Posted by: Postordinandy | July 14, 2010

Self-control: a gift to others.

Our final visit to the fruit of the spirit finds us wrestling with self-control.

Like so many words in the bible, the translation from the Greek to English loses some of the depth of the original. The English seems so, well, negative. It suggests holding back, resisting, saying no, denying oneself. None of these interpretations are wrong of course, or even necessarily unhelpful; but they are not the full measure of it.

The Greek, enkrateia, can mean at least the following:

Possessing power; having mastery, or possession, of; to be disciplined or self-restrained; having good judgement; to be strong or sensible; to have wise discretion; to hold in the hand passions & desires; the product of a sound mind… (phew).

While most English bibles translate it to self-control, there are notable exceptions. The New King James uses “temperance”; while the Message speaks of being “able to marshal and direct our energies wisely”.

So, self-control moves both forward and backwards. To exercise self-control requires first of all that one is self-aware, concious of both strengths and weaknesses – knowing both who you are and where you are going.

While denial will always be a possible aspect of self-control, there are plenty of ways that this benefits more than the individual. Think of Daniel and the others refusing to eat the kings food (which would have been offered to idols) – growing stronger, giving a positive witness to God and serving the king well at the same time; Joseph resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife – challenging inappropriate behaviour, showing loyalty to Pharaoh… longer term rewards (read more of the story to find out); David refusing to react to those cursing him – principle benefit? Those cursing him kept their lives! And of course, the prime example of self-control of Christians is that Jesus remained true to the path towards death on that first Easter.

While the above examples are mostly alien to our own experiences, we are asked to exercise self-control in other ways. Holding back from saying: “I told you so!”, or from offering a solution when what is required is a kindly listening ear; using discernment and godly patience to wait for the moment to act or speak, rather than trying to tell people something that is true when they are not able to hear it as such; wrestling with the realities of living in a consumer society… all these and more are real opportunities for us to demonstrate the reality of God beyond ourselves.

This is the essence of self-control: that we remain faithful to our moral code, our sense of calling, our desire to see the best for others and for God. When we are faithfully self-controlled in the small things, aware of our limitations and experiences, we build up the capacity (with the help of God’s Spirit) to do likewise in more testing situations. Self-control is ultimately a key tool in the mission toolbox.



  1. i posted somewhere else, so not sure if you’ll see it, but thanks for taking the time to post all your posts on this blog 🙂

    have spent a long while tonight reading, some real though provoking stuff

    Fragz x

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