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The Origins of Anger

Originally published Monday, 21 September 2015.

By Pastor Eric Motl

So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:5-6

In order to properly understand anger it is wise to go back to its origins, to the first time in recorded history when someone was angry. Cain is the first person in Scripture to get angry. We learn in Genesis Chapter four that he was angry because God wasn’t pleased with him. And since God was pleased with Cain’s younger brother, Able, Cain became angry. Cain’s anger was vented towards his brother; and in a fit of jealous rage he killed his brother. The first human display of anger led to the first murder in history. We learn a number of important lessons from the story of Cain and Able about anger.

First, as Jesus taught us, the root of murder is anger (Matthew 5:21-22). Most of the time our anger doesn’t lead to an actual act of murder; but the back of every murder is anger. And anger, when it’s full grown, is murderous. Whenever we’re angry it’s just like having “baby” murder in our hearts. Any follower of Christ wants to get rid of that.

Next, we learn that our anger towards others is really anger towards God. Like Cain, we might try to blame others for our actions. But in the end, it’s not people we’re angry at if we harbor anger. It’s God. And when things aren’t going our way it’s not people, in the end, that are causing it. It’s us. And God is always trying to teach us something through it. If we are pleasing to God we will care little about others’ opinions. However, when our eyes are on people rather than God our focus becomes confused and our moral judgements blurred.

Lastly, we learn that sin is actually the back of our anger. It is sin in our lives that needs to be controlled, rather than sin controlling us. As God tried to teach Cain, when we are anger it’s really sin “crouching at our door.” That is the origin of anger. He goes on to explain to Cain that sin is trying to get us but we “must master it.” It is our job as believers to call anger what it is – sinful and murderous. It will do us much good to admit that when we’re angry with people it’s really because God hasn’t given us our way. We’re really angry with God. We must master the sin of anger before it masters us. Cutting off anger in our lives at the root is the best strategy to combat it. And we must always remember, anger in our lives isn’t really between us and others, but between us and God.

We will be back next Monday for more of the Managing Your Anger Before It manages You series.
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