Temperance defined: “Control of one’s emotions, desires, or actions, by one’s own will.” (American Heritage Dictionary). Moderation, self restraint; self control, or self mastery.
Temperance represents a person’s ability to control his thoughts, tongue, and his actions, in accordance with godly principles. It is essential in resisting the “wiles of the devil.” It is summed up as meaning self control, and being moderate in all things. Temperance is displayed by avoiding dangerous extremes, and should be exercised in our eating, sleeping, working, in pleasures, in desires, in controlling one’s temper, and in anything else having to do with our control over self. Having self control is one of the most basic virtues in living the Christian life.
Two good examples of persons maintaining self control are an athlete, and a student. The athlete, who is striving to reach a goal, must exercise restraint and self denial, and while training, must be careful of what he eats and drinks, in order to obtain the reward he seeks. He must be temperate(self restrained), as the apostle Paul stated: “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” (I Corinthians 9:25). Also, a good student often must turn down occasions to socialize because there are papers to be written, and tests to study for. Such individuals deny themselves in order to gain the rewards they seek.
A good example of one in the Old Testament who showed character and self control, while being severely tempted, was the patriarch Joseph, when he was being seduced daily by Potiphar’s wife. He replied to her: “There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9). He stood firm against her advances, and did that which was right, even though she falsely accused him, causing him to suffer, and be put in prison for two years. But God was with Joseph, showing him mercy and favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Moses, God’s lawgiver, and faithful servant, also showed self restraint, and also meekness, as he endured Israel’s disobedience, and rebellion: (“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”). (Numbers 12:3).
“And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” (Numbers 21:5). “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.” (Numbers 12:7).
Also, the apostle Paul is an example of having self control, as he wrote to the Corinthian brethren: “But I buffet my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (I Corinthians 9:27).
The child of God who is exercising temperance in his life, must be given to moderation in all things, even good things. Paul, in his letter to the Philippian brethren, stated: “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5).
It is our duty to bring such things as lusts, hatred, and anger under control. God has given man lawful channels to fulfill these feelings: Sexual desires are properly fulfilled in marriage: “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4). Hatred should be directed toward Satan, and toward evil: “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9).
Even anger can be displayed against unrighteousness, as we see our Lord , with a righteous anger on two occasions: “And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” (Mark :3:5). On the other occasion Jesus purged the temple, and drove out those who were defiling the temple: “And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:15,16).
The apostle Peter set forth Christian graces which we are to add in our lives including temperance: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance;….” (II Peter 1:5,6). We notice that temperance follows knowledge. Therefore, it is significant that self control improves as we grow in the know ledge of God’s Word. God’s righteousness is revealed in His Word: (which we can follow): “My tongue shall speak of Thy Word; for all thy commandments are righteousness.” (Psalm 119:172).
As we continue on the subject of anger, and its control, we see that the Scriptures are replete with admonitions and commands concerning it. For example, we read that God is slow to anger: “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked:…” (Nahum 1:3). We also are instructed in the New Testament to be “slow to wrath”: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19,20). In the book of Proverbs, we also observe the folly of anger: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
(Proverbs 16:32). And again, Solomon stated: “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding:…” (Proverbs 14:29). And again, he instructed: “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
After learning God’s will concerning anger and wrath, the person who seeks to please God , will resolve to put away anger, wrath, and bitterness, and thus can see the folly of engaging in these things. He will have patience, and seek to appease anger and strife in others. For, we see again in Proverbs: “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” (Proverbs 15:18).
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian brethren, gave a grand admonition concerning anger, wrath, and such like: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31,32)
Besides anger, another lust we must guard against is covetousness. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer stated: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say,The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:5,6). Also, the Lord Jesus admonished his followers, saying
“Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15). Gaining more and more material things should never be the goal of a person in life. The apostle Paul warns and admonishes in his letter to Timothy concerning covetousness, that it can lead to temptation and a snare, and to destruction and perdition: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:9,10).
Paul, in his letter to the Galatian brethren, concerning overcoming lusts stated: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:16,17).
Paul, in his letter to Titus, gave an admonition that if we will take heed unto it, we will do well, and be able to conquer worldly lusts, thereby finding contentment in our self control, and the expectation of a heavenly reward: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that,denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:11,12).
By Patrick Chaddick December 30, 2009
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