Practicing Self-control

Self-control is not a pleasant concept. It means controlling ourselves to do things we do not want to do and to not do things that we do want to do. We talk about it in relation to fornication and drinking. But there are some areas in our life where many of us do not want to think about the need to control ourselves.

Smoking

I know of several Christians who smoke. They make excuses like, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about smoking,” or, “It doesn’t hurt anybody else,” or, “It might not hurt me. Some people smoke all their lives without problems.”

Well, we need to ask ourselves — is smoking a sin? Yes it is. It is not true that the Bible says nothing about smoking.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

The context is talking about fornication, but the principle applies to more than just that. How does smoking glorify God in your body? Smoking damages your body. It has nothing to do with glorifying God.

Romans 12:1-2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

We are not to just do what feels good to our bodies. We are to use our bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God. What we do with our bodies matters.

1 Corinthians 6:12:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. (ESV)

Here Paul is speaking about food, but the principle applies to anything. Smoking always leads to an addiction. It enslaves a person. We must not be enslaved to anyone or anything except God.

Eating

As we just read, Paul was speaking about food when he said that he would not be enslaved by anything. This is an area of the lives of many Christians where there is trouble with self-control. You can be enslaved to food. I know of many people (usually fat people) who are always thinking about food. They are addicted to it. It goes beyond their need for food to survive, it is just eating for pleasure.

It is good to enjoy our food, but that is not the reason for us to eat. We should always give thanks to God for our food.

Romans 14:6:

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (ESV)

It is assumed that whenever we eat we give thanks. You cannot find an example in the New Testament of Christ or any follower of Christ who did not give thanks before eating.

1 Corinthians 10:31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)

If we do not practice self-control in our eating, how is that to the glory of God? If you eat so much that you can’t move…? If you continually eat too much and get fat…?

Titus 1:12-13:

One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (ESV)

The word here for “glutton” refers to the stomach. I believe the same word can be used to speak of a pregnant woman. This is a picture of fat men who sit around all day and eat. This lack of self-control must be rebuked.

Deuteronomy 21:20 and Proverbs 23:20 show us that gluttony is just as bad as drunkenness. They both result from a lack of self-control. We have to decide that we will control ourselves in what we eat and that even in our eating we will glorify God.

Self-control is not easy, or it would not be called “self-control.” It is essential to being pleasing to God. We must not let ourselves become slaves to physical stimulants, food, or any other thing that does not glorify God in our bodies. Let us be careful to be slaves to God and use our bodies in His service.