(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, we’ve talked about emotions, but I wanted to pick one that has a special place in Proverbs, and its anger. I would call this theme the problem of anger. As we talk about the rich emotional life depicted in the Proverbs, Proverbs has a particular focus on anger, not just our anger, but God's anger. I would say this way, “There's a whole lot of the divine and people anger in Proverbs.
And let's admit it, it’s good for you to admit this, “We’re all angry.” I don't think there's probably a day that goes by for us that we don't experience anger in some way. And there's probably not a week that goes by that that anger doesn't prove to be ugly. And so, we need the wisdom of Proverbs. You see, what Proverbs begins to hold before us is that the question is not, “Are you angry?” Now listen carefully, the question is, “What is the reason for your anger, and what is the object of your anger?” Let me say that again, the Proverbs doesn't first ask the question, “Are you angry?” Proverbs assumes that we’re angry. But what the Proverbs asks is, “What is the reason for and the object of your anger?” Again, anger never exists in this easy ground of moral neutrality.
This theme is especially precious to me because, early in my marriage, I was a very angry man. I was in the process of destroying my life and my ministry and I didn't know it. And, God, in His grace, put me in a situation where He just pulled back the curtains, and I saw myself, and I heard myself, and that began a process of confession and repentance that has radically changed my life. So, I’m very thankful for this theme.
Now, what Proverbs calls us to be, “slow to anger,” and says that the wise person is slow to anger. Now, stay with the logic here, from where does wisdom come? From fear of the Lord. And so, righteous anger is God-centered anger; it's anger that flows out of your fear of the Lord; it's anger that has God in His rightful place.
Listen, it's only when God is in His rightful place that you will be in the appropriate place in my heart; it's only people who love God above all else who will ever love their neighbor as their self. So, if being slow-tempered is wise and wisdom is rooted in the fear of the Lord, then you solve your problem with anger, not horizontally; you solve it vertically because you have a God-ward problem, not just a horizontal problem of people-ward problem.
Again, let the conviction of this wash over you. Conviction is a good thing. There are only two types of anger, “God-centered anger,” and “me-centered anger.” Angry, because somehow people are in my way; somehow, they haven't followed my sovereign rule; somehow, they're not submitting to the ways of my kingdom, and so I'm angry! Or, anger that really flows out of my love for the honor of God, my love for His wisdom, my willingness to submit to Him.
It's a huge grace that Proverbs takes us where we would not normally go with our anger and says, “What is the reason for your anger? What is the object of your anger?” And makes that distinction between anger that is God-centered and anger that is me-centered. Today when you get angry, examine that anger!