4

Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (the origins of which are described at this question). However, Jesus was shown to be angry.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. — Mark 3:5 (NIV)

While the passages don't specifically say it, it certainly seems like Jesus was also angry during the cleansing of the Temple.

Despite this, Jesus was without sin.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

If Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, how could Jesus have been angry yet still be sinless?

  • 1
    And let's not forget Ephesians 4:26-27, which reads: “'Be angry, and do not sin'”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." Paul isn't commanding us here to be angry! He is, however, encouraging us to get a handle on that anger so that it doesn't morph into a foothold for the devil. Nursing anger leads to sin; dealing with anger properly and promptly leads to righteousness. Finally, anger can sometimes be called, aptly, "righteous indignation," which describes Jesus' reaction to his disciples who shooed away the parents who brought kids to Jesus (see Mk 10:14). – rhetorician Oct 6 '16 at 19:50
9

The short answer is, “anger” in this context refers to two distinct, but related things.

What Jesus showed (literally) in the cleansing of the Temple, and God (metaphorically)* when the Israelites forged the Golden Calf is the passion that we experience when we are face-to-face with an difficult evil. (See Summa theologiae [S.Th] Ia-IIae, q. 23, a. 3, corpus.)

A passion, however, is not sinful, in and of itself; and (as Jesus shows) the passion of anger is very much appropriate when we are faced with an injustice.

On the other hand, when we are talking about the sin of anger, we mean either acts of disproportionate anger (as in the desire for revenge referred to in the O.P.) or else the so-called “capital sin” or “deadly sin” of anger, which is, strictly speaking not a sin exactly, but a habit of sin, or vice. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] no. 1866.)

So there is nothing wrong with the passion of anger, provided it is directed to a proportional evil or injustice. “Anger” is a sin when the passion is fostered out of all proportion to the evil, especially when it leads one to desire revenge.


*God, in His Divine Nature, is pure spirit, so, strictly speaking, He does not experience the passion of anger. “Anger” is how Israelites experienced the punishment imposed by God.

  • 1
    Anger can be concupiscible or irascible? Yes, His anger was completely within the control of His reason. For sinners, this is difficult to do. – Geremia Oct 4 '16 at 15:49
  • 1
    @Geremia Anger is a passion brought about by the irascible appetite—the one that helps you overcome a difficult obstacle or obtain a difficult good. (In fact, that is where “irascible” gets its name—from ira; that is, wrath.) – AthanasiusOfAlex Oct 4 '16 at 19:08
  • 2
    @Geremia Of course, even for us, sometimes not being angry is disordered. For instance, if abortion does not make a person angry (at least on some level), there is something wrong. – AthanasiusOfAlex Oct 4 '16 at 19:11
2

Anger is not necessarily a sin by itself. The problem with anger, like the other Deadly Sins, is that it leads to the commission of sin.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill," our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice."

CCC 2302

In Mark 3, Jesus was not desiring vengeance in order to do evil to the Pharisees, he was angry because they were "looking for a reason to accuse [him]" (Mark 3:2) for healing on the Sabbath. Their attempt to prevent Jesus from doing good works on the Sabbath was unjust, so Jesus' anger was not sinful anger.

Similarly, Jesus was arguably angry with the money changers in the cleansing of the Temple because they had turned the Temple into a "den of robbers" (Mark 11:15-19). He was demanding restitution for the injustice (robbery/thievery) committed by the money changers.

God Himself is described as becoming angry elsewhere in the Bible. For example:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

Exodus 32:7-10 (NIV)

Although God is capable of anger, he is slow to anger and forgiving:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)

God's anger is not sinful because sin is, by definition, an offense against God (CCC 1850).

1

Anger is not necessarily a sin, Ephesians 4:26 says "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

So that implies that you can be angry but it should not be nurtured in one's heart, because doing so will result to revenge. Romans 12:19 says "Dear beloved, avenge not yourselves, but {rather} give place unto wrath:for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

So Jesus was angry but he still forgave them all. His intention was not to enable evil doing, but the opposite.

CCC 2302 Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice."

  • Welcome! Thanks for contributing. This does suggest why Jesus's anger is not sin, but it doesn't explain why anger is one of Catholicism's "seven deadly sins." That's an important part of the question, so I'd suggest addressing it as well. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. – Nathaniel Oct 5 '16 at 14:10
  • @Prince This is a good first answer! Nathaniel has given a great suggestion and I would certainly upvote the answer if it were modified to address that concern. – Thunderforge Oct 5 '16 at 14:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.