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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Laughlin Mill, Cumberland County PA
Laughlin Mill in Cumberland County PA

This grist mill was built around 1763.

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"Workplace Anger"

"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" (Ephesians 4:26,27).

It's a beautiful clear morning here in rural Pennsylvania. Early this morning I stepped outside and looked toward the sky and there I saw a familiar, quite predictable sight; a large FedEx plane heading into Harrisburg airport. (I typically see the UPS plane a bit earlier.) Such a sight often prompts a prayer for those who labor and this morning I specifically prayed for the blessing of commerce and industriousness in our land.

It is a great blessing to have a job during this extended time of economic downturn. Yet the workplace has many challenges in areas of productivity, proficiency, problem-solving, personality clashes, etc. Some of these challenges produce angry emotions in workers. Many of you read our material at work during a break so today let's address a topic that might be relevant to your situation.

Anger is an ancient human condition first seen in Cain prior to the first murder.  Throughout the Bible we see evidences of unconstrained anger and certainly it is a human condition all readers are familiar with. It gets a lot of attention in the media - whether it's road rage, anger in the workplace, anger in the home, or wherever one chooses to unleash his or her fury on others. 

As many readers know, one facet of our ministry takes us regularly into the workplace environment where we serve as business chaplains. We rarely see uncontrolled anger in the workforce since our presence often brings out the "good side" of employees much like those who have it altogether on Sunday mornings when they shake hands with the preacher!  But occasionally we witness the ugly side of anger at work; let me recount a story from many years ago that I encountered.

I witnessed a contractor verbally berating a young man who worked for him as he was teaching him the trade. Later I talked to the young man briefly whose eyes watered up from the abusive treatment of his supervisor. His confidence was nearly zilch.  I placed my arm around his shoulder and sought to encourage him. The particularly sad thing is that the contractor claimed to be a Christian.

Looking the young man right in the eye and I asked him, "What is the golden rule?"  He immediately answered, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  It was encouraging he had that verse memorized and he got my point.  It's a sad aspect of fallen human nature that so often we do unto others as has been done unto us, thus the destructive cycle continues. This is particularly true in regard to both child and spousal abuse. 

Much of what I've read and heard concerning workplace anger centers around the conditions in the present workplace such as job insecurity, poor training, understaffing, and managerial arrogance.  However, in our observation, anger is often a carryover from one's personal life. The above conditions may very well be true, and to some degree haven't they always been?

However as a follower of Christ and student of the Bible I believe there's a greater contributing factor to the increase in unconstrained anger. Through much of our history the teachings and principles of the Bible had a mighty impact upon our culture, extending even to the workplace. This even impacted those who were not specifically followers of Jesus Christ. Most knew about the "Golden Rule" - it's just plain common sense. There was an unspoken understanding that we are to be kind and respectful to one another and practice self-control even if it was not reciprocated.

In our daily verse the apostle Paul is giving practical instructions on life to the Ephesian believers.  He acknowledges that there will be times the believer is angry.  Anger itself is not a sin. The Bible records several occasions when Christ was angry (see Mark 3:5). In fact I believe sometimes it would be unhealthy not to be angry! 

Yet in this text the Bible lists three vital constraints on anger:
1) "In your anger do not sin." This indicates there are to be self-imposed constraints on the extent of anger. Obviously harming other people in our anger is sin! (Excepting self-defense circumstances.)
2) "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." 
This indicates there are to be self-imposed constraints on the duration of anger. This precludes the long term, harmful effects of seething anger that easily leads to destructiveness and bitterness.
3) "And do not give the devil a foothold" This indicates there are to be self-imposed constraints on the _____ of anger.* If we fervently gather evidence to support or justify our anger we are giving the devil a foothold on our emotions which in turn feeds our actions. Instead of a godly response it will produce a knee jerk reaction from the enemy who holds us down.

The workplace anger or any other form of ungodly anger that we write about would not become an issue if these three constraints are applied.  Let God's Word saturate your life today. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19,20).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, when we are angry You tell us to stay above the fray and sin not.  There are times when it is appropriate to be angry such as when we see a person harming another individual; when we have been lied to; or when we have been unfairly accused. These circumstances along with many others stir up strong emotions with us and often require a response to the matter. Keep us prayerful as we are quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. May we respond as Jesus did to His many accusers, though innocent, He spoke not a word in His defense.  And may we be careful not to keep a scoreboard of other's offenses. We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus who forgives us and does not count our sins against us, but rather took them upon Himself.  Amen.

* The blank in point three is an illustration of what all preachers and writers experience at times. We simply could not determine a single word to describe this constraint and didn't want to hang the message up all day while we try. Any readers have a suggestion?  
Send it to us!

Here's the daily text in two other versions:

Amplified - When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.  Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].

New Living Translation - And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Here's an observation on the third constraint from Clarke's Commentary:  Neither give place to the devil - Your adversary will strive to influence your mind, and irritate your spirit; watch and pray that he may not get any place in you, or ascendancy over you. As the word διαβολος is sometimes used to signify a calumniator, tale-bearer, whisperer, or backbiter; (1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3, and Titus 2:3); here it may have the same signification. Do not open your ear to the tale-bearer, to the slanderer, who comes to you with accusations against your brethren, or with surmisings and evil speakings. These are human devils; they may be the means of making you angry, even without any solid pretense; therefore give them no place, that you may not be angry at any time; but if, unhappily, you should be overtaken in this fault, let not the sun go down upon your wrath; go to your brother, against whom you have found your spirit irritated; tell him what you have heard, and what you fear; let your ears be open to receive his own account; carefully listen to his own explanation; and, if possible, let the matter be finally settled, that Satan may not gain advantage over either.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Take My Life And Let It Be"  Video  Christ For The Nations Worship Team.  This is a beautiful hymn of consecration.

Laughlin Mill  I really enjoy old gristmills such as the Laughlin Mill featured in today's top photo! Here's another view. 
We pass it on the way back to a camp we often attend in the summer.
Laughlin Mill, Cumberland County PA

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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