“Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.” ~Jonathan Edwards
Okay, does this one get you where you live? Today’s “Fruit of the Spirit” lesson for Jr. Church is on “temperance”…so my mind has been focused there lately. It does seem to be a strange phenomenon that we Christians are quick to point a finger at someone who struggles with smoking, or has an addiction of some sort which is easily observable (and not self-incriminating to judge), and yet we think nothing of coming back from the dessert bar at Golden Corral with a Hedonistic plate laden with half a dozen options. I remember a line from True Grit: “Enough is as good as a feast.” But we live in a generation which does everything quickly, and helps itself to more and more of everything.
Temperance is as much about making right, hard choices (after all that is what a resolution is, right?) as it is about not making easy, lazy choices. Humble, loving denial of self is a mark of spiritual growth. This extends far past eating and drinking, which are basic and easily recognizable appetites:
–It would feel so good to say that thing…but we won’t.
–We see something we shouldn’t on the internet…and resist the carnal curiosity of checking it out to make sure it really was what we thought it was.
–We decide, for better health, we need to change our diet…and we don’t postpone it until tomorrow because we need to consume all the junk food in the house first, because it would be wasteful to just get rid of it.
–We’re having a “last straw” kind of day, where seemingly everything has imploded…and we choose not to allow our grumpy attitude to prevail and poison everyone else in the house.
–Looking at one too many home improvement magazines, car, gun or fashion magazines (if that is your thing) and feeling a growing discontent about what we do not have…but we choose gratitude, remembering that these are all temporal things which will pass away.
–We are treated with rudeness, disdain, indifference, jealousy, anger, hatred…and we choose to “hope all things” instead of returning that behavior in kind.
These choices can result in stoic pride, if we’re a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of person. There is no lasting reward in this, and we’re sure to fail eventually if this is our sole motivation. But if we take the struggle to the Lord, admit we are not equal to the challenge, and ask Him to help us make the hard choice for Him…there is joy, peace, true satisfaction. It is done as an outgrowth of our love, and enabled by His love. He will never deny, and will always empower such choices. His love was earmarked by self denial…sacrifice. Ours ought to be as well.
This is fruit of the Spirit we are talking about. It is spiritually attained. It comes from God, so it excels something that is merely a good choice. It is fueled by love. It will look different than simply “turning over a new leaf”:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. ~1 Corinthians 13
This temperance, the choice for something higher and better, when achieved, is a delight to the heart of the one who chooses out of love. I’ve seen countless posts since January 1st, regarding how “skinny feels better than __________ tastes.” But this transcends feelings, as biblical love always does. Choose. Choose for the God you love.
“The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul…” Proverbs 13:19