Wrath

Wrath

Posted on April 4, 2014 by Universal Life Church Monastery

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If we were to chart the timeline of our lives, how many notches would there be to mark the instances when we became angry? Sadly, too many to count or recall.

In most cases, we are sorry or even ashamed because anger can make us do things that are uncharacteristic of our normal selves. Perhaps while stuck in traffic we said things we shouldn’t have. Or maybe while waiting in line at the DMV we lost our temper and treated others with an attitude. It’s no surprise that impatience can lead to anger; wrath’s opposing virtue is Patience.

Wrath is different than the other vices in that it is not necessarily rooted in selfish desire. Wrath is more of a response to outward influences and circumstances. Both man and God express wrath, but there is a vast difference between the two.

Wrath is an emotion characterized by feelings of intense anger and hatred. Wrath can be either just or unjust. Unjust wrath is destructive behavior, impatience, violence, and the things associated with them. Just wrath can be a response to a perceived wrong or injustice however in man this kind of wrath is rarely justified.

What does the bible teach us about the wrath of man and the wrath of God?

The Unrighteous Wrath of Man

As mentioned before, we humans most commonly get angry as a response to some sort of perceived wrong or injustice. In the heat of the moment, our anger and frustration can cloud good judgement. Sometimes we feel our anger is justifiable, but our notions of justice and injustice are deeply flawed. Those who love Christ should always be slow to anger when wronged or treated unfairly (James 1:19-20). Considering this, it’s important to distinguish between getting angry and giving in to anger.

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:46). It is bad to get angry, but worse to give in. Anger is not always sin, but it can easily escalate into sin. If someone is discriminated against based on their race, gender, sexual preference, etc. they would probably get angry. But does this give them the right to start yelling and screaming, or going around complaining to all who will listen? Or even thinking ill thoughts or curses against the one who wronged us? Doing so has a negative influence on everyone involved, and worst of all, incites others to become angry as well.

Unless we put aside feelings of anger, wrath, malice, and slander (Col. 3:8) we will only perpetuate the chaotic cycle.

The Righteous Wrath of God

In Romans 1:18-20, Paul the Apostle lays out justification for the wrath of God:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

God’s wrath is against injustice, wickedness, sin, and evil. To summarize, God is just in pouring out His wrath on the human race because we have sinfully rejected His revelation of Himself and have worshiped the creature rather than the Creator.

In the book of Nahum we are given a different picture of the wrath of God: He is jealous, avenging, and wrathful towards his adversaries and enemies. But he is also slow to anger and great in power. “His way is in whirlwind and storm” ; “the mountains quake before him, the hills melt, the earth heaves before him”; “his wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.” (Nahum 1:2-6)

This is quite a description, but we must remember that the wrath of God is but one of his holy attributes. God is also loving, merciful, and righteous. We must also remember that the Son of Man bore the full wrath of God against sin on the cross and paid that price in full. Jesus died on the cross so that the faithful would not have to endure the wrath of God.

What is the difference between just and unjust anger?

Just and Unjust Wrath

The wrath of God is necessary and just because God is the embodiment of all righteousness, love, mercy, and grace. If God loves righteousness, he must also hate evil. If he were all love and no wrath, he would not be God because he would be unrighteous. But he is a righteous God who feels indignation every day (Psalm 7:11).

The wrath of man is sinful and unjust because men are depraved creatures, ruined by sin. All vengeance against injustice, wickedness, and sin belongs to the Lord. Though we may feel like it’s virtuous to get angry about injustice, the bible tells us otherwise: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12:19). Therefore, “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Up until now we have briefly looked into the difference between the wrath of man and the wrath of God, as well as the difference between just and unjust wrath. While not all anger is sin, it is not right to hold on to anger for “just” reasons and certainly not for selfish, petty reasons. We know that at the end of days, the “just” anger we feel will be avenged so thoroughly and perfectly that every abuse, wrongdoing, and injustice that has ever been done, will be made right. As it is written, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) If we hear and understand the instruction in the Word, it is easier to let our anger go.

In the meantime we must do all we can to live in peace and patience with our neighbors. We will not always succeed in this quest. However, we can always turn to scripture for assistance. In Romans, Paul gives us encouragement : “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (12:17,18)

Godspeed & Good Read!

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Envy

Envy

Posted on March 13, 2014 by Universal Life Church Monastery

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Along the journey of our life we encounter people who appear to have better lives than we do. Perhaps they have more money, a more lucrative career, or a higher socioeconomic status. If we compare ourselves with them we may grow discontent about our own stations and desirous of the possessions of others.

Envy is characterized by desire, along with gluttony, lust, and greed. Envy and jealousy are similar but envy is a more intense manifestation. Both involve discontent with one’s own traits, status, or possessions.

As gluttony is the desire for food, lust the desire for sexual pleasure, and greed the desire for wealth, envy is a desire for the possessions of another. However, it is not only the desire for these things, but also a deep negative feeling over another’s achievements. To envy is to resent somebody else’s good so much that one would like to see it destroyed.

Envy and jealousy are bad qualities, especially for one who has a relationship with Christ. Being envious of others, especially those who reject Christianity, indicates that one does not fully understand what it means to be a child of God. Wealth, fame, and power in this world cannot compare to the riches in the kingdom of heaven, ”for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”(Mark 8:36).

This wisdom is emphasized again in Psalm 37:1,2: “Do not fret because of those who are evil, or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.”

Up to this point we have considered what envy really is, and it’s relationship with jealousy and the other vices. We also touched on why Christians in particular should avoid being envious. Next we will look at more Biblical teaching about envy, and ways we can use this wisdom to prevent envy from creeping into our hearts.

What the Bible says about Envy

As a capital vice, envy leads to additional sinful behavior. Left unchecked, envy can lead to disastrous results, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2-3) This is not to say that envious thoughts or behavior will drive us to steal, fight, or murder, but the danger is still there. It is nevertheless a step in that direction.

The Ten Commandments tell us directly that we shall not be envious, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex.20:17).

Consider the story of Cain and Abel. The sons of Adam and Eve brought offerings to the Lord. Cain brought the Lord an offering of fruit from the earth and Abel brought the firstborn from his flock. The Lord favors Abel’s sacrifice, and gives Can some stern instruction. Later on Cain leads Abel to the fields, where he murders him. Envy, along with anger, is thought to be the motivation behind Cain murdering his brother. Even though Cain and Abel lived thousands of years ago, the heart of man has not changed.

God may choose to bless a person with wealth, intellect, or a good personality. However, some become envious, even bitter towards this person. Why? Because they have been given many good things. What if this was your brother or sister, or mother or father? Wouldn’t you rejoice in the blessings given to them? If you can’t revel in the goodness of God, then there is something wrong in your heart. Similarly, if you cannot weep with a man who loses everything, there is something wrong in your heart.

Christians of all people should rejoice when God pours forth His goodness on others because Christians know that God first poured out mercy and goodness to them while they were still a slave to their sin.

Worldly wisdom might say that envy is a good thing. While envy can inspire us to work and be ambitious so that we can obtain the things we desire, this is false wisdom that the Bible warns us of, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:14,15)

Overcoming Envy

Because of man’s fallen nature, we cannot forever escape feelings of envy, but we can fight against it. Envy is destroyed by love, kindness, and being content with what has been given us: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Rm. 12:15) In the game of Chess there are kings and queens, knights and bishops and rooks, and then there are pawns. Each piece has a function, a purpose in the game. Each piece, by it’s own means, can secure a checkmate. Similarly, God has assigned us roles in life, and given us the gifts and abilities to fulfill these roles:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. -Romans 12:4-8

From this passage we can discern why envy has no place in a Christian heart. There is honor in each role, and each role has a purpose in the whole. Sometimes our roles change, or turn out to be something we did not expect. But all along the way, God is with us.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
– I Corinthians 12:4-6

Amen