“Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.”
In these verses, Paul gives a series of clear, practical instructions for living new life in Christ. It is a list of things to stop doing (put off) and start doing (put on). It specifies the behavioral transformation from the attitudes and actions of the old nature to the attitudes and actions of the new nature.
From being impulsive to being intentional. “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (vs. 26-27)
Emotions are part of life. They are a key element of what it means to be human and made in the image of God. However, because of the Fall, our emotions often get the best of us. Sometimes we mismanage our emotions. Sometimes we get caught in the grip of undisciplined emotion. For that reason, Paul instructs us to manage our emotions and not let our emotions manage us.
This passage communicates an important truth: When we fail to manage our emotions, we give the Enemy an opportunity. We make ourselves vulnerable to his nefarious manipulations. Thus the warning in 1 Peter 5.8: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
As CS Lewis says in The Abolition of Man: “Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.”
Mismanaged emotions hurt us by distorting our decisions and damaging our relationships. When Paul tells us in this passage not to let the sun go down on our anger, he is admonishing us not to focus on and dwell on things that bother us. Don’t let things simmer. Be proactive about addressing problems and resolving issues.
Don’t fixate and ruminate. You will find that if you continually think about and dwell on something or someone that is bothering you, your emotional condition will get progressively worse. The emotion you feed will grow.
The admonition to manage our emotions is much-needed because the old nature is undisciplined in the way it listens, speaks, and indulges anger. Our natural tendency is to be slow to hear other people, and much too hasty to speak and get angry.
This same message is given in the NT book of James: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1.19-20)
It is also a theme in the book of Proverbs: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” (Proverbs 29.11)
Trust God and manage your emotions. Do not give the devil any opportunity in your life.