Respectable Sin #7: Lack of Self-Control

May 4, 2008

(Seventh in a series of my thoughts on the book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges)


The author defines self-control as “a governance or prudent control of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions. It is saying no when we should say no. It is moderation in legitimate desires and absolute restraint in areas that are clearly sinful.” Biblical self-control, he continues, “covers every area of life and requires an unceasing conflict with the passions of the flesh that wage war against our souls.” In order to exercise Biblical self-control, we must expose our minds to the words of God and spend time in prayer, asking for the desire and power to exercise self-control.

He chose three areas in which Christians often fail to exercise self-control.

First is in the area of eating and drinking, further defined as “the tendency to continually give in to our desires for certain foods or drinks.” Indulging every so often seems innocent enough; we may even tell ourselves that we deserve a special treat. However, in so doing, we are weakening our self-control in other areas. He recommends removing or getting away from whatever tempts us to indulge. If you stop and buy an overpriced, high fat coffee drink each morning on the way to work, get a travel mug and take your own (cheaper, less fattening) coffee from home. If you indulge in ice cream too often (ahem), you may want to consider not buying any except on special occasions.

Second is the area of anger. Whether a hot temper (quick and intense burst of anger followed by a calm disposition) or a short fuse (easily becoming angry and exercising little control over one’s emotions), we are warned in Scripture against having a lack of self-control over our anger. See Proverbs 14:17, Proverbs 16:32, James 1:19. To help us exercise more control over our temper, the author recommends learning these Scriptures.

Third is the area of personal finances. One look around at the society we live in will tell you that Americans have perfected the art of living beyond their means. Rather than exercising financial self-control, we are indulging our desires for what we want.

Recently, Dan and I had to purchase a new refrigerator. We stood in Lowe’s and looked at what they were selling… the price range for average size refrigerators was as cheap as $450 and as expensive as $2100! When the salesman recommended one for us that exceeded $1300 and pointed out its wonderful features, I scoffed and said, “Look, I don’t need all that. I just need something that will make ice and keep my food cold.” He responded by saying, “Well, appliances are very fashionable right now.”

Is this where we are as a society? It’s not bad enough to have all sorts of status issues when it comes to what we drive and where live, what sort of handbag we carry and what schools we send our children to… we are now viewing household appliances as some sort of status symbol?!?!? The mind boggles.

But I digress. As the author so succinctly states, “Indulging in whatever my heart desires, even if I can easily afford it, is not the way to gain that self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit.”

This chapter, although not as substantial as previous chapters, gave me a lot of food for thought. I see a personal need for improvement in all three of these areas, particularly eating. In the area of personal finances, I realize that even though I am frugal and thrifty, I don’t tell myself “No, you can’t have that,” anywhere near as often as I probably should.  Self-control of my anger is something I have drastically improved upon within the last four years or so. (Which is not to say that I don’t still have room for further improvement!)

I’ll be working on flexing my self-control muscles more in the days and weeks and months ahead. How about you?


One comment

  1. Thanks for posting this! I want to read this book, but have been putting it off for lack of time. I am going to make time to read it!

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