Love Is Not Irritable

The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.


Defining Irritability

This means “easily provoked, easily promoted to anger, or touchy.” It might “flesh itself out” by causing someone to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice. So when there is any kind of resistance – in word or deed – they might “put up their dukes.”

Irritability can come as a result of a bad traffic accident when you are late; irritability can come as a result of your car breaking do­wn on a road trip; irritability can come as a result of your baby crying in the middle of the night; irritability can come as a result of your paycheck being late to get deposited into the bank; irritability can come as a result of someone disagreeing with one of your decisions; irritability can come as a result of another person not liking your particular interpretation on Scripture.

Irritability is the close cousin of impatience. They are both easily angered, but Jerry Bridges shows the difference to us:

“While impatience is a strong sense of annoyance or exasperation, irritability, as I define it, describes the frequency of impatience, or the case with which a person can become impatient over the slightest provocation. The person who easily and frequently becomes impatient is an irritable person. Most of us can become impatient at times, but the irritable person is impatient most of the time. The irritable person is one whom you feel you have to tiptoe or ‘walk on eggshells’ around. This person is no fun to be with, but unfortunately family members or coworkers sometimes have no choice.”[1]

Someone who is irritable demands things go a certain way and when they don’t, he refuses to be patient or longsuffering; instead, he gets irritated. This person values his rights over others and thinks he deserves this and that. He doesn’t consider others at all.

A Biblical Example of Irritability

The Corinthians were, no doubt, irritated with each other in Ch. 6 when he had to “pull back on the reins” of them suing one another and wanting to defraud each other and risk the reputation of the church. That is irritability when you get to the place of not being able to handle conflict and just want to put someone out of their financial or emotional misery. That is irritability and that is not loving.

Another example of one who is irritable was the Hebrews in the wilderness and Moses. Now, we do give him some grace given who he had to be put with the wilderness, but God judged his irritability pretty severely. Consider this story from Numbers 20.

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.’ Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces.

And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.’ And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels: (our 1st indicator that he is irritated by this irritable group) shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’ 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them’” (Num 20:2-12).

Moses lack of love and irritability cost him a trip to the Promised Land. Instead of showing restraint, he allowed his irritability to produce rebellion against God.

A Biblical Example of One Who Is Not Irritable

An example of someone who shows restraint and the lack of being easily angered is Daniel. I marvel how this young man didn’t “fly off the handle” in Babylon. He is kidnapped from his hometown and family. He is taken to a foreign, pagan land. His name is changed from a name that glorified God (Daniel – “God is my judge”) to a name that honors a false god (Belteshazzar – “May Baal protect”), tempted to eat unclean food forbidden by God’s Law is forced into a Babylonian education brainwashing courtesy of Asphenaz (Dan 1), and later thrown into a den of lions around the age of 80 (Dan 6). You never see Daniel “lash out.”

His secret to loving non-irritability is recorded for us in Daniel 6:23 when he is removed from the lion’s den – “… So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”

Final Thoughts

Someone not irritable knows God reigns over all predicaments. Thus, to complain and get irritated about the circumstances not fitting your agenda is to complain and get irritated about God’s sovereign will over every second of your life. Love is not irritable.


[1] Respectable Sins, pg. 118



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