As Paul continues his list of requirements for elders, we come to the sixth attribute listed: "not quick-tempered."
Why is the attribute of snapping into anger and flying off the handle forbidden for an elder? For the same reasons it's forbidden for every Christian: Because someone who is quick-tempered is always making a fool of himself.
Prov. 14:17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly...
Take it from me, when we let our tempers flare, we are guaranteed to act stupidly, rashly and do things we will later regret.
Whenever I think of any of the many foolish things I've done in anger, I hang my head in shame.
Now, although it doesn't make me feel any better to have company, I'm certainly not alone in this. On the top of Mount Sinai, the Lord had been talking to Moses for many days.
Ex. 31:18 When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
Ex. 32:19 It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.
Moses lost his temper, and as a result, he lost the Ten Commandments.
Ex. 34:1-2 Now the LORD said to Moses, "Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. So be ready by morning..."
How humiliating for Moses, having to make new tablets because he'd destroyed the first set! I know all too well that terrible feeling of cleaning up a pile of broken things after a temper tantrum. Certainly, the proverb is proven true again and again:
Prov. 14:29 ...he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
Exalting folly means lifting up and praising foolishness. In other words, the quick-tempered person makes an idiot of themself a lot.
The Bible also speaks of the benefits of not being quick-tempered. One of those benefits is...
Prov. 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding...
When we don't fly off the handle, we get the whole story. We get all the facts and can make a rational decision.
A second advantage of being slow to anger is that, rather than stirring up problems, we have the ability to calm things down.
Prov. 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.
Being slow-tempered gives you the power to pacify a situation, instead of intensifying it.
Not only is being slow to anger commended, but it is commanded:
James 1:19-20 ...everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
You can't achieve the righteousness of God by being quick-tempered because God Himself is not quick-tempered. To Moses, He proclaimed that He is...
Ex. 34:6 ..."The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
And David said He was...
Psa. 86:15 ...a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
God is slow to anger, and as imitators of Him, we are to be as well.
Now, understanding what the Bible says about being quick-tempered is only half the battle. The other half is applying this knowledge.
Maybe you have an anger problem. Things set you off easily. How can you stop this? I see three things in the Word that instruct us how to overcome that problem: Discretion, Wisdom, and Self-Control.
Proverbs 19 says,
Prov. 19:11 A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
What makes you slow to anger? Your discretion. Discretion is the freedom, the authority, and the power to make your own choices and make decisions. Maybe you've always been a hot-head. You've said, "It's in my blood, it's a family trait. It's because I'm Irish, Italian, or German. It's because I inherited this temper from my father."
It's time to stop making excuses. You've got a new Father now, one who has given you a new heart and set you free from that old bondage. You've got a new heritage now as a child of God and a citizen of heaven.
- You now have freedom in Christ to walk in righteousness - no longer enslaved by sin.
- You now have the authority to deny sin and walk in victory.
- You now have the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer your flesh.
In other words, your temper is at your discretion - you have the freedom, authority, and power to make your own choice - the choice to become angry or not.
The second place to get victory over a quick temper is found in Proverbs 29:
Prov. 29:11 A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.
It is wisdom that will enable you to hold your temper back. Where can you get wisdom?
Job 28:28 "...Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom..."
When you fear the Lord God, you will be wise. When you realize and recognize that God judges sin, you will desire to refrain from it. Your true fear of God will cause you to hold back your temper.
The third place of realizing victory is found in Proverbs 16:
Prov. 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Being slow to anger is being able to rule your spirit - to have self-control. And self-control comes from being filled with the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit.
Gal. 5:22-23 ...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...
When you follow the Spirit instead of the flesh, self-control will be a byproduct in your life.