Born in Dublin in 1730, Irish statesman Edmund Burke was an author, speaker, and philosopher who also served as a member of the British Parliament from 1766 to 1794. During his time in Parliament, he was an outspoken critic of the British treatment of the American colonies, although he opposed the attempt to achieve independence. Burke was once quoted as saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This was a quote that in another form (“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”) has been attributed to Thomas Jefferson.
The embodiment of tyranny and evil is the devil, the enemy of our souls. His goal is to destroy us by causing division among us. He takes great delight in seeing conflict rise up between believers. One of the strategies that the devil uses against us in order to achieve his goal is anger. When we allow anger to fester, to take root in our hearts and lead to bitterness, division, and conflict, we are giving the devil an opening that he will gladly seize. It gives the devil a foothold. To paraphrase the quotes by Burke and Jefferson, “All the devil needs to gain a foothold is for believers to remain angry.”
One definition of a foothold is a position that can be used as a springboard for further advancement. When we allow the devil to have a foothold in our lives we are giving him a position from which he can further advance. When we allow unresolved anger to exist in our lives and in our relationships with others, we are giving the devil that foothold. Now, anger in itself may sometimes be justified. There is a righteous anger. But it is what we do with that anger that makes all the difference. Scripture gives us the right way to deal with our anger (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Scripture tells us that, in our anger, even righteous anger, we should not sin and give the devil a foothold. Rather, we are not to let the sun go down on our anger. In other words, we are to keep short accounts. We are to deal with our anger before the sun goes down. Don’t go to sleep angry. Don’t let anger fester, but rather take whatever steps are necessary to resolve that anger. When we resolve our anger rather than let it turn into conflict, division, or bitterness, we close that door of opportunity right on the devil’s foot.