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Principle 18: Exercise Self-Control

As little babies, we are fascinated with all things sparkly and bright colored. The slightest hint of gleam and we direct our attention toward the object.  It is part of our make-up to be drawn to that which pleases our senses, isn't it? Smell the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread and your mouth begins to water for the enjoyment of savoring a warm slice lathered in rich butter.  See the shiny new car you have been dreaming of and you can see yourself behind the seat cruising down the street.  Hear the tender notes of some melody and your toes will start tapping with the beat.  Our bodies respond to stimulus from without, but that response begins on the INSIDE in response to the thing we are "taking in" through one of our senses.  Ever eaten one too many slices of luscious warm bread smothered in fresh butter?  How about going into debt to buy the shiny automobile you really could not afford?  Or perhaps listening to music in lieu of doing the one important thing which needed to be done? Yep, we've ALL been there!  Learning "temperance" is a difficult thing in this life, but if we don't exercise a little self-control over our "sensual intake", we will find ourselves in places we'd probably not like to be!

Who are the people who are always crying the blues?  Who do you know who reeks of self-pity?  Who keeps getting beat up for no reason at all?  Whose eyes are bleary and bloodshot?  It’s those who spend the night with a bottle, for whom drinking is serious business.  Don’t judge wine by its label, or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor.  Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with—the splitting headache, the queasy stomach. Do you really prefer seeing double, with your speech all slurred, reeling and seasick, drunk as a sailor?  “They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt; they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing.  When I’m sober enough to manage it, bring me another drink!”  (Proverbs 23:29-35 MSG)

It seems like our passage only deals with the warning to avoid strong drink, but there are some very valuable principles we can take away from this one:

- We need to be aware of what appeals to the eye.  The "eye-gate" is the one "entry point" which we need to monitor first in our lives.  Sight is a tremendous gift - just ask anyone whose sight has been taken from them at some point and see if they don't agree.  Intake through sight becomes the place where imagination begins to take over.  We "see" and then we begin to imagine what we see as our own, how it will affect us if we could just take hold of what it is we see.  In the Garden of Eden, why was the serpent so successful when he posed his questions to Eve?  Perhaps it was because she had already been gazing at the fruit anyway!  Imagination as to the possibilities of partaking of what would ultimately be outside of God's plan for life tickled her senses - because she "saw" and seeing created desire.  Desire is not a bad thing, when tempered with self-control and the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit.  Desire gets out of hand when everything we see becomes something we have to get or partake in.  

- We need to be certain about what we hear.  Lots of times people tell us things which simply are not true.  If you don't believe me on that one, just remember the last time you were duped by an April Fools joke or some gimmick some vendor showed in order to get you to purchase something.  We cannot believe everything we hear and the advice here is to become "testers" of what we hear.  Maybe this is why I emphasize so frequently the need for each believer to really get to know the Word of God for themselves.  In so doing, you are ensuring you have the foundation to "test" what you hear, recognizing when it just doesn't seem to be quite right, and then seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit's guidance to determine if this is just a new truth you haven't really grasped yet, or if it is truly something you need to reject.

- We need to be cognizant of our values.  You probably have heard the saying of not judging a book by its cover, but there is more to this saying than just nice sentiment.  When we have a set of core values which align with the Word of God and principles taught in scripture, we stand a better chance of "interpreting" input wisely.  We see individuals for their inherent worth in Christ Jesus, not what they contribute to society, or how influential they are in today's social circles.  We hear the sweetness, as well as longings of the heart of those who share their lives with us.  We learn to touch with the tenderness of compassion and gentleness of urging someone to move forward who has been stuck in a rut for a long time.  The values we learn at the foot of Jesus help us to put life in perspective, so we aren't drawn to the things which bring hurt or harm into either the lives of those we are in community with or our own.

In short, we have a great deal to learn about how our senses "drive" us and "pull" us toward certain behaviors and life views.  There is much in this life which can repel us, but probably much more which can draw us in if we are not exercising a little self-control.  The "shiny" doesn't always sparkle once we take hold of it!  The "luscious" doesn't always flatter once it is consumed! Just sayin!


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