What Does the Bible Say About Self-Control?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 30, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

Self-control is one of those things that’s a lot easier said than done. We know what we should do (or not do), but we can’t always control ourselves (thanks to sin in the world). So, what does the Bible say about self-control or self-discipline?

The first place I think of is the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These fruit are not character qualities that we possess of our own power, but they are evident in our lives when the power of the Holy Spirit is living in us.

We know that self-control comes from God living in us. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Paul’s letter to Titus shares that self-control is a quality that leaders in the church must have: “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined” (Titus 1:7-8).

James 1:19-21 shows what a self-controlled life looks like: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Paul also writes about this idea of a self-controlled life in Colossians 1:28-29: “He [Jesus] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

Self-control means being able to deny the sinful desires of our flesh in order to follow God’s desires for us.In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Titus 2:11-12 echoes this: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Romans 8:13 similarly says, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Paul explains self-control from the perspective of an athlete in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

The introduction to the book of Proverbs explains how the whole book teaches us to live a life of right living and self-control: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair” (Proverbs 1:1-3). Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 25:28 tells us that self-control is important to protect ourselves: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

How are you doing with self-control in your own life? Call on the power of the Holy Spirit living in you to help you make good, self-controlled decisions in your life.

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