As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more careless about what I say. When I was younger, I guarded my tongue 24/7. I never said what I thought. I was afraid to even raise my hand to answer questions in Sunday School because I didn’t want to get an answer wrong. But something happened as the years passed and the careful watch over what I say has begun to fade. No, I don’t go around just spouting off, but I certainly will tell you what I’m thinking now.
And that’s good and bad. Both. Yes, it’s good to be confident enough to speak your mind, but speaking your mind isn’t always wise. Sometimes it’s better to remain silent. Everyone knows that we can get in trouble for the things we say out loud, but there’s never been a muzzle for our minds. Maybe there should be, because that was one of the things Christ talked about in the Sermon on the Mount.
How do you think? Are your thoughts full of selfishness? Are your thoughts full of anger and pride? Maybe you’re a master of keeping your thoughts to yourself, but eventually what you think is going to affect the way you live.
Today’s verses are Matthew 5:21-22.
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”
This statement was revolutionary, and it still is. Of course, killing someone is wrong, but just being angry at someone? And I should clarify. The Amplified Version is a little more specific on this. This is today’s passage in the Amplified Version:
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.
The anger this verse is talking about refers to a consistent state of anger or the act of harboring malice against someone. Anger on its own isn’t bad or wrong, but what anger forces you to do in many instances is. The Bible does say it’s all right to be angry, but it doesn’t say that doing something wrong is right–ever.
Notice it doesn’t say that harboring anger against someone is all right if they deserve it. Believe me, I know a lot of people who deserve my anger, but the Bible doesn’t say I can be angry at them if they deserve it. It says not to be continuously angry at all. Well, I guess it doesn’t say not to be angry. But it does say that if you are, you’ll face consequences.
Why? Well, how you think has a huge effect on how you live. Eventually your outside life is going to match your inside perspective, so you’d better make sure that your heart is straight so the rest of you will be too.
I just came off four very long days. I had to be in downtown Wichita starting this past Sunday at 2:30 p.m. I didn’t get a chance to take a breath until last night at 9:00 p.m. when I walked in the door of my house. My company’s national sales meeting is a big deal every year. It’s one of the biggest things we do as a marketing department, and this year it was even crazier because our department was in charge of a breakout session (that I somehow ended up responsible for). So I logged about 7 hours on Sunday, and then on Monday I worked 14 hours. Tuesday, I worked 17 hours. Wednesday I worked 12 hours. And on Thursday, I was really hoping to be able to catch up with everything that had stacked up while I was out, but I didn’t get to. Why? Well–let’s just say, a project popped up that demanded my attention whether I wanted to give it or not.
I’m not going to go into details because it’s not important. What matters is that I was angry about it. Oh boy, was I angry. And most of that anger stemmed from the fact that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and frustrated. I would have been better served just going home, but I had too much to do. So I stayed and kept getting more and more frustrated and more and more angry. And I couldn’t even finish it because I ended up needing input from someone who wouldn’t answer their phone. (And that’s when my director intervened and told me to go home because I looked exhausted. Thank God for bosses who notice those things.)
But even as I left, I was still angry. Almost at the verge of tears because now not only did I have to do this stupid project that didn’t matter, I couldn’t even do it without help. And for a performance-driven perfectionist like myself that’s the last straw.
So I did what any other single, self-sufficient, independent-minded, 21st Century working woman would do in these circumstances … I went to my parents’ house and took a nap.
And I woke up and felt much better. But I was still angry.
I was driving home in the dark last night just thinking about my anger and where it was coming from and why I couldn’t let it go. And so much of it came from my own frustration and my irritation at the whole situation. And, yes, there are some issues that need to be addressed, but being angry about it doesn’t help. And I’m not an angry person by nature, so anger turns me into someone that I’m not. And it’s someone that I don’t like.
So as I was drifting off to sleep (deep, wonderful, blissful sleep in my very own bed in my very own room) last night, I let it go. When compared to everything else that’s going on in my life right now, this whole situation is minor. It’s small. It’s not worth the effort of holding on to it. And I woke up this morning feeling like a new person, ready to go in and face this situation with a clear head and a calm spirit.
Am I going to get angry again? Well … if you know me and you know the situation I’m dealing with, you’ll understand when I say: Probably. But I’m going to try not to. And I’m not going to hold on to it. I’m going to let it go. Because if my thoughts are angry, my actions will be too. And that’s not right. It’s not fair to people around me, and it’s not a very good way to show how much Christ loves people.
Yes, anger has its place, and yes, anger is useful in some instances for motivating people. But it’s not the life we’re supposed to live. And it’s not the way we’re supposed to think.
So if you’re angry today or if you’re facing a circumstance that is probably going to make you angry, let it go. Be angry, recognize that you’re angry, and stop. Tell God about it. Even if you can’t tell the people around you about it, tell God. Yes, He already knows, but talking about it always helps me. And once you’ve got it off your chest, release it and don’t take it up again. Don’t let it penetrate your thoughts because your thoughts have an impact on how you live. And Christ-followers are called to live differently.