But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control. (vv. 22-23)
Last but not least, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Self-control, or any moderation for that matter, is a stark contrast to the works of the flesh that Paul lists (Gal. 5:19-21). We can work hard at altering our own behavior and temperament, but the self-control that the Spirit nurtures in us is of a different sort. It’s the self-control that is motivated by more than just wanting to “be a better person.” It goes beyond our ability to stick to a goal or resolution. Sometimes our preoccupations with self-control give the impression that our chief aims in life are to consume fewer calories and spend within our budgets. These are worthy pursuits, but self-control in the fuller sense is meant for the good of others, not just ourselves.
Restraining our egos and appetites benefits those around us, both those we love and those we may never know. Self-control means holding back so others can have a share of what we already have in excess. Sometimes it means “living simply so others can simply live.” In North America, where we consume so much more than our fair share of the world’s resources, the fruit of self-control can bring good news to those who live in want. Self-control allows us to hold back and trust that there will be enough to go around, and that we can be satisfied with modest portions in order to foster the well-being of others.
As you pray, ask God to develop your self-control for the benefit of others.
About the Author
Jessica Bratt Carle lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has served as a chaplain and more recently as a clinical ethicist at Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) since 2017. She is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She and her husband have two young sons.