Anger is one of the core components of human emotion. We typically associate anger with wrongdoing and subconsciously attach moral judgment to anger; that to be angry is a sinful act. I suppose in part this is because the first reference to anger in the Bible is the tragic story of Cain’s anger toward his brother Able that results in a homicide, the first murder of human history. In addition, Jesus would teach in his famous Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment (Mattthew 5:21-22 CSB). Furthermore, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8 NIV). It is undeniable, both from the Scriptures and from our experience that anger can lead to many evils and dysfunctions.
The Bible, however, does not categorically identify anger with sin. In fact, anger is attributed to Jesus, the sinless Son of God, (Mark 3:5) as well as to God the Father (Exodus 32:10). One could even argue that in certain circumstances, it is sinful not to be angry. Jesus’ response to the contaminated capitalism of the money changers and the animal sacrifice vendors in the Temple complex comes to mind (John 2:14-17). He was so angered, he commandeered a whip and drove them out of the Temple area and ransacked the money-changers’ booths. Jesus was angry and that anger prompted him to dramatic action; yet he never allowed anger to manage him and he refused to allow Satan to manipulate him. On the other side of the continuum is our story this morning of Joab and his blood stained belt.
Joab was the highly successful and ruthless commander of King David’s army. Joab’s belt becomes notoriously stained with blood because of his tragic mishandling of anger. As a warrior/soldier, Joab killed countless numbers of people, but it was his murder of two military generals that tells the tragic tale of how anger sabotaged his life and ultimately led to his own execution.