For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
— James 1:20
I remember well a particular Christmas memory that isn’t very pleasant. I was about five years old, and I threw a horrible fit of anger because I was so upset with the gift that my Grandfather Miller and Grandma Jo gave me.
As I said in the December 9 Gem, our family had many divorced relatives. In order not to show favoritism to any one side of the family, my parents tried to visit every single part of the family each Christmas afternoon. It made for a busy afternoon driving from house to house — and one house we stopped at was my Grandfather Miller’s and his fourth wife, whom we called Grandma Jo.
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To be honest, none of us Renner kids liked Grandma Jo very much. She seemed old, wrinkled, and cranky — and when we were in their home, we had to sit on the couch like little statues, and we even got rebuked if we touched the coffee table in the middle of the room. Oh, how I loathed going to their home because we couldn’t move an inch the whole time we were there! However, Grandfather Miller was our real grandfather, and although Jo wasn’t my mother’s real mother, she was married to him. So we were bound to visit her whenever we saw our grandfather.
As I noted previously, one year when I was about five years old, I had sat still on the couch for so long that I just about couldn’t take it any longer. My patience was running out, and Grandma Jo was about to get the best of me. The only thing that kept me together was the thought that if we paid the painful price of motionless silence a little longer, eventually my sisters, Ronda and Lori, and I would receive Christmas gifts!
Finally, the moment came when Grandfather and Grandma Jo presented their gifts to us. I was so excited to see what kind of toy I would receive as a “reward” for enduring Jo’s impatience with us. But when I opened the package, it was a shirt! After sitting immobile on that couch for what seemed like forever, waiting and waiting to see what kind of toy I was going to receive, they gave me a shirt! I got so mad that, as my mother tells it, I threw the shirt at my grandparents and angrily told them to keep it. Of course, my parents were very embarrassed, and I received a strong correction that I still remember to this day!
This story brings to mind James 1:20, which says, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” The word “wrath” is precisely what I expressed that Christmas afternoon when I threw that shirt back in the faces of my grandparents. It is the Greek word orges, and it depicts an angry impulse that grows out of proportion and is most often directed toward a person or persons. It is an explosive outbreak of anger — an outrageous, hostile display that usually results in someone’s feelings getting hurt. It is the picture of a person losing control of his emotions. This loss of control may be accompanied with ranting and raving or violent actions — just like when I threw the shirt back at my grandparents and rudely yelled, “Just keep it!”
James says that this type of behavior “worketh not” the righteousness of God.” The word “worketh” is ergadzomai, which means this type of wrathful behavior does not produce the righteous type of behavior God desires — which in my case would have sounded something like this: “It’s a beautiful shirt. Thank you so much.” But the whole day had been a difficult one for this young boy. Sitting motionless on the divan for hours, anticipating a toy as recompense for enduring the moment and then opening the box and seeing only a shirt — I just let my emotions go and exploded.
Before we left the house that day, I was taken into a bedroom, corrected for my behavior, and told to apologize and thank my grandparents for the beautiful shirt. It was difficult for me to do at the time, but I obeyed my parents. By the way, the next Christmas they gave me a marvelous toy that I kept for years and may even still have in storage!
I tell this story because we all are tempted to express displeasure when we are deeply disappointed, but violent explosions don’t produce the godly behavior God desires of us. Whenever we are feeling upset or disappointed and are tempted to just “let loose” and explode, we should find a place to retreat and be alone with God so we can process those negative emotions in His presence. He is always ready and available to stabilize us and help us bring our emotions back under control.
So I encourage you to make a conscious decision today to yield to the working of God’s Spirit in your life on a daily basis. As you do, you’ll find that your self-control grows as you draw more and more on His strength within you. And the next situation you encounter where your emotions are tested, you’ll find it easier to hold yourself steady on the inside and to respond in a way that brings pleasure and glory to Jesus!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Dear Father, I confess that I’ve had moments when I’ve exploded, lost my temper, and said things that I later regretted. I ask You to forgive me — and I ask You to help me learn how to submit my emotions to the control of the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s me, my family members, or my friends who are acting in ugly ways, help me realize that such behavior is irrational. Thank You for Your grace to help us upgrade our emotional responses to the various situations in life we encounter each day.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my emotions and reactions are controlled by the Holy Spirit. When my flesh tries to act up, the Spirit of God inside me helps me regain control and bring my flesh into subjection to the Word of God and the behavior of Christ. My mind, my emotions, my reactions, my mouth — they are all tools to be used by the Holy Spirit, and I will NOT use them in explosive ways that could damage and hurt the people whom I love and respect.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever been disappointed by something you received, because you were expecting something different? How did you respond?
- In moments when you’ve shown “wrath” because of a disappointment, were you later embarrassed and sorry that you acted so badly in that moment?
- If you have listened to the Holy Spirit, I am sure that He has tried to calm you down so you wouldn’t react in wrath and anger on different occasions. Can you name a time when you listened to Him instead of getting angry, and you were thankful that you avoided an ugly scene?