The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal 5:22–23). Do we understand what a Christian's temperance looks like in the heart and actions in today's world? How would we describe temperance? Is it self-control, moderation, honorable behavior, personal integrity? Another question we should consider is, Is it forced on a person, or is it a voluntary choice one makes?
The Bible has something to say about temperance. And as he (Paul) reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, Felix trembled… (Acts 24:24).
Add to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness (2Pe 1:6). If all these things are in us and growing, we will never fail to be useful to God.
The other question that begs to be answered is, "Is self-evaluation a safe gauge, or should we ask a brother or sister to give us open and honest input on how we're doing in our lives?"
Contrast But let a man examine himself (1Co 11:28), with But when Peter was come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to the face… (Gal 2:11-14).
Both self-evaluation and input from others are needed in all of our lives to find honorable behavior and personal integrity. We should keep in mind that none of us are self-made. Wisdom did not show up with our arrival to adulthood. In so many ways, we stand on the shoulders of others that have influenced our lives.
Temperance is a voluntary choice or a pledge we make in our hearts before God and our fellowmen to be in control of our thoughts and actions, so we show forth self-controlled and moderate living in all areas of our lives.
Let's look at examples in some areas of our lives where temperance needs to be exercised. These are not separate areas but part of the whole.
The first place to have self-control is in our thoughts. In II Corinthians 10:5, … and bringing into captivity (to make captive) every thought to the obedience of Christ. We understand from this that just "doing the best we can" is not the platform on which the Christian builds his life. "Doing the best we can" mindset allows for false values and beliefs that are so close to our selfish nature.
The premise for self-control in our thought life is God's word on the matter. Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things (Php 4:8).
An area for growth for self-control in our thoughts may be, "is it honest?" We so quickly are tempted to think things that are not honest. It may be something we wish was true, but it is not the case yet. Or it may be about a person or a group of people. Let's be careful not to think or say untruthful things about others just to support our values and beliefs. Remember what we think we are.
Finding harmony in the amount of time we give to the various things in our lives, such as family, friends, and church, is also part of exercising self-control. There are always plenty of things that invite our attention and participation. There is always a ditch on both sides of the road. Some may find it easy to sit on the sidelines and not become involved in family or church life. This is not always self-control. Sometimes self-control means rejecting lethargy or cynicism. As a former US President said, "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit is to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who spends himself in a worthy cause…" Personal integrity is spending ourself in the worthy cause of Christ and His kingdom on this earth.
The other side of the coin is too much activity. Being busybodies in other men's matters (1Pe 4:15) or running to the same excess (1Pe 4:4). This is not honorable behavior, and we need to personally pledge not to be involved in this type of activity. Or it may be over-activity doing "good things." May we pray to God for wisdom and be willing to ask a brother or sister, "Am I temperate in how I am spending my time?"
Things are not always as they appear. Jesus said in Mark 4:19 that riches are deceitful. And Peter tells us in II Peter 3:10-11 that all the stuff we have accumulated will add "fuel to the fire" when the day of the Lord will come. So we should use self-control and temperance so that we don't have an "ash heaped" life. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matt 6:20). Don't be a fool, so is he that layeth up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:20-21).
Over-spending and impulse buying are two ways of "spending money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress other people." Temperance and self-control are needed in a world of easy credit and government subsidies. Remember not all the vehicles we see are paid for. If we find ourselves in credit card or consumer debt, we should reach out to someone we can trust and find a path forward. We should exercise personal integrity and do it now. We should never "bury our head in the sand" and think that tomorrow we'll change. There are people within our churches that have experience and are willing to help.
Business owners should seriously consider the question, "How big is big enough"? Remember the story, "How much land does a man need?" Temperance and self-control are needed to say "no" to default growth. God blesses each with different abilities and gifts. We should use them to the full potential that God has for us. Maybe we need to stop and ask ourselves the question that God asked the farmer when his barn was not big enough. "Whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" The blessing of an abundant harvest was not wrong or something he should have felt guilty about. But the lack of temperance on how he would use them was why he was a fool. And the same is true for us today.
Temperance and self-control make the difference between being a fool and having to depart into everlasting fire or to be welcomed home by our Father's words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."