“Be Angry, and Do Not Sin”

If you struggle with anger, you are not alone. Most people must work diligently for a lifetime to keep themselves under control. However, people often get confused about what makes anger a problem. While most people recognize the spiritual problem with venting anger just because you did not get your way, you might well wonder what the appropriate response should be when someone commits sin against you, lies about you, or otherwise seeks to hurt you. Is it wrong to feel wronged? Is it sinful to wish for justice? Surely there must be some place between lashing out in anger and feeling nothing! Indeed. That is why David wrote, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ps. 4:4a). But what exactly did he mean?

David opened this psalm asking God to listen to him and accept his petition, but the context comes into focus only in the second verse where we learn that some people have attacked David and lied about him (Ps. 4:1-2). David then expresses confidence that the LORD will listen to the prayers of the godly (Ps. 4:3). He then provides the answer to himself of what to do in such circumstances, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still” (Ps. 4:4). It was proper and right to be upset and even angry to the point of trembling (the meaning of the word) at the sins and injustices others commit. But what do we do then? We should exercise self-control and realize we are not judge and jury, nor should we act like it. We should consider God’s will and remain calm. In fact, the very next verse helps put this in context: “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the Lord” (Ps. 4:5). We should focus on obeying God and trusting God, leaving such matters in His hands (Ps. 4:6). God will take care of us, and God will be more than fair to us (Ps. 4:7). In this we can find peace, comfort, and calm (Ps. 4:8) even when facing injustice and iniquity.

Anger controls us when we act as if every wrong must be corrected immediately and that we are the ones that should do it. Instead, let us heed the words of the apostle Paul: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). David faced many hardships and had many enemies throughout his lifetime when he had done nothing against them. Most were close friends and family. It is hard to imagine the emotions that David must have felt as he saw a son turn against him, advisors betray him, and the people seem to forget him. It is difficult to appreciate how he endured lies told against him and the mocking and cursing that his enemies hurled his way. It must have been hard to take. Was he angry about it? Yes. It hurt, and it caused him to tremble with righteous indignation. But he did not sin. And neither should we.

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