Key Scriptures: Exodus 32-34, Psalm 37:8, Proverbs 14:29, James 1:19-20, Ephesians 4;26-31, Proverbs 15;1, Proverbs 19:11, Ecclesiastes 7:9, Proverbs 29:11, Proverbs 16:32, Proverbs 15:18, Colossians 3:8, Matthew 5:22, Romans 12:19, Proverbs 22:24, Galatians 5:19-21, Psalm, 4:4, Proverbs 12:16
Guiding Question: How does God want us to handle our anger?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in newspaper and/or magazine articles that include at least one angry person. Have students share other things they have noticed people do when they are angry. Make a list of good and bad ways people express anger without commenting on the appropriateness of each.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics) Read (or tell) the story of the Golden Calf found in Exodus 32-34. How angry was God? What did God want to do to punish the people? How did God respond to Moses’ request for mercy? How angry was Moses? What did he say and do? What did Moses do the next day?
Anger is an emotion. How much control do you think a person can have over an emotion like anger? The interesting thing about anger is that is it considered a secondary emotion. This means the first emotion you feel before getting angry is often fear, anxiety, worry, disappointment, sadness, discouragement, loss, or even boredom. Our brains begin to want to erase these negative emotions. Anger is one way to cover those other feelings. This means you can not only override the brain’s decision to get angry, you can control how angry you become and what you say and do when you are angry.
God has a lot to say about anger and how He wants us to respond when we are tempted to become angry. What do these verses tell us God expects from us? What do they tell us happens when we choose to become angry?
- Psalm 37:8 (Fretting leads to evil)
- Proverbs 14:29 (slow to anger shows great understanding)
- James 1:19-20 (Anger of man doesn’t produce right)
- Ephesians 4:31 (Put away bitterness, etc)
- Proverbs 19:11 (Glory to overlook offense)
- Ecclesiastes 7:9 (Anger lives in fools)
- Proverbs 29:11 (Restrained anger)
- Proverbs 16:32 (Slow to anger better than mighty)
- Proverbs 15:18 (Hot temper stirs up strife)
- Colossians 3:8 (Put away anger, etc.)
- Matthew 5:22 (Angry liable to judgment)
- Romans 12:19 (Let God avenge)
- Proverbs 22:24 (Don’t be friends with angry people)
- Galations 5:19-21 (Work of the flesh)
- Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26 (Don’t sin when you are angry)
- Proverbs 12:16 (Ignore insults)
Lets take a deeper look at those last two concepts. How hard is it for you to ignore an insult? Remember, we said anger is usually the second emotion you feel. What emotion are we really feeling when someone insults us? Why does it feel safer to be angry instead? Is being angry really a smarter choice? Why or why not? What are better ways of handling insults?
Still not convinced you can choose to ignore insults and not respond in anger? Jesus spent a good time in His ministry being insulted. Read what He said about how to treat those who insult – whom many would call their enemies. What do these verses tell us God wants us to do?
- Matthew 5:43-45
- Luke 6:31-42
- Matthew 5:21-22
- Matthew 5:5-9
- Mark 11:25
- Luke 17:3-4
In fact, Jesus modeled these verses himself in the most extreme way. Read Matthew 27:27-31. What did Jesus do while all for this was happening? Read Luke 23:34. What was the attitude towards those who were torturing and killing him?
You may remember though, God and Jesus become angry from time to time. You may have heard someone talk about “righteous” anger. So, what does righteous Godly anger look like in real life?
- It is about things that make God angry. Yes, God isn’t thrilled about someone making fun of you, but what types of things make God and Jesus angry? Read Mark 11:15 (People who were religious leaders taking advantage of poor, Godly people), Mark 3:1-6 (religious leaders twisting God’s Word or making their rules have the same weight as God’s), and Romans 1:18 (Those who reject God and try to keep others from following God). What types of things make God angry?
- It doesn’t result in your sinning against the person. Read Ephesians 4:26 again. Just because someone is doing something that would make God angry, it doesn’t give you permission to tell lies about them, steal from them, murder them, etc.
- It is slow to develop and gives people a chance to change and grow. Read Psalm 145:8, Psalm 103:8, and Exodus 34:6. If God is slow to anger and gives people a chance to change, it makes sense He would expect the same from us.
- It remembers vengeance and ultimate judgment are God’s responsibility. Read Romans 12:19 and Matthew 7:1-3. Most people don’t realize the verses in Matthew are about judging whether a person should be allowed to be a Christian or go to Heaven – not discerning whether an action is right or wrong. Only God gets to decide who goes to Heaven. We can, however, speak out against evil in Godly ways.
- It focuses more on helping those hurt than destroying those doing the hurting. Read Isaiah 1:17, Zechariah 7:9-10, Proverbs 31:9, Romans 12:15-18, James 1:27, and Matthew 25:35-36. What do they tell us we should do?
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Ask students how well they think they can control their anger. Have them share they types of things that tend to make them angry. Create a master list. For each scenario, have students share if it is something they need to learn to let go (and learn to control their anger), or if it is a righteous anger scenario, go back and have students share ways to prevent getting angry or to handle the righteous anger appropriately.
Teach students the following steps for controlling their anger:
- Think about what clues your body and/or brain are giving you that you are becoming angry. (clenched fists, thinking “ugh!”, etc.)
- Teach yourself to notice when these things begin to happen.
- Say “Stop!” in your head when you feel yourself becoming angry.
- Walk away from the situation. Be honest and tell the person you need a minute to calm yourself down.
- Find an activity that calms you. (Prayer, deep breathing, running, etc.)
- Use conflict resolution skills if necessary to resolve the situation
Depending on your groups of teens, you may also want to discuss appropriate, effective, godly ways of bringing about change in areas of social justice/righteous anger.
Application Challenge: Spend time this week really noticing how often you get angry, what makes you angry, and what happens when you are angry. Using strategies learned in class, make changes to be more godly in your anger.
Author: Thereasa Winnett