Proverbs 14:17

He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

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There are two kinds of evil passion, and they are treated differently. Rash anger, by a quick temper that reacts without discretion or thought, is foolish and proves a man is not ruling his spirit. Such a person is difficult and trying, but he can often be corrected and recovered. However, there is another kind of anger, the deep-seated malice of smoldering envy and revenge that plots to harm another. God and men hate this wicked monster.

Before applying this proverb, remember that not all anger is sin. God is angry at the wicked every day (Ps 7:11), and He was angry at Moses (Ex 4:14). Moses was justifiably angry at Israel worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32:19). And Jesus was angry at the cruelty of religious Jews (Mark 3:5). Properly directed anger for a righteous cause is good and holy. Any other anger must be kept free from sin and ended quickly (Eph 4:26).

This proverb has two different sins under consideration. Solomon’s proverbs often have two clauses comparing two things. In this case, the two clauses are connected by the coordinating conjunction “and,” indicating that the two things are of the same nature, not contrasting opposites. Sin is being compared to sin, not sin to righteousness.

By comparing “soon angry” and “wicked devices,” we see two different sins. One sin is impulsive anger – the other is longer-term devising of wickedness. By comparing “foolishly” and “hated,” we see the different degrees of evil and their results. One sin is more foolish than malicious – the other has more malice, or premeditated evil, than folly.

Some men have quick tempers (they are intemperate, a sin). They are infants in men’s bodies. They never grew up or learned self-discipline. They are weak and cannot rule their spirits. They usually had a parent with the same fault. When provoked, often over nothing, they quickly lose control of thoughts, emotions, words, or actions. The resulting outburst shames them as fools, costing them friends (Pr 12:16; 22:24; 25:8; 29:22).

Others have black hearts that despise others and secretly harbor malice for long periods of time. They cover their hatred with fake smiles, false words, and lying kindnesses (Pr 26:24-26). This is no small sin, for it is like premeditated murder compared to involuntary manslaughter. God and men hate such malicious anger, which these monsters cultivate and harbor for a long time, while laying plans for revenge (Pr 6:16-19).

Unjustified anger of either kind is sin (Matt 5:22). But weakness is one thing; willfulness is another! Rash anger is contemptible; calculated malice is abominable! The one man cannot be trusted and threatens the peace; the other man must be avoided and defended against like the devil himself (John 8:44). Moses and Aaron missed Canaan for foolish anger (Num 20:10-12), but the great God hung Haman and his ten sons for his malicious long-term strategy for Jewish genocide (Esther 3:5-15; 7:9; 9:13-14).

What is the lesson? Rule your spirit – both the short and long. Why do others provoke you? You have provoked the God of heaven with infinite offences, and you continue to do so. If He ever turned his anger or hatred for sin against you, it would consume your life and cast you down to hell. Forgive your neighbor. Forgive your enemy. You are not worthy of angry self-defense. Let them defraud you instead (Matt 5:38-48; I Cor 6:7).

Great men rule their spirits; their spirits do not rule them, and they are slow to get angry (Pr 14:29; 15:18; 16:32; Jas 1:19-20). These are glorious men (Pr 19:11). The actions of others do not move them. There is no honor, manliness, or strength in losing your composure or control, in spite of what selfish men think. Men that get bent out of shape, perverted and twisted by anger, are weak men, whose lives are failures (Pr 25:28; Ec 7:9).

Are there more lessons? Wisely consider the actions of others. Some blow off steam in an instant over nothing, but the damage is often minimal; they return to normal quickly, and they can be shown the folly of their error. You may have to correct them again in the future, but they can be recovered. Others that do not blow off as hastily may harbor deeper and more hateful urges that lead to wicked devices (Pr 12:2; 24:8; Rom 1:30).

It is easier to identify and correct a child that blows up with quick anger under provocation than one that is passively rebellious and keeps the matter inside, where it hardens and forms itself into long-term resentment. Children have no right to silence under questioning, isolation from the family, or moodiness. Parents that allow or ignore these indicators could soon be facing a vicious monster without any regard for the family.

Wisdom is the power of right judgment, which cannot allow anger to cloud the vision, disturb the soul, muddle the mind, enflame the emotions, or harden the heart. Despise anger in yourself and others. Reserve anger for the rare cases where God or truth is attacked, not where you might lose a little money or reputation. Keep your spirit ruled tightly; ignore what others do to you; the God of heaven will devise perfect revenge!