“When King David heard about all these things, he was furious.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We live in a rage culture today, don’t we? With the echo chamber effect created by social media, the smallest offense can get all whipped up into a senseless frenzy. Politicians seem to campaign with the intent of getting their supporters angry. After all, if they’re angry, they’re more likely to be motivated to go out and do something about their anger like vote. But here’s a question that we don’t seem to stop and think about nearly as often as we probably should: Is all this anger actually solving any problems?
David’s oldest son and intended heir to the throne had done something truly terrible. He had violated his half-sister—David’s little girl. But when the text gets down to telling us David’s reaction here, all we’re told is that he was really angry.
Good, he should have been angry. He should have been furious. He should have been ready to grab up Goliath’s sword and make some heads roll. When the Ammonites offended him a few years before he sent the armies of Israel to conquer them.
So then, what does David’s anger here lead him to do? Nothing. We’re not told about a single thing he does here. Perhaps the author didn’t think that was an important detail for us to know, but I’m more of the mindset that we’re not told about anything because he didn’t do anything. He just got angry.
Here’s the thing: Anger isn’t a solution. To anything. Anger isn’t a policy. It doesn’t bring relief. It can’t offer care or compassion. It’s just an emotion. Even if it’s a strong emotion, it still can’t offer solutions.
When an injustice of some kind has occurred, we should be angry about it. But if we just get angry and act angry—protest it, make a Facebook group against it, blog about it, rant and rave on the TV news—and then go back to our regular lives, we haven’t actually done anything. We’ve just gotten angry.
I think there’s a good argument to be made that David’s empty anger is what led Absalom not only to pursue justice on his own by murdering his brother (which wasn’t actually just at all), but to revolting a few years later. Our political process today seems to run mostly on empty anger all the while real policy solutions to genuine problems and injustices remain elusive. But boy are people fired up about the need for them.
At some point, anger has to do something if it’s going to be worth its noise. We have to take that anger and turn it into compassion for the hurting or the careful crafting of a law or an effort to build a bridge to see a relationship restored or the working toward justice for a victim or something. But we can’t just let it be anger. Anger absent wise, godly action is meaningless. Worse yet, as we see here, it can leave the door open for worse injustices to follow.