The Righteous Anger of Christ
Perhaps one of the best-known examples of anger in the Bible is the righteous anger of Jesus in an incident known as the cleansing of the temple (see Matt. 21:12-13). The temple was the center for all Jewish worship. Everything about Jewish faith that was considered holy, beautiful, and meaningful had the temple as its focal point. At the heart of their worship was the sacrifice of animals and birds. These rituals were a sign of the Jews’ total dependency upon God and their total surrender to Him.
People who came to the temple seeking to keep the Law and make a sacrifice had to purchase a lamb or dove with temple currency. They had to exchange regular currency for temple coins. But greedy high priests could set the exchange rate and price of the animals very high.
In Matthew 21, Jesus went to the temple to teach, heal, and worship. But what the Lord found there made Him so angry, He “drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves” (Matt. 21:12).
The high priests had made it impossible for the poor to enter the temple and worship God through sacrifice.
So Jesus drove them from the temple, saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den” (Matt. 21:13).
The Lord’s anger was motivated by the extortion in the temple and the damage it was doing. His righteous indignation was in opposition to the greedy, manipulative behavior of the religious authorities who were mistreating Israel’s poor.
What makes an angry expression or behavior justified? Justified anger is purposeful and beneficial to someone who is being mistreated, hurt, or taken advantage of. Justified anger always seeks to bring a situation or circumstance in line with God’s commandments and to further His kingdom on earth.
Unjustified anger is self-motivated and vengeful. It seeks to get even or destroy. It’s ultimately of no benefit to any person, although the angry person may think he’s reaping a temporary victory. Most anger these days is bad or unjustified because it’s centered only on the individual and what he or she wants.
Was Jesus’ anger justified in cleansing the temple? Absolutely. People were abusing the house of the Lord God, and chief priests and scribes were stealing, lying, and misusing their positions and privileges. And they were preventing a host of people from coming and worshiping at the temple.
Any time the Bible reveals anger in the Trinity, there’s a common, consistent reason for it. The anger comes from injustice and things that hurt God’s people. When the Lord gets angry, it’s always with a reason and purpose.