• Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Love of Life and Self-Control

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31NKJV


Today we continue our study of Question 136 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?” The third part of the answer states, “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are… sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares….” Last time we considered our obligation to maintain our own life and the lives of others. Today we examine our duty to discipline our hearts and minds to keep out those thoughts and desires which despise human life.


All sin begins in the heart. Jesus taught that outwardly refraining from actually murdering another person, while being angry with them “without cause,” is to sin in our hearts (Matt. 5:22). Anger itself, however, is not inherently sinful. There are legitimate reasons to be angry with someone. In fact, there are times where a person should be angry. God is sometimes said to be angry in the Bible, and when the perfectly righteous God is angry, we know that it is right for Him to be. Jesus was angry on occasion (Mark 3:5). The Word of God even commands us to “be angry, and do not sin,” (Eph. 4:26). That is, do not let your anger pass the bounds of what is right. We need this warning because anger is a powerful emotion that very easily seduces a person to sinful excess. As the Scripture at the head of this article declares, we cannot harbor any thoughts or desires with a spirit of malice, that is to say, with ill will towards another person.


Hatred like anger is not always sinful. Scripture commands us to “hate evil, love good,” (Amos 5:15).  There are things that we should hate. However, unlike anger, we are not permitted to hate other people in this life. Christians must love all people with the love that is appropriate for each kind of relationship.  Husbands must love their wives (and only their wives!) with the love of a husband, neighbors must love according to the love due to neighbors, and we all must love our enemies to do them good when and to the degree we justly can. It is true that God hates the reprobate (Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Rom. 9:13), but this side of the final judgment, He alone knows who they are. When David commends himself for hating those who hate God (Ps. 139:21-22), he is either speaking with supernatural knowledge of some reprobate people given to him as a prophet, or else he is speaking with reference to that day when God’s will for all flesh is fully revealed and everyone goes to his assigned place for all eternity. Then the godly will rejoice over the salvation of the righteous and over the destruction of the wicked (Rev. 19:2-4). Then we will perfectly, with full knowledge, love and hate as God loves and hates.


Envy and desire of revenge are not permissible for human beings. God can call Himself a jealous God (Exod. 20:5), and God alone can say “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:19), because God alone is perfectly righteous in His zeal and in His justice. However, these passions are by definition excessive in man. We are not permitted to be envious. It is not our place to be the avenger. The reason is because of who God is and who we are. God alone is owner and ruler of all. Therefore, He alone can rightly be jealous, for to Him alone belong all things. Likewise, He alone is qualified and able to be the judge, for He has all knowledge, is master of all, and all owe an account of their lives to Him. In contradistinction, how can we be envious of anything when all that has been given to us we do not deserve? And how can we impartially exact judgment on another, when we ourselves are sinful? Human governments are given the title “avenger” by God (Rom. 13:4), but the desire for personal vengeance in any individual heart is excessive.


Other passions can be permissible as long as they are kept in moderation. When any legitimate passion becomes excessive we have created an idol in our hearts. So hard work is good, but a workaholic has turned that good thing into an idol out of greed for money, power, or position. So also, hobbies, relationships, and commitments: everything must be kept to its proper place. I should take care of my house but it cannot distract me from other obligations that are more important. We must not be overly distracted with legitimate cares, even for the necessities of life. Too much care and worry is harmful to our health, and in that sense breaks the commandment, which requires us to not only refrain from murder, but from anything that would tend to harm life. May God give us the faith to discipline ourselves to refrain from any thoughts and desires that do not promote human life!

Today we continue our study of Question 136 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?” The third part of the answer states, “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are… sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares….” Last time we considered our obligation to maintain our own life and the lives of others. Today we examine our duty to discipline our hearts and minds to keep out those thoughts and desires which despise human life.


All sin begins in the heart. Jesus taught that outwardly refraining from actually murdering another person, while being angry with them “without cause,” is to sin in our hearts (Matt. 5:22). Anger itself, however, is not inherently sinful. There are legitimate reasons to be angry with someone. In fact, there are times where a person should be angry. God is sometimes said to be angry in the Bible, and when the perfectly righteous God is angry, we know that it is right for Him to be. Jesus was angry on occasion (Mark 3:5). The Word of God even commands us to “be angry, and do not sin,” (Eph. 4:26). That is, do not let your anger pass the bounds of what is right. We need this warning because anger is a powerful emotion that very easily seduces a person to sinful excess. As the Scripture at the head of this article declares, we cannot harbor any thoughts or desires with a spirit of malice, that is to say, with ill will towards another person.


Hatred like anger is not always sinful. Scripture commands us to “hate evil, love good,” (Amos 5:15).  There are things that we should hate. However, unlike anger, we are not permitted to hate other people in this life. Christians must love all people with the love that is appropriate for each kind of relationship.  Husbands must love their wives (and only their wives!) with the love of a husband, neighbors must love according to the love due to neighbors, and we all must love our enemies to do them good when and to the degree we justly can. It is true that God hates the reprobate (Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Rom. 9:13), but this side of the final judgment, He alone knows who they are. When David commends himself for hating those who hate God (Ps. 139:21-22), he is either speaking with supernatural knowledge of some reprobate people given to him as a prophet, or else he is speaking with reference to that day when God’s will for all flesh is fully revealed and everyone goes to his assigned place for all eternity. Then the godly will rejoice over the salvation of the righteous and over the destruction of the wicked (Rev. 19:2-4). Then we will perfectly, with full knowledge, love and hate as God loves and hates.


Envy and desire of revenge are not permissible for human beings. God can call Himself a jealous God (Exod. 20:5), and God alone can say “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:19), because God alone is perfectly righteous in His zeal and in His justice. However, these passions are by definition excessive in man. We are not permitted to be envious. It is not our place to be the avenger. The reason is because of who God is and who we are. God alone is owner and ruler of all. Therefore, He alone can rightly be jealous, for to Him alone belong all things. Likewise, He alone is qualified and able to be the judge, for He has all knowledge, is master of all, and all owe an account of their lives to Him. In contradistinction, how can we be envious of anything when all that has been given to us we do not deserve? And how can we impartially exact judgment on another, when we ourselves are sinful? Human governments are given the title “avenger” by God (Rom. 13:4), but the desire for personal vengeance in any individual heart is excessive.


Other passions can be permissible as long as they are kept in moderation. When any legitimate passion becomes excessive we have created an idol in our hearts. So hard work is good, but a workaholic has turned that good thing into an idol out of greed for money, power, or position. So also, hobbies, relationships, and commitments: everything must be kept to its proper place. I should take care of my house but it cannot distract me from other obligations that are more important. We must not be overly distracted with legitimate cares, even for the necessities of life. Too much care and worry is harmful to our health, and in that sense breaks the commandment, which requires us to not only refrain from murder, but from anything that would tend to harm life. May God give us the faith to discipline ourselves to refrain from any thoughts and desires that do not promote human life!

A member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)