We will get angry in life. But that doesn’t mean we must fall to the vice of wrath. We can choose wrath, or we can choose love and forgiveness instead. Vengeance is not ours; let it go.
The Victory in Virtue Series
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. Today is the fourth part of Fight the Vices. This is where we look at the vices we need to avoid as Christians. Today’s post is on the vice of wrath.
Is there a difference between wrath and anger? Well, wrath is anger when it’s gotten out of control. But anger leads to wrath. If we don’t stop our anger from growing, it will become wrath soon enough. And this goes against the teachings of the New Testament. Vengeance, wrath, these things aren’t ours. They belong to God, not us.
So that’s today’s topic. Let’s get right into it.
What Is the Vice of Wrath?
Wrath. Noun: 1) strong vengeful anger or indignation; 2) retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement
Can you see what’s in common with definitions one and two? Vengeance (vengeful), retribution. The vice of wrath is more than simple anger, though that’s an important part of it. Anger is a natural emotion that we understandably feel when we’ve been wronged or there’s an injustice. In the Bible we see many times when the LORD became angry at the sins of the world. Anger is natural, there’s a reason for it when it arises. And anger is neutral; it’s not a sin on it’s own, depending on how we act on it.
But the vice of wrath is different. We fall to the vice of wrath when our anger grows into vengeful anger, a desire for revenge. The desire to get payback for something. But this desire goes against the teachings of the Gospel. And it’s even worse if we act on our anger and exact punishment for a wrongdoing (definition two, above).
Taking revenge is forbidden in the Bible. Vengeance is a temptation because it feels good, and even thinking about it can feel good. But it’s a luxury we have no right to. The Gospels teach us to take the harder route, not the self-indulgent gratification of revenge.
Jesus specifically taught us not to retaliate, but instead to humbly turn the other cheek when others do us wrong. Jesus showed us the ultimate example of this when He humbly submitted to His crucifixion instead of fighting it.
(38) “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. (39) But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.Matthew 5:38-39 (CEB)
My favorite explanation of this is Romans 12:19-21, which quotes the Old Testament. This passage reminds us that wrath is not our jurisdiction or right; wrath belongs to the LORD, not us. And it’s pointless anyway, because wrath and anger do nothing to right a wrong. Defeat evil deeds with good deeds, not more evil.
(19) Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, “Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord”. (20) Instead, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head”. (21) Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.Romans 12:19-21 (CEB)
Verse 19 quotes Deuteronomy 32:35, and verse 20 quotes Proverbs 25:21-22. The bottom line is ….
Vengeance, wrath, is not ours. It’s the LORD’s right; we have no right to it. As for us, we must turn the other cheek.
It’s not our place to judge, and although we do have a duty to rebuke sinners, we have no right to punish them. We are not the ones who give out the punishments; the LORD is. Our job isn’t punishment, our job is to turn the other cheek and be patient with others. I’ll discuss this more in the Spiritual wrath section, below.
Anyway, let’s talk about anger. Anger is natural, but wrath is a result of letting our anger grow out of control. If someone slaps us, like Jesus said in Matthew 5:39, naturally we’re going to be angry about it. Furious, even. But we can choose to control our anger, ignore our anger, and turn the other cheek. Jesus never said we can’t or won’t feel angry about things that happen.
If we love Jesus and want to obey His Commandments, we need to choose to control our anger or ignore it. We need to choose to be patient with those who cause us harm. We need to choose Romans 12:19, Matthew 5:39; we need to choose to turn the other cheek. We must never allow our emotions to cause us to harm others, we must control our anger before it grows.
We must never allow our natural emotion, anger, to lead to the vice of wrath. Our anger is not an excuse to take retribution.
Once again turning to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned us about anger. He warned us that everyone who’s angry with another will be in danger of judgment. This is a clear warning: Anger is a sin that ends in judgment; don’t be angry with one another.
(22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.Matthew 5:22 (CEB)
We know that anger is natural, it arises in response to wrongs done to us, or injustice. We can’t control what emotions arise in us, or when. But we can control what we do about them.
When we feel anger in response to what someone has done, we can choose to forgive instead. It’s harder, but we can make that choice. We can turn the other cheek. We can choose to let our anger go, and give it all to the LORD in prayer.
If we hold on to our anger, and allow it to grow, we will soon fall to the vice of wrath. We will think about payback, which doesn’t belong to us. We will harbor the vengeful anger that does us no good, because vengeance is not ours. This vengeful anger leads to sinful thoughts of revenge and hate, which will turn into sinful actions before long.
And before that happens, our anger will spill out and affect others. We’ll get mad at people who didn’t even do anything to us. The anger we’re holding inside will cause strife, a sin the LORD hates. Strife brings us into conflict with others the LORD wants us to love instead. Strife will ruin relationships, families, marriages, and anything else through bitterness and spite.
If we allow it to grow, our natural anger, which is not a sin, will turn into the vice of wrath, which is a sin. Let go of anger. Turn the other cheek when harmed by others. Practice forgiveness. Follow the teachings of our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. He didn’t teach us to be angry; anger is the opposite of what He taught. He taught us to forgive, and be patient with others like God forgives and is patient with us. If God is patient with us for our sins, what gives us any right to be angry with others for theirs?
(21) Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” (22) Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.Matthew 18:21-22 (CEB)
Don’t be angry! It leads to the vice of wrath. Give all the pain and anger you feel when wronged to the LORD, through prayer. He will take it from you, and make you feel better.
Now then, let’s move on to the Spiritual part of the vice of wrath.
Like any other vice, wrath also has a Spiritual element. To describe it in only a few words, I would define Spiritual wrath as: “Judging, being judgmental.”
This is because when we fall to the vice of Spiritual wrath, we stumble into the pitfall of seeing the sins of others but not our own. Then we give in to the temptation of judging others, which is also a grave sin and goes against Jesus’ teachings.
For more on Spiritual wrath, we once again turn to Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross. He says:
There are other of these spiritual persons, again, who fall into another kind of spiritual wrath: this happens when they become irritated at the sins of others, […] At times the impulse comes to them to reprove them angrily, and occasionally they go so far as to indulge it and set themselves up as masters of virtue.John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, Page 14
(John of the Cross also gives two other definitions for Spiritual wrath. One is being irritated at not finding delight and pleasure in Spiritual activities. The other is being too angry with ourselves for our sins and imperfections. All are Spiritual wrath, according to him.)
It’s easy for Christians to fall to the vice of Spiritual wrath. I have a great problem with this Spiritual vice, and I fall to it often. It’s something I’m working on. It’s easy to fall to this vice because in the same way we feel natural anger toward injustice and being wronged, when we follow the LORD we naturally feel angry about sin and those who live in sin.
When we follow the LORD and work to fight our sins, the sins of others make us angry. But if we judge or feel too angry, we fall to the vice of Spiritual wrath.
I said I have a problem with this Spiritual vice. Well I can tell you what sins anger me.
Unbelief, heresy, and idolatry make me furious. I feel anger toward the Jews for not admitting that Jesus is the Messiah, He is the Savior. I feel anger toward Catholics because they pray to Mary and their thousands of saints, when 1 Timothy 2:5 tells us to pray to no one except Jesus. There’s nothing in the Bible that tells us to pray to Mary, or any saint. I feel anger toward Catholics because they make so many icons and idols, as if Jesus won’t hear their prayers unless they make a statue of Him and pray to it. But I have to remember I feel so much anger toward them because … I used to be one of them!
Moving away from matters of Faith, promiscuity and partying make me angry. I feel angry when I see people living hedonistic lives of pleasure seeking, following the short-lived, momentary desires of the flesh wherever they lead. Not thinking of the afterlife and drawing closer to God, but only thinking of pleasure and what they want to do today. And again … I used to live like this too! So who am I to be angry about what they do? I have no right to be angry.
My Spirit convicts me over this anger. I know it’s wrong to feel this anger. But I pray everyone would Wise up and see the Truth and Wisdom of the Bible. I pray everyone will reform their ways, give up sin, and turn back to the LORD. And I feel anger when they don’t. That’s all.
Even so, I know I must stay patient with sinners, all sinners. For one reason because I am one too, and always will be. But more importantly because God is patient with me and forgives me. If I’m not patient with my fellow humans in return, then I’m disobeying and insulting the LORD. This is a problem I fall into sometimes. It’s an area I struggle with.
Remember how I said anger is natural? When people harm us, we feel anger because it’s a violation. When it comes to anger over the sins of others, we feel anger because we know they’re violating God’s law. It’s natural we should feel anger over that; we obey God’s law because we love Him. When others disrespect Him, the anger we feel is a tiny piece of His anger toward them.
But that anger doesn’t give us an excuse to judge. We can correct and rebuke others for their sins, but we must never forget that we are sinners too. Everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So while we have a duty to correct others, we have no right to judge others. We have to be patient with them, same as always.
Jesus taught this by example, when He refused to condemn the adulterous woman in John 8. The crowd wanted to stone her to death. Jesus told them that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone.
(4) they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. (5) In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” (6) […] (7) They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.”John 8:4-5; 7 (CEB)
In other words, we are in no position to condemn others. In the same way that the vice of wrath is taking payback we aren’t entitled to, and exacting punishment we have no authority to give, the vice of Spiritual wrath is condemning others for their sins when we have no right to.
The Vice of Spiritual wrath will lead to us being judged. Remember, Jesus taught us not to judge. If we do, we’ll be judged ourselves. When we know we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23), we can’t allow ourselves to get angry over the sins of others. We have no right; we’re filthy with sin and casting the first stone.
Fight the vice of Spiritual wrath. Don’t judge.
(1) “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. (2) You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. (3) Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?Matthew 7:1-3 (CEB)
What’s the Antidote?
There’s at least one Virtue that can cancel out any vice. There is no vice that can’t be conquered.
The Virtue of Charity is about more than giving money to the poor or volunteering. The Virtue of Charity is all about love for our fellow human beings. If we love others unconditionally, we won’t hold on to our anger toward them. When they sin against us, we will turn the other cheek and forgive them. We do this because we love them as God loves us, and we forgive them like God forgives us. This isn’t easy, but this is what Jesus calls us to do.
The Virtues of Patience and Fortitude enable us to endure the sins of others while praying for them to change. To endure the pain of their sins while we turn the other cheek. Without Patience, we get angry at those who sin, and this anger leads to the vice of wrath. If we have the Virtue of Patience, we’ll be slow to anger, which means we’ll be slow to wrath. Jesus taught us to forgive, to turn the other cheek … but this isn’t easy. We need Patience and Fortitude to bear the sins of others because God is so patient with us.
With these antidote Virtues, we can keep our anger in check and practice forgiveness. And this is the only way we’ll avoid the vice of wrath, because people are going to cause us anger in life no matter what. We can’t control the actions of others, and people will sin against us. The anger we feel in response is natural, but we have the power to let that anger go. We can be loving (Charitable), Patient, turn the other cheek, and give all our anger to God in prayer. This is a choice that’s within our power. So let’s take the right choice.
We will get angry in life. But that doesn’t mean we must fall to the vice of wrath. We can choose wrath, or we can choose love and forgiveness instead. Vengeance is not ours; let it go. Let’s give all our anger to the LORD in prayer, and receive His healing.
So these are the Virtues that counteract and conquer the vice of wrath. But our most potent weapon against wrath is prayer. So let’s now move on to some prayers we can use to guard against the vice of wrath, and fight it in our own lives.
Prayers against the Vice of Wrath
There are many prayers we could pray to combat the vice of wrath. The best ones of course will be the ones that we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for help in fighting a vice is the best way to fight it. So here are a few short, simple prayers to combat the vice of wrath that you can try adding to your prayer routine.
Grant Me Strength to Endure their Sins
The vice of wrath comes from vengeful anger. The natural and understandable desire to get back at those who hurt us. If we hold onto this desire for vengeance, our anger will grow instead of fading, and we will quickly fall to the vice of wrath.
The New Testament teaches us to forgive, to turn the other cheek. To leave wrath up to God. What we’re called to do is simple … but not easy. Turning the other cheek is one of the hardest things we could ever do.
So here’s a short prayer asking for the LORD’s help in doing that, and letting our anger go.
LORD, other’s have sinned against me. Please grant me the strength to turn the other cheek to their sins. Please grant me the strength to endure the pain of their sins against me. And please take my anger over the pain they’ve caused. I come to you in prayer telling you that they truly hurt me bad, and I feel anger over it. Please heal my heart so I can move on and get over my anger, forgive, and avoid the vice of wrath. Amen.
Rebuke Me when I Judge
We fall to the vice of Spiritual wrath most easily when we feel anger over the sins of others. This anger grows and becomes wrath. But Jesus taught us that we have no right to take this attitude. Remember: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. My life before being Saved was full of sin, how about yours? And I still sin now, although I’m much better than I was then, and I’m always working to get better. But this means I have no right to cast the first stone. Neither does anyone else on this planet.
If Jesus doesn’t condemn us, then how can we possibly condemn anyone else? Be Patient with sinners who live lives of sin, because God is always so Patient with us. If He gave us the chance to turn to Him and be saved, then He wants to give that chance to everyone. So until people are ready to give up their sins, we have to be Patient with them, and not judge.
So here’s a quick prayer about not judging. It asks the LORD to rebuke us in the Spirit when we judge.
LORD, thank You for calling me back to You and saving me. But now that I’m saved, I have a problem judging sinners for their lives of sin. Please rebuke me in the Spirit when I judge others, LORD. Please show me the log in my own eye so I don’t fall to the vice of Spiritual wrath over the sins of others. Please grant me Wisdom so I keep things in the right perspective. We are all sinners, and I am no different or better. Amen.
Prayer of Forgiveness
If we truly forgive others for what they’ve done to us, and the pain they caused, then we will stop the vice of wrath in its tracks. If we forgive, we will let go of that vengeful anger before it grows into the vice of wrath. It’s God’s Will that we forgive others, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s hard … but we have to do it. If we don’t, we’ll fall to wrath.
So I’d like to share with you a forgiveness prayer that I pray daily. It’s one of my favorite prayers. This was written by Frank Hammond and is taken from his booklet entitled: Forgiving Others. You can buy it here on Amazon (AFFILIATE LINK).
Lord, others have trespassed against me, but in obedience to Your command and following Your example, I now forgive each person who has ever hurt me in any way. As an act of my will I now forgive [name them, both living and dead]. Lord, I bless each of these, and I love them with your love. I ask you to forgive them, also. And because You have forgiven me, I also forgive and accept myself in the love of Jesus Christ. The Curse of unforgiveness has no more power over me. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!
Again, there are so many ways to pray against any vice. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to act (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Fighting the Vice
To fight a vice, we must change our behavior and be consistent about that. We can’t do something new a few times and stop there. We must stick with our new ways, turning our back on our old sins. This consistency is how we build up a habit. It’s also how we cultivate and strengthen a Virtue, which are the “antidotes” to vice.
So how can we do that to fight wrath? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can fight the vice of wrath in our own lives:
- Find a hobby that helps reduce anger and stress
- Study negotiation and other communication skills to have less conflicts with others
- And other ideas you can think of!
When anger is allowed to grow, it becomes wrath. So to fight the vice, we need to do something to relieve our anger, which is a natural emotion that we will feel when others wrong us. The best, most reliable way to get rid of anger is to give it to the LORD in prayer. When angry, turn to the LORD and let Him know about it. But besides that, there are other ways to deal with anger.
There are many hobbies or activities we can do to relieve our anger. Tough physical exercise is the best, because it’ll use up our energy, including our anger energy. We can even use our anger during the workout to push ourselves harder, doing tougher exercise and also using up more of our anger energy. Once we’re tired out, we won’t be so angry anymore.
But tough physical exercise isn’t the only activity that relieves anger and stress. Other hobbies, like gardening or artwork, are highly effective at helping with anger. Doing art for even 30 minutes releases chemicals in our system that reduces stress levels. Gardening is also a great way to calm ourselves.
If we can find healthy, productive, and positive ways to manage our anger so it doesn’t turn into the vice of wrath, it’s a win-win for us and a lose-lose for the devil!
Next, many of the disagreements with others that cause us anger stem from misunderstandings or our lack of communication skills. If we study different communication skills, like deescalation and negotiation, we should have fewer conflicts with others. This is because we should be able to express ourselves clearly, figure out the other person’s view, and work out our differences without letting the situation turn into an argument.
Studying negotiation is a great thing to do. Negotiation lets us get what we want without forcing anyone to give it to us. When we negotiate, we get others to agree to give us what we’re asking for, in exchange for something. Negotiation helps us to get what we need from others without making anyone angry or causing any arguments. It’s a good skill to have.
For a great book on communication skills, I recommend the famous classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (AFFILIATE LINK). This is one of the best books on communication skills, and teaches a lot about how to communicate better with less arguments. Less arguments with others leads to less anger all around, which leads to less wrath.
Don’t Feed that Fire
Anger is a natural emotion. When we feel anger, there’s a reason for it. And if we look in the Bible, we see that even God and Jesus got angry at times. It’s only natural we feel angry when other harm us, or when we’re living a Christian life and see others violating God’s Law. In other words, sin makes us angry. And this isn’t a bad thing—that’s how it’s supposed to be.
But once our anger arises, now we have a choice of what to do with it. We can get rid of it, by taking it to God in prayer while we also enjoy activities that help us relieve our anger. Or, we can allow our anger to grow. We can think thoughts of revenge, giving fuel and oxygen to the fire of anger. Soon that fire will spread out of control, and anger toward someone who wronged us is all we think about.
Once that anger gets out of control, it becomes wrath. This is how we fall to the vice of wrath. And if our thoughts are filled with wrath, wrathful actions will follow soon enough.
If we let anger grow into wrath, we’ve failed the LORD and must REPENT! Jesus taught us to forgive others, like God forgives us. We can’t help being mad at those who harm us, but we can choose to turn the other cheek and let it go. Like what God does for us when we REPENT! of our sins to Him. How dare we go to God for His forgiveness and not repay the favor to others?
This same idea applies to the vice of Spiritual wrath too. Who are we to throw the first stone in judgment of others? Even after being Saved, we still have sin in our lives and need to battle it. Jesus taught us we’re in no position to judge others. So fight the vice of Spiritual wrath, don’t judge, an be patient with those living in sin.
It hurts when others sin against us, but in the same way it hurts God when we sin against Him. So let’s keep that in mind, and obey the teachings of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. Forgive, forgive, forgive, and forgive some more. Turn the other cheek. And let go of all the anger over it! If we can do this difficult task, we can defeat the vice of wrath in our lives.
Never forget: Vengeance is not ours! It belongs to the LORD. Vengeance is a luxury we are not entitled to.
If the devil tempts us to wrath, he tempts us to disobey the LORD and take what doesn’t belong to us. To take the vengeance that only belongs to the LORD. So the devil tempts us into a grievous sin. And not only that, but whatever vengeance we can come up with is nothing compared with the punishment the LORD can give. So the vice of wrath not only works against us, it also lets our offender off easy, because the payback we inflict on them will be so much nicer than what the LORD would do to them.
But by far the worst part of the vice of wrath is the anger we hold onto while our wrath is building up. This anger poisons our soul, making us bitter and spiteful. It ruins relationships, opportunities, and families. It consumes us and our lives if we don’t take care of it quick.
Don’t feed the fire of anger! Let it go, forgive, and take all pain to the LORD in prayer. Give it to Him, because He can deal with it. Letting anger grow leads to the vice of wrath, which leads to sins the LORD hates. Put out that fire now—let go of anger today, before it gets out of control.
The vice for next time is lust. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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