Be Angry

The first part of Ephesians 4:26 has always been a puzzle to me.  I compared five different translations–two were identical.  Click on them to see a parallel display of the verses.

Be angry, and do not sin

Be angry, and yet do not sin

In your anger do not sin

Be ye angry, and sin not

Most people seem to take it to mean simply that we are not to sin when we get angry, but I am unsure about that.  All but one of those translations appears to be almost as a command:  be angry.  That’s what bothers me.  

 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.  
-James 1:20

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
-Colossians 3:8

Why would a God who has told us other places NOT to be angry seem to give license for it here in Ephesians?  It has just never rung true to me that God would encourage us to be angry, but then just to control ourselves so that we don’t sin. He always cares about our hearts, not just our actions. If we cannot act on our anger, how can it be okay to feel it?  If we have lust in our hearts, He calls it sin, whether or not we take action on it.

One theory that I have come up with (certainly not scholarly–simply a guess, since I know absolutely no Greek) is that the original language would have applied the “not” to both clauses, as in, Do not be angry and sin!  It makes more sense to me that the author is saying, Don’t get angry–it leads to sin!  Or even, Don’t get angry–that is sin!  I know that the “yet” in the NASB was added by the translators, since it appears in italics. I have been told that the original manuscripts had no punctuation, so the commas are irrelevant.  And without the comma in the KJV you could simply change your inflection for a whole new meaning.  Be angry and sin…NOT!  

And yes, I realize that Scripture talks about God’s wrath, and yes, Jesus drove out the money changers in the temple, which could be interpreted as anger, but I don’t believe it ever says that He was angry. Even if He was, though, He is God, and God can have a perfectly righteous anger, which I don’t believe we can. When I am angry, I tend to wish all kinds of bad things to the person who is the object of my anger.  How can that glorify God?

Anyone have thoughts on this?


About dayuntoday

I'm a wonderer. I spend a lot of time mulling, pondering, and cogitating. This is just a place to park some of those thoughts.
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2 Responses to Be Angry

  1. I checked 4 different Koine Greek versions and, same thing; they’re all different! Not that I could really see the difference much.
    οργιζεσθε και μη αμαρτανετε ο ηλιος μη επιδυετω επι παροργισμω υμων
    ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε· ὁ ἥλιος μὴ ἐπιδυέτω [a]ἐπὶ παροργισμῷ ὑμῶν,

    Seriously though,I think your theory is close. Bill Mounce’s Reverse-Interlinear NT translates it as “If you get angry, do not sin…”

    I know just enough Greek to be dangerous. I began Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek a couple years ago but dropped out. I need to get it out again. It is very fascinating study and helps explain a lot of our misconceptions from language misinterpretations. The kids really enjoyed the flashcards. BTW not only did the original have no punctuation, but it was in all caps and there were no spaces between words!

    Back from the edge of digression, I think it’s okay to be angry AT Sin. For instance state-sponsored abortion makes me very angry and justifiably so (in my opinion). But I can’t allow that anger to carry though and commit something awful in the name of my “justifiable” wrath. I can focus my anger in prayer and other non-violent energies that may actually change hearts and minds.

    Good topic. Thanks!

    • Ronda says:

      Thanks for your input. I’ve been mulling that. This is a discussion I have had off and on for years with various people, and you bring up a point that is good. Perhaps it is possible to be angry at a *concept* without sinning. The sin tends to happen when we are angry with a *person.*

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