Fruit of the Spirit: Choosing Self-Control

The first time I read Paul’s letter to Titus, I was struck with the message he wrote about older and younger women in chapter 2. He told Titus, “teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (vv. 3-5).

When I read that passage I thought about all of those older women whom I’ve heard say, “I’ve lived long enough to no longer care about what people think of me.”

This phrase never sat well with me. Do we really stop caring what people think of us when we get older? Are we now, by value of age, allowed to act and speak however we want? According to the Bible? No.

It doesn’t matter how old or how young we are, we have a specific direction to follow if we want to glorify God. One that is important to follow is self-control.

According to BlueLetterBible, the word self-control in Galatians 5:23 (egkrateia) means, “The virtue of one who masters his desires and passions….”

Titus chapter 2 uses the the word ‘sophron’ which defines self-control as “curbing one’s desires and impulses.”

Both of these words go back to a saying I tell my kids: “Just because you want it doesn’t mean it is right (or good for you).”

We might find choice words to say to someone who upsets us, or we might think a night of excessive drinking will help rid the stress of the day. Maybe we’ll feel better about life if we eat everything in the refrigerator, freezer or cabinet. Perhaps we’re looking for the perfect body and head to the gym more than what we are told is healthy. What if shopping is our passion, and even though we might be strapped for cash, we feel we need to get whatever item is on our “must-have” list.

Wherever our passion lies, whatever our impulses may be at any given time, we need to be cautious and use moderation. We need to be smart in what we do and in what we say. Those choice words? We need to figure out a better way, something more appropriate to say. Exercising or eating in excess? It’s best to stick to what’s healthy for our bodies: moderation.

What’s great about this is that we don’t have to do this alone, and in fact, we shouldn’t.

In his message, Paul is not only speaking about the older women, or even the younger. He also addresses the older and younger men. Throughout chapter 2 Paul encourages everyone to exercise self-control.

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, love and in endurance.

verse 2

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

verse 6

Not only this, but he tells the older to teach the younger. The older generation needs to walk a holy and righteous life, one that is glorifying to God. Once they start doing this it is their responsibility to teach the younger generation. It is then the responsibility of the younger generation to listen to instruction and to live out the life they are being taught. When they become older, it will be their turn to teach.

It is a constant cycle.

Within this cycle, there is no room for anyone to think that their job—to live out a godly and upright life—is ever done.

This all brings about a sense of community among believers. There are leaders, teachers, role models, followers, students. No one is exempt.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.

Titus 2:11-12

Salvation is for all men, and when we choose to walk in this way, we begin to see what God wants for us, how he wants us to live. There is nothing and no one greater than He is, and our eyes need to be set upon Him. When they are firmly fixed on Him, then making the right choices becomes easier. The things that we once consider most important in our lives take a step back.

What’s more important: Those shoes we crave, or Him? The attention we’ll get when we have the perfect body, or Him?

When we are depressed or stressed, what’s the best coping method? Alcohol? Shopping? Eating? Or Him?

When we are angry, is it better to let our words fly, or to look to Him?

We all know the answer is Him. But in the same breath we also know it’s not always an easy decision, or at least one that we readily choose as we should. The funny thing about us is that we are human. God made us this way. We are not God, and though we should use Him as our example, we tend to fall short. And you know what? He gets that.

God knows that we’re not perfect, but He loves it when we strive to do the things He asks of us. In this case, to be self-controlled.

And what about those who are watching us? We never know when there will be eyes on us, watching what we will do in certain situations. Some to catch us, others as a passerby. Because of this, we never know who we may be influencing. It could be a new Christian, someone who is flirting with the idea of taking that step, or even someone who is against it completely. These eyes could also belong to a small, impressionable child.

How do we want to be seen? If we choose what is wrong, we may lose the one who is pondering a commitment with Christ. We may discourage the new Christian. The one who is against Christ altogether? We may have unwillingly “proved” to them that whatever they thought about us was right. This is why we need to be aware of our actions.

In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

verses 7b-8

Start looking at your community of believers. Really look at them. As long as they “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (v.1), then learn from them. Understand that they have the wisdom to guide you along your walk, along God’s path for your life.

If you are the one teaching, remember to do so with uprightness and godliness. Teach with sound doctrine, and do not let your words and actions bring yourself or others down.

Understand that you can learn from each other, whether old or young. Be mindful of your actions; look to God when you are hurting, angry, or even overambitious. Find your hope in Him, in the God who made you.

And remember to look to others for guidance. He has placed the there for you, and you for them.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the love and support you provide through our community of believers. Help me to take part and do what is right in Your eyes. Help me to teach and be taught with sound doctrine that comes from You and Your Word. Help me to practice self-control in every situation that comes my way, and to look to You in everything. Amen.

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