Taking Out the Trash
Col 3:8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
As we continue along with Paul’s admonitions about practical living based on our position in Jesus Christ, we already saw Paul calling for the Colossians to put sin to death. Because of what God has done for us through Christ, and because we live in His presence, our response is to live a holy life out of gratitude.
Ephesians 5:1 (NASB) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
When we were young and growing up, if we had godly and loving parents, we would want to imitate them. And in the same way, we as God’s children, are to imitate our heavenly father. When people see us, they should see a reflection of our Father. When we say we are Christians, it doesn’t mean we are American, it means we are followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. We often fail to realize how important our behavior is to our testimony.
2 Corinthians 3:2 (NASB) You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
If we are living epistles, then our letters better be good. What do people learn when they read our letter? As God’s children, are lives are to be a reflection of our heavenly Father. God is holy and we are to be holy also.
Paul continues to list sins that are to be put aside:
Colossians 3:8 (NASB) But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
In verse 5, we are told to put to death certain sexual sins. The word used in vs. 5 is the one from which we get necrosis. Now here in vs. 8 and 9 we are to “put aside” these 5 sins. God wants us to remove these things from our lives.
The common element in these sins is that they all come from the mouth. And one of the sad things about it that these sins are often tolerated and accepted in Christian circles.
Paul starts verse 8 with “But now” to make a contrast with verse 7:
Colossians 3:6-7 (NASB) For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
Verse seven is talking about life before Christ, and then verse 8 says “But now.” When we come to Christ, we have a radical change that happens in our life. We have a new identity in Christ, and it is this new identity that is the basis of living our new life.
Paul tells them, But now…put them all aside.” Now – as believers – we are to put off the following sins, because they are not to be part of our life in Christ.
The Greek word here means: “cast off, lay apart (aside, down), put away (off).” It can refer to taking off a cloak. This word is used in Rom 13:12 where it tells us to: “…lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
“Put aside” is not as strong a term as “put to death” from verse five. This word is found in Acts when Steven was stoned.
Acts 7:58 (NASB) And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid asidetheir robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
God wants us to put away the sins of this verse: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, like we would take off dirty clothes after working in the yard, or working on the car. The first of these sins Paul mentions is anger.
The Greek definition of “Anger” speaks of a resentment over time, not a sudden outburst. It is associated with both anger and revenge. The Greek dictionary says this anger “proceeds from an internal disposition which steadfastly opposes someone or something based on extended personal exposure.” So this Greek word here describes continuous anger over time.
We know that sudden outbursts of anger are very common in our society. Don’t hesitate after the traffic signal turns green, or you’ll have someone laying on their horn. And grudges, and resentment, are also commonplace in the home. We may not ever think about murder, or theft, but we may be tempted to anger. Christians do get angry. Many of us simply hold that anger inside, rather than voicing it. So, although we may not show it, we let it seethe within us. So we need to recognize this sin, and deal with it. Anger affects all of us, and if we allow anger to control us, the cost will be high.
Not all anger is sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, and do not sin….” This tells us something very important – there is an anger we can have that is not sinful. Anger in the Bible is sometimes attributed to God, so we see that not all anger is sinful. And if we are to imitate our heavenly Father, then there are times when we should be angry too.
Paul says in Colossians 3:8 to put away anger, but in Ephesians 4:26, he says, “Be angry”. We have two seemingly conflicting statements from Paul. Since the Bible does not contradict itself, that tells us that there are two kinds of anger. The anger which is from the flesh is to be laid aside. The anger which is according to God’s righteousness is to be put on. Paul tells the Ephesians to be angry in a way that is righteous, a way that reflects God’s righteousness.
God was angry at the unbelief of Moses, when he didn’t want to obey God when he was told to go and confront Pharaoh, to let the Israelites to leave Egypt. God is angered by the mistreatment of those who are helpless, the strangers, the widows, and the orphans (Exodus 22:21-24). God was also angered by men turning to the worship of idols (Deuteronomy 6:14-15).
We may think nothing of grumbling or complaining, but God is angered by those things.
Numbers 11:1 Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.
Jesus also expressed anger. He was angry at the Pharisees when they opposed His healing of men on the Sabbath day. “He looked upon them with anger” (Mark 3:5). He was grieved and angered because they didn’t care about those who were suffering.
Godly men were also angered by unrighteousness. Moses became angry when he came down from the mountain and saw Israel’s sin (Exodus 32:1-20). David was no doubt angered by Goliath’s blasphemy. Paul was angered when he learned that false teaching had reached the saints in Galatia, and that some were embracing it. The whole epistle of Paul to the Galatians expresses Paul’s anger at false teaching.
So what’s the difference between righteous anger and sinful anger? Sinful anger, is anger that is self-centered. It is always wrong. Sinful anger is part of the old self and is to be put off. If you are angry because your feelings have been hurt, or your pride has been injured, or you have been mistreated in some way, – this is sinful anger and is to be put off as part of the old life.
The Cause Of Sinful Anger
One of the major causes of anger is pride. When things don’t go the way we want, if we didn’t get that promotion, or our kids don’t do what we tell them to do, our pride is offended and we get angry. People who are humble are less likely to get angry because they don’t feel they are deserving of something better. Nothing causes anger as quickly as thinking too highly of ourselves. The more we exalt ourselves, the more justified we will feel in being angry with the person who offended us:
Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
If we admit that controlling anger is not within our power, then we get closer to the solution. We need supernatural help, because it is something we can’t do in our own strength. The Christian is called to love the person with whom we are angry:
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
The first thing Paul says about love is that it “is patient.” This is the Greek word makrothumeo, this word, as it is used in the New Testament, is a word that almost on every occasion conveys the idea of having an infinite capacity to be injured without seeking revenge. It is used with regard to people, not circumstances. It’s having a long fuse. The loving person is able to be inconvenienced or taken advantage of by a person and yet not be upset or angry.
Does this describe us? Please understand that to not be a loving person, to be angry at someone, is not some small character flaw; it is to break the command of Christ Himself, to love one another.
Wrath or Rage
Rage and anger are different. “Anger” is the long lasting, settled hatred of the mind. “Wrath” is more like a stirred up mind. The Greeks compared it to a fire that quickly catches on, but that also burns out quickly. Rage is used in Luke 4:28 to describe those in the synagogue at Nazareth who exploded in anger upon hearing Jesus’ teaching, that the Gospel would go to foreigners.
“Anger” is similar to heat, while wrath or rage is the bursting forth in flame. “Anger” is less sudden in its rise, but more lasting. “Wrath” is a more agitated state. “Anger” is a more settled and abiding condition of the attitude – frequently with a view to taking revenge. It is less sudden in its rise, but longer lasting in its nature.
“Anger” expresses more of an inward feeling. Wrath or rage expresses actions emerging out of strong impulses (intense emotion).
The Greek definition of this word is: malice, ill-will, or desire to injure. It is a desire to cause hurt to others. “Malice” is a feeling of hostility and strong dislike, possibly leading to the desire of harming someone. And just like anger and rage, we are to “put away” or take off any such behavior which is so harmful to our testimony and to our relationship with the Lord and others.
Anger, wrath, and malice may result in slander. The Greek word translated “slander” is blasphemia, from which we get our English word blasphemy. When used in relation to God, it is translated: “blasphemy.” When used in relation to people, as in this verse, it is translated: “slander.” To slander people, is not much different from blaspheming God. He created men and women in His image.
Slander means to speak ill of someone and hurt their name and reputation. It means to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation.
Do our sentences start with “Do you know what I just heard?” Or “Do you know what I think about that man?” We’re probably involved in gossip, and possibly even slander. Do we pass on second-hand, unauthorized, unproven, information about people? We don’t know whether its true or false, but we pass it along as if it were fact. Is it something we would put in writing?
These sins seem to all go together. If one of them is present, chances are good that the others will be there as well. Abusive speech is from the Greek word aischrologia, meaning: “filthy talk, or foul language. This word is used only one time in the New Testament writings. It refers to obscene and derogatory speech intended to hurt and wound someone. It could be translated: “foulmouthed abuse”.
This list of sins in verse 8 ends with “…from your mouth.” This phrase certainly refers to the foul language, but it could also refer back to all the other things that Paul mentions in this verse.
Jesus said that the mouth reveals what is in the heart. James said: “How can both bitter and pure waters come out of the same fountain? How can both praise to God and curse of men come out of the same mouth (James 3:10,11)?”
Words can tear down, and words can build up. As those who are in Christ, we have the ability to choose our words wisely. If we say something unkind to someone, it sticks in their mind. If we say something nice and edifying to someone, well that sticks in their mind as well. The Apostle Paul gives us great guidance on speech.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.
May all our speech be that which builds one another up.