When we read the passage of Jesus’ actions with the money changers and merchants in the temple we often see it as both a justification and a call to have “righteous anger.” When we look at our world today we see things far, far worse, at least in our judgment, that some people making a buck from selling doves and lambs or bankers exchanging currency. We see massive oppression. We see terrorist plots. We see rape and murder. We see every type of cruelty and sin known to man. It makes us angry. We want to take action – to just do something – but we don’t know where to begin.
Psalm 4:4 says, “in your anger, do not sin.” On one hand this sounds a lot like the Hippocratic Oath, “primum non nocere“, “first, do no harm.” But I think there is a distinction. It is OK to be angry. That, however, is not justification to sin.
We can and should be angry and we should be bold to tell the good news of Jesus Christ and draw others to Him. We should stand out as a contrast to the sin of the world. We should be a target as one who stands on the side of righteousness. We should not be afraid or hesitant to speak and act in ways that acknowledge that simply because the will of man deems something to be legal or acceptable, does not mean that it is no longer a sin in the eyes of God (see Matthew 19 for a discussion by Jesus on divorce). We should not engage in the sins of the world through acquiescence and silence as happened in the day of Lot and his family.
Contrary to the “first do no harm” principle, however, we are always called to take action. But what type of action we are called by the bible to take does not always match the desire we have to go “straighten out others.” In most cases, our action starts by cleaning out our own house. It starts by being filled by the Holy Spirit and repenting of our own sins, both in things we have done as well as in things we have left undone. It starts by studying and knowing the word of God, the most powerful weapon to attack sin.
Ephesians 4, starting in verse 24, quotes the verse in Psalm 4:4 and then goes on to give more direction:
26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Passover. A special offering and tax (donation) was required, Some who came did not have the right coinage or animal and those in the court were profiting from a requirement, not showing compassion and helping. There was no heart, just greed.
Righteous anger for God is correct.
My strong love/zeal for your house (God’ house, the temple) consumes me
When the Lord comes, He will come to the temple and will be like a purifying fire and like laundry soap… then they will bring offerings to the Lord in the right way (in faith and love, not callous duty to “get by”)