the person gets worked up into a frenzy. The war dances that many pagan cultures engaged in-dancing around the fire and beating the drums-was designed to work them into a frenzy in preparation for battle. Rage might be beneficial when you're going to war, but not when you're trying to keep your cool.

    7. Contemplate Christ.
    The most important thing that brings peace into your mind is contemplating Christ and His life. He was the meekest of the meek.

    Remember when James and John wanted to burn up the Samaritans because they didn't treat Jesus right (Luke 9:51-55)? The Lord told those "sons of thunder": "You don't know what spirit you are of. That's not the spirit I came to demonstrate." The disciples were filled with vengeance-selfish, vindictive anger. By contrast, the spirit of Jesus was soft, gentle, and meek.

    When Jesus hung upon the cross, the destiny of the world was in the balance, and it hinged on whether or not the devil could get Jesus to blow it. Everything about the cross-indeed, everything about the treatment of Christ from the Garden of Gethsemane up until He died-was designed to entice Him to sin. Satan's goal was to get Jesus to lose His temper. Aren't you thankful He didn't? Because the Lord kept His cool, you and I get to keep our salvation.

    How much can you do without Christ? Nothing. How much can you do with Christ? All things. "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." Psalm 119:165. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, He will give us the peace that passes understanding. The Prince of Peace can do things in and through you that you did not know were possible. He's done it for me. I used to get into fights and all kinds of trouble. But since I've become a Christian, I've never been involved in a single fist fight. And it isn't because I haven't had opportunities.

    The Lord has made a big difference in my life, and He can do the same for you. He can help you get control, because the Spirit of God will bring that into your life. Let go of all the bitterness and the things that are eating you up inside, and ask Him for peace and serenity so you can walk with Him in glory.

    1 Quoted in Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World, compiled by Edythe Draper (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.), ©1992.

    2 Will Rogers, quoted in 14,000 Quips & Quotes for Writers and Speakers, compiled by E.C. McKenzie (New York: Greenwich House), ©1980.

    3 Thomas Kempass, quoted in 14,000 Quips & Quotes for Writers and Speakers, compiled by E.C. McKenzie (New York: Greenwich House), ©1980.

    4 Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, by Paul Lee Tan (Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers), ©1979.

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