Some years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article on “Vending Machine Rage.” It described fifteen injuries in a short period of time, three of them fatal, as a result of angry men kicking or rocking machines that had taken their money without dispensing the drink. Maybe we can understand the injuries, but how about the fatalities? In each case it seems the machines fell over on the men and crushed them.
I just finished checking on the Sunday Major League Baseball results, and there I read of the huge brawl that occurred yesterday between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers. It all went back to anger left over from last year, which was stirred up by a hit batter and hard slide at second base as each team went tit for tat. By the time it was over, one player had landed a devastating blow on the jaw of another and nine players and the two managers were ejected.
This brings to mind the wisdom found in the Letter of James: “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 1:19-20NIV).
Yes, I know that there such a thing as righteous anger and we can see it in Jesus when he went to the temple, but “man’s anger” is so seldom righteous—so seldom kindled because of what is being done to God’s plan and purposes. Most of our anger is about what is being done to me or to mine. It is about how I was mistreated or I was misjudged or how I didn’t get my rights. And we can bring it even against a vending machine, a computer, a cell phone, or worst of all somebody else.
Sometimes that somebody else is someone we ought to love the most—a husband, a wife, our own child. Most of the time, anger doesn’t get us killed, but when it is in our hearts and words and actions, it can damage others and kill our relationships—relationships that are nourished when we are quick to listen and slow to speak.