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Temperance

Read: 2 Peter 1:3-11

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with . . . love. (vv. 5-7)

In America, we tend to associate temperance with history lessons on the era of Prohibition. But temperance really is just an older word for the spiritual gift of self-control. In fact, temperance doesn’t mean prohibiting anything; it means knowing when to say yes or no to our desires. In that way, temperance is the practical application of prudent thinking.

As Christians, we affirm that the pleasures we receive from things like food and drink are good. The problem comes when we pursue pleasure at the expense of everything else. Then a good pleasure becomes a deadly sin.

The early church believed that temperance was an indication of spiritual maturity and that practicing temperance led to the cultivation of other spiritual gifts, including love. In fact, Peter tells us that self-control is a sign that we are growing in our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Temperance is a spiritual discipline. Those of us who struggle to control our appetites know how much of a spiritual battle self-control can be. We are in good company. Many holy people have struggled with temperance. St. Augustine once prayed, “Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.”

But God does not leave us on our own. He has given us his own Spirit to keep us from falling, and to help us when we fail. —Jane Olson

As you pray, ask God to help you gain self-control, by his Spirit.

About the Author

Jane Olson is a college counselor and high school teacher. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Lars and her children Claire and Teddy.