The Fruit of the Spirit – Living a Spirit-filled life
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
Day 11: Self-control
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others… So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. -1 Corinthians 10:23-24 & 11:20-21 (NIV)
The last of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. We are not to live according to our impulses and desires, but instead to consider others’ needs. That is not to say that all of our desires are wrong or bad. But we do not give in to our desires a way that is harmful to ourselves or others. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes that he has heard that when the Corinthian church came together to share the Lord’s Supper – which used to be an actual meal and not just a piece of bread and a sip of wine (or grape juice) – some were bringing food just for themselves and eating and getting drunk while others went hungry. Their lack of self-control was hurting the body of Christ.
For those of us who have struggled with addiction, self-control is a tricky thing. Any recovering alcoholic knows that self-control in the sense of will-power just isn’t enough. Myself, having seen both sides of an eating disorder I know that too much self-control can be as unhealthy as not enough. When I was starving myself I was extremely self-controlled, but I wasn’t serving God any more than when I was overeating. And in Alcoholics Anonymous, I’m told, they speak of how someone can be a “dry drunk” – no longer drinking but not having dealt with their issues and unhealthy behavior. Other addictions, too – to sex, perfectionism, drugs, codependent relationships, etc. – can’t be cured by just having more self-control. Real healing must take place, and that is almost always a long process, with steps forward and backward.
But self-control is important, and Paul has given it a place of importance at the end of the list of the fruit of the Spirit. As we remain in Christ and as the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness grow in us, we begin to bear the fruit of self-control as well. We stop and think before we act on an impulse to take something we want. We take a deep breath when we feel angry, and do not strike out with our fists or our words. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” We don’t take the opportunity to cheat on our spouse with the attractive stranger. And we look for this quality in Christian leaders as well.
D.L. Moody said that self-control (temperance, in the King James Bible) is “love in training.” If we practice self-control on a daily basis it will become a habit. Just as we train our bodies to run a race, we train our minds and our hearts so that when we are faced with a challenge we will be ready.
What are some ways you see the fruit of self-control in your life? Are there areas in which you wish you were more self-controlled? Are there perhaps underlying issues that need to be addressed in order to effectively practice that self-control?
Thank you for walking through these eleven days with me. I pray that they have given you encouragement and hope, and empowered you to love God, love yourself, and love others, and continue to produce the fruit of the Spirit, as you were created to do.
Boston, May 29th, 2017
About The Author
Jessica Kantrowitz spent many years in seminary, earning an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and in various ministries to both Americans and international students. When a health crisis coincided with a faith-shift she left her job in an Evangelical parachurch organization and rediscovered her joy in writing. Her work has been published on Think Christian and The Good Men Project and shared widely throughout social media, in particular her essays, Bake for them two and Things I've been wrong about for most of my life, part one. She lives in Boston where she also works as a nanny and an academic editor. You can find her at her blog, Ten Thousand Places, and on Facebook and Twitter.