Passing Off the Hot Potato

Here comes a three point sermon. (I'm sure there is a verse in the Scripture that insists that all good sermons have three points.) This one is from Ephesians 4:26, 27.

"In your anger do not sin:…"

"…Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,…"

"…and do not give the devil a foothold."

Okay, I admit that the second phrase is a continuation of the first. But it does add some new information so we'll count it as a separate point.

Of some consolation is the information that it is possible to be angry and not sin. That shouldn't be rocket science because God has been known to become angry, and Jesus got more than slightly annoyed in the Temple. God's anger was always directed against sin, a good point to remember when tempted to lose our tempers over things that might cause us to sin but are, in themselves, not sinful.

Let's imagine that something legitimately sinful has caused us to be angry. The second phrase reminds us that prolonged anger has nasty side effects. It has physical and emotional consequences. It also has spiritual consequences. When we nurse our anger rather than releasing it and its cause to the Lord, we become vulnerable. Any emotional extreme short-circuits reason. We don't think well when we are angry and are much more open to committing sin when we aren't thinking.

Hence the third phrase. Even righteous indignation can be turned into unrighteousness. Satan waits for us at our weakest point.

Yes, be angry about sin, but don't fall into sin by nursing that anger too long.

Paul's advice reminds me of a game we used to play called "Hot Potato." Now the potato wasn't really hot at all, but imagine that it was. The idea was to toss that hot potato to the person next to you before time ran out. You didn't want to get caught with the potato. If that potato had actually been "hot," it would be supremely logical to get rid of it as fast as possible. If it stayed in your hand, you'd get burned. The same principle applies to anger.

You have to handle anger correctly, but don't handle it for long. Pass it off to God as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you might get burned.


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