Question: I realize that love and humility are Christian virtues, but what about when you see injustice? I sometimes get so upset when I read about some of the terrible things going on in the world. Is it always wrong to be angry?
Answer: “Don’t be quick to fly off the handle” is one interpretation of the scriptural advice about anger,1 but it doesn’t mean that we should never be stirred up about anything.
Think about when Jesus arrived at the temple in Jerusalem. A busy crowd of people thronged the open courtyard. There was such noise and commotion as the stallholders sold their wares: doves and pigeons, sheep and oxen—whatever was needed for the temple sacrifices. Money changed hands while people bartered, argued, pleaded. It was a seller’s market.
Jesus was outraged. This was meant to be a house of prayer, yet it had been turned into a busy and not entirely honest marketplace. He could have taken the sympathetic position that while the merchants were making a profit, at least they were providing a useful service by supplying what the worshippers needed in order to obey God’s law. Besides, the more people had to pay for their sacrifices, the more highly they’d value them. He could potentially have seen the good in the situation and gone on His way.
But that’s not what He did. The Gospels tell us that Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those that sold doves, and rebuked them for turning His Father’s house of prayer into a den of thieves. This incident is recorded in all four Gospels,2 which underlines its significance.
There are times when we do need to face up to things that are wrong. This does not mean being angry in our own spirit or that we should literally “overturn the tables.” God’s Word warns, “Don’t get so angry that you sin. Don’t go to bed angry.”3 Still, there are occasions when we should stand up for what is right. Holding to our convictions about truth and justice is part of following Christ.
A man that does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. Now and then a man should be shaken to the core with indignation over things evil.
—Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887)