Bible Study

Discerning the Difference Between Righteous & Unrighteous Anger

Michael Beck

“There was never an angry man that thought his anger unjust.” – Francis de Sales

Unrighteous anger is of, by, and about ourselves. Righteous anger is of, by, and about God.

The prime example of righteous anger is the anger of Christ in cleansing the temple. This anger arose from His zeal for His Father’s house and a desire to see ALL men have the opportunity to enter into a life of worship with Him.

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, Neither the cleansing of the temple or the cursing of the fig tree done in a hot-tempered fit of anger. They were done in ion of one who for over three years continued to ple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. (John 2:13-17)

The anger of Jesus toward the activity in the temple was not the intemperate action of one “soon angry.” It was the purposed, God-directed action of one who for over three years continued to see what went on unabated in the temple. Neither the cleansing of the temple or the cursing of the fig tree was done in a hot-tempered fit of anger. Both were done in faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And they come to Jerusalem: and 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 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.And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (Mark 11:10-22)

Unrighteous anger is anger over our issues. It is “without a cause” or over nothing in God’s eyes.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21,22)

The curse of Jesus on the fig tree came to pass because it was not the product of unrighteous anger.

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come. (Proverbs 26:2)

“Vague as the flight of the sparrow, aimless as the wheelings of the swallow, is the causeless curse. It will never reach its goal.”

When is our anger unrighteous?

1. When it is centered on our will being done.

2. When it is centered on our standards being met.

3. When it is centered on our person being respected.


We experience frustrated anger when others are not doing what we would like them to do.

And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. (Numbers 22:27)

Frustrated anger becomes unrighteous (sinful) when one resorts to oppression to overcome hindrances. To get his will done an oppressor wields an unjust “rod.”

And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. (Isaiah 14:3-7)

Complete failure to meet one’s objective awaits those who move oppressively and wield a “rod of anger.”

He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail. (Proverbs 22:8)

To be kept from unrighteous frustrated anger we can no longer live for the fulfillment of our pleasures. We are called to pray and live for the accomplishment of God’s will in the earth.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

2. DISAPPOINTED (Bitter) ANGER – When OUR Standard is Not MET

We experience disappointed (bitter) anger when others don’t do what we think they should do.

And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done. (Genesis 34:7)

Disappointed anger becomes unrighteous (sinful) when one’s obsession over a perceived wrong compels action apart from the counsel of God.

Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:5-7)

secret” > Heb. – cowd > counsel

The first instance in scripture of someone SEEING something that angers them is Cain.

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? (Genesis 4:4-6)

Did Cain see something that was wrong or right?

Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:12)

The first test that our anger is righteous is that we are angry in seeing something that is UNRIGHTEOUS (i.e., wrong in God’s eyes.)

Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Corinthians 11:29)

Ezekiel was shown much by the Lord in order to enter into the Lord’s grief.

So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. (Ezekiel 3:14)

The prophets burned with righteous anger by the Spirit of the Lord.

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:8)

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. (Hebrews 1:7)

How can we discern between the heat of our own angry spirit and when we are full of power by the Spirit of the Lord?

The unrighteous anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Unrighteous anger has a destructive impulse. It does not wish to correct; it wishes to consume, therefore it curses.

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:51-56)

Unrighteous anger is swift. It does not give us the time or mind to fully consider and understand a situation from God’s perspective.

He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

We are called to honor all men. The disciples betrayed a longstanding Jewish attitude of contempt for the Samaritans. Our lack of honor toward a person (or group of persons) can make it easier for us to unleash hatred and wrath upon them. Jesus could have been personally offended and allowed that offense to cause Him to lash out. BUT, He understood the “wounded spirit” out of which the Samaritans operated, and was longsuffering toward them. After His resurrection, the Lord sent Philip (along with Peter and John) to the same Samaritans and many were saved.

Only when we are “slow to wrath” can God give us great understanding when it comes to the wrong we see. Hastiness in anger causes us to be quick to speak and prevents us from being quick to hear. We then judge unrighteously and exalt folly.

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. (James 1:19,20)

To avoid unrighteous anger and judgment when people fail to do what we deem right we must be longsuffering. Being longsuffering (i.e., slow to wrath) enables us to sit in God’s counsel, learn His judgment and get the heart and mind of Christ.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)

Righteous anger will always be equal or according to the judgment of the Lord.

A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. (Proverbs 11:1)

Our unrighteous anger will always be heavier than it should be.

A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both. (Psalm 27:3)


We experience indignant anger when others don’t give us the honor we believe we deserve.

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment? (Esther 3:1-3)

Indignant anger becomes unrighteous (sinful) when one resorts to aggression redress grievances.

Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai. (Esther 3:3-6)

Aggression is rooted in the belief that the “disrespectful” action of another has given us the right to retaliate against them.

Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? (2 Samuel 16:9,10)

We show ourselves wise and prudent when we don’t aggressively counterattack those we believe have wronged us.

The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11)

Jesus is the perfect man who provoked no one and responded with longsuffering to every provocation. God shines in our heart to show us His glory.

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5,6)

We will only be kept from unrighteous indignant anger as we keep it about God and not about us

… For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13)

The unrighteous anger which arises from personal frustration, disappointment, and offense can keep us from being God’s blameless ministers of reconciliation.

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.