By David Faust
Restaurants and stores sell extreme tacos, super-charged energy drinks, and detergent that promises to make our clothes not just clean but “X-treme clean.” Musicians like Lady Gaga grab headlines with outlandish behavior. Cable news stations vie for ratings with outrageous stories and angry commentaries. Muslim extremists threaten violence. Amped-up political ads make hyped-up charges against the opposition.
In sharp contrast, God’s Word calls us to adopt the quiet but powerful quality of temperance. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” If you really want to be different and go against the flow, here’s a counter-cultural idea: Why not ask the Lord to help you develop self-control?
Coarse, rude language has become commonplace today, but “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).
An undisciplined person reasons, “When someone makes you angry, tell him off!” However, a thoughtful person remembers,
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” and “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (15:1, 18).
Want to stand out from the crowd? Refuse to participate in negative talk that tears others down. “A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much” (20:19).
As a society we eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, and save too little.
Want to be different? Buy less; give more. In fact, give extravagantly—and simplify your life so you can do so. “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; . . . Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (23:4, 5).
“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (23:20, 21). Want to get your life under control? Walk away from third helpings at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Say “no” to the two-faced cultural pressure that warns solemnly against drunk driving while winking at excessive drinking as if it’s a natural rite of passage for young adults. Refuse to be influenced by the ceaseless parade of beer commercials showing attractive men and women with flat stomachs and smiling faces instead of the wrecked lives and ruined bodies that result from alcohol abuse.
If temperance sounds difficult, it’s not nearly as difficult as the alternative. Consider how Proverbs 23 describes the outcome of excessive drinking: “Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. ‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it!’ When will I wake up so I can find another drink?’” (vv. 33-35).
It’s okay to be out of step if the cultural parade is marching in the wrong direction. Pursue the fruit of the Spirit, including self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23), and some will consider you a little old-fashioned—even extreme. But that’s a small price to pay for a clear mind, better health, and an unhindered witness for the Lord.
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout..
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of THE LOOKOUT.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 9, 2012
Isaiah 27, 28
Isaiah 29, 30