Proverbs 22:24–25 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
Anger is an attribute of God. So is wrath. His anger is authentic, passionate, dangerous, and justified. It’s aimed at wicked individuals (Psalm 7:11), nations (2 Kings 17:18), and religious leaders (Mark 3:5). Even Solomon, who is giving the advice here, found himself in a situation where God was angry with him (1 Kings 11:9).
Since God is infinite in every way, his infinite love, mercy, and grace are perfectly balanced with an infinitely strong hatred, anger, and wrath. God has every emotion, but in an infinite and infinitely holy way. So when Solomon talks about anger here, we need to make sure we understand what he’s talking about. Otherwise the anger of God will be confusing, and his wrath will seem unkind.
The point here is that some people are possessed by their own anger. It becomes an uncontrollable force in their lives, and there is nothing godly about it. These people are bloated with anger, and on a regular basis it explodes out of them. Once the eruption begins there is no telling when it will die down, and how much damage will be done. Friends and family members are smothered in a thick layer of ash like a city build too close to the mouth of an active volcano. Everyone within a certain radius of these people are frequently damaged by their unpredictable and unreasonable character.
When a little child throws a tempter tantrum, or screams uncontrollably, we draw several conclusions. The first is that the sound or scene is an annoying distraction that needs to be corrected. The second is that the child is too young to fully appreciate the magnitude of the disturbance. The third is that the child is just old enough to appreciate the fact that in the past this behavior worked, or else it wouldn’t continue. Fourth, the parents are responsible for fixing this problem. Fifth, if the child does not receive the proper correction now, it will only get worse.
Solomon is showing us what happens when the last step is not faithfully performed. Unfortunately, many people roam the earth who are physically mature, but emotionally infantile. They essentially throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want, or get something they didn’t want. Angry people simmer and brood until just the right event provokes them, and it detonates the bomb they carry around inside. Outbursts of anger are an early warning sign to anyone with wisdom.
Learning how to control your anger is one of the first steps to becoming a mature adult. There are only two kinds of people who show their anger, fools and toddlers (Proverbs 12:16). It’s one thing to see a three-year-old fly into a fit of rage, but it’s entirely different when the person is 23, or 53, or 83. Just a little reflection will likely call to mind several emotional infants you encounter on a regular basis. Consider the hot head who is always at the center of a fight (Proverbs 15:18), or the one who get’s angry like Cain did when a situation doesn’t go as planned (Genesis 4:5). Where did they learn this? The answer is that all foolishness was in them when they were born, but their parents didn’t drive it out (Proverbs 22:15).
Solomon is a concerned parent. He’s older now, has made a lot of money, seen what the world has to offer, and knows a thing or two about people. He realizes by now that the best plans and purest intentions can be utterly devastated by bad partnerships. So in his effort to help his son succeed, he identifies some best practices. One of the most important is avoiding angry people. If someone in your circle is a fool who looses his or her temper, avoid them.
We might assume Solomon encourages separation is because bad things happen to angry people. But it’s not. The main reason is that anger is contagious. Anger is a disease. It’s a systemic infection that touches the whole man. Sinful, foolish anger is a virus of the soul that spreads through close contact. Before you know it, you start acting like an angry person. Observation becomes imitation. Boys turn in to donkeys like in Pinocchio, but unlike the cartoon, jiminy cricket isn’t going to rescue you. In fact, the reality is closer to Carlo Collodi’s 1883 book the film is based on. Pinocchio is last seen hanging stiff from a tree branch.
The fool who cannot control himself or herself is a danger to everyone. They make foolish choices (Proverbs 14:17), and the damage they cause is sometimes irreversible. The behavior is primal and emotional. Like a child demonstrating his sin nature, they pour out the depravity of man. It’s a visceral reaction, not a state of mind. It’s virtually devoid of anything cognitive, and trying to reason with them is futile. The best option is to cut them loose and pray that a power greater than you will one day transform them.