Posted by Nathan Warner on

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12).

In our continuing study of how the Church is a societal hedge or foundation for a free and just society, we’re looking this week at how the Christian concept of self-control shields society from the destructive outcomes of our selfish, self-centered lusts of the flesh. 

One of the best illustrations of why self-control is essential to society is to consider children.  Small children are often completely possessed by their own self-interest—slaves to the basest fleshly desires.  Every action they do, they do for their own gratification and desires, regardless the harm to others.  Parents can tolerate it because children are not yet able to enact their will upon the world.  Now, consider that same child in an adult’s body.  They would bring harm and destruction to all they meet, lacking in empathy and using people and things for their own amusement.  This is why teaching discipline and self-control to young children is so essential—so that by the time they have the power to enact their will upon the world, they have been disciplined in controlling it for the benefit of others.

Self-control is regulating your fleshly desires, passions, and anger in deference to the good of others—restraining your pride, self-promotion, and self-value so that you can give space for the needs of others.

If you lack self-control, your words and your actions will be to serve your own pleasures and your own good.  And this absolutely means you will exploit and harm those around you in deference to your “needs.”  And this is a good practical definition of sin—all sin is living for your own needs and desires at the expense of others, for the “deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 5:13-26)—all expressions of self-love.

 In contrast, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:22-24).  Self-control requires no law, because it is an internal law—you regulate your own behavior so no one needs to regulate it for you by force.

The value of self-control is priceless to yourself and to those around you: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Pro. 16:32).  This is saying that someone who practices self-control is more valuable to society than a mighty warrior, because self-control is a foundation of trust that strengthens your community from within.  You can trust the people around you to not exploit your vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  You can trust that your neighbors won’t abuse you or your loved-ones when they have power over you.  Similarly, people without self-control leave their community defenseless to harm, shattering the foundation of mutual trust: “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Pro. 25:28).  Self-control is a valuable work of service to your community. 

Instead of dwelling on our own desires and interests, we are told to apply “all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love” (2 Pt. 1:5-7).  This is the legacy of the Gospel upon western culture and it is upon this foundation of self-control and mutual trust that the American Founders build one of the freest societies Earth has ever seen.

Tags: love, sin, service, lust, self-control, god's will, selfish, dreams, passions, desires, hopes, self-sacrifice, self-will


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