James 1:20 The Problem with ὀργή


James 1:20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

James in this verse uses a pretty cool Greek word for wrath called “ὀργή according to a common Greek dictionary this is the words definition:

3709. ὀργή orge, or-gay´; from 3713; properly, desire (as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind), i.e. (by analogy), violent passion (ire, or (justifiable) abhorrence); by implication punishment: — anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath. (Strong’s Greek Dictionary)

So James in this verse isn’t warning Christians about being a little angry or frustrated, he is warning them about a violent and uncontrollable anger (imagine an emotional volcano just waiting to explode).

It’s easy for us to read a verse like this and think to ourselves “oh I would never get that angry” but that’s the danger of ὀργή.  It usually isn’t one thing that brings the anger, but the combination of many small frustrations stacked on top of each other till something incredibly insignificant (like someone asking you to pass the salt) becomes the tipping point.

I was reminded of how ὀργή sneaks up on me while traveling back to St. Vincent.  My flight from Charlotte to Miami ended up being delayed, which gave me about thirty-minutes to get to my gate, and board the plane.  Of course this still gave plenty of time to get there (and they would hold the plane for me since it was traveling to Barbados) but I was still interested in getting off as soon as possible.

Unfortunately I happened to be in the back of the plan which is bad news.  For those who may not know it’s considered common courtesy to allow the person in seats in front of you to get up and obtain their carry on luggage instead of moving past them.  Being in the back meant I was forced to wait for almost everyone else in the plane to get their luggage out of the overhead compartment before getting off.

And of course they happened to be (in my mind) the slowest individuals on the face of the earth.

In the five to ten minutes I waited to get off my anger level grew considerably

  • It began calmly enough (hmm seems like these people are moving a little slow)
  • But soon I was looking at my watch and had my perturbed sigh going
  • Which was followed by a rolling of the eyes and shaking of the head
  • Then of course came the impatient foot tapping
  • And before you knew it my mind was screaming “move people move!”
The worst part is I got to the gate in plenty of time so all my sighing, eye rolling, head shaking, and foot tapping was for nothing.  In the end the problem with ὀργή isn’t the fact that it sneaks up on us, but the fact that we explode in anger when it isn’t even necessary.
This is why James encouraged Christians in 1:19 to respond with self-control instead of anger or speech…because when we take the time to stop and think about the thing were getting so worked up about…it doesn’t seem that important anymore.
Unfortunately ὀργή is going to be part of everyday life.  However we can be thankful that the true moments for us to experience ὀργή  are very few.

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