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A Life of Temperance

(Deuteronomy 21:19-21; Proverbs 23:19-21; Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13,14; 1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 9:25)

Lesson 11 -- first quarter 2004
February 15, 2004

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2003, Christian Light Publications

What is temperance?

In scrounging through my cranial thesaurus for a synonym for temperance, I quickly came up with moderation. I queried my computer thesaurus and it agreed. Upon a bit further reflection, though, I concluded that "exercising moderation" is an incomplete and potentially misleading definition of temperance.

Let's look at two extremes. Indulgence allows me to be unrestrained in what I think, speak, and do. Abstinence causes me to avoid certain thoughts, words, and deeds. Indulgence requires no self-control; abstinence requires lots of it. Few things in life should be indulged. Quite a few things in life should be avoided. However, many things in life require something other than indulgence or abstinence. That's where moderation comes in.

Moderation allows me to think, speak, and do things in a measured and limited manner, not overdoing them. In some ways, that may require even more self-control than abstinence. For example, it is far easier for me not to eat sweets than it is for me to eat sweets in moderation. If I don't get started, I don't have to try to stop. If I mean to eat only one cookie, it is difficult for me not to have a bar or a cinnamon roll or a marshmallow while I'm at it. So doing something in moderation may require huge quantities of self-control.

So where does temperance fit into the picture? Well, temperance is that self-control. Sometimes temperance will lead me to abstinence. More often it will lead me to moderation.

I need to be on my guard against equating temperance with moderation. You see, if I do that, I assume that as long as I maintain self-control, I can do anything. That is wrong! Some things shouldn't be done to excess or in moderation -- they just shouldn't be done at all. If temperance were to mean only moderation, then I should be able to look at pornography or listen to rock music or drive over the speed limit or lay up treasures on earth or entertain inordinate affections -- as long as I don't overdo it. We know that isn't right!

Now go over this verse fragment again: " Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things" (1 Corinthians 9:25). The Christian always strives to maintain self-control. Sometimes that means moderation; sometimes it means abstinence. Choose rightly!

Me? Self-controlled? How?!

"Take heed to yourselves" (Luke 21:34).

"Let us walk honestly, as in the day" (Romans 13:13).

" Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:14).

"Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

"Now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Romans 6:19).

"Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing" (2 Corinthians 6:17).

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God" (James 1:5).

"Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation" (Mark 14:38).

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