This week, I am focusing on the Respectable Sin of Self-Control. In my last post, I dealt with self-control with our temper. In this post, personal finances will be the main subject.
Christians, along with the rest of the nation, are in financial debt. One statistic said that on average Americans are in 7,000 dollars worth of credit card debt . That tells us that as a nation, we are not exercising self-control when it comes to our finances. Instead, we are indulging our desires with new clothes, the latest electronic gadgets, expensive vacations, etc. By buying these things, we are going into more debt.
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Consumers consume hoping it will satisfy, but it doesn’t. Instead it leaves us empty, and wanting more to fill that void, so we buy more. We do so under the false notion that our next purchase will be what we need to fill us up, but it doesn’t either. Instead massive debt piles up as we try and fill a void only Christ can fill.
Why is it important we exercise self-control?
If we do not exercise self-control, then our desires end up controlling us rather than us controlling our desires. As well as Scripture commands us to exercise self-control. Here are a few verses:
- Proverbs 25:28
- Galatians 5:22-23
- 2 Timothy 3:3
- Titus 2:2,5,6
- Titus 2:11-12
- 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8
- 2 Peter 1:5
For those reasons, it is important we exercise self-control.
Is debt the only sign that a person lacks self-control?
No, those who are affluent also fall into this category. A lack of self-control does not necessarily correlate with our bank accounts.
How do we know that we lack self-control in our finances?
We know we lack self-control in our finances when we indulge ourselves in whatever our hearts desire.
How do we rid ourselves of this sin?
The writer of Ecclesiastes helps when he says,
“I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ec 2:1–11)
The writer of Ecclesiastes teaches us that indulging ourselves is vanity. It will not provide us with the joy we are seeking. The only thing that will provide us with true joy and satisfaction is Christ.
How can we exercise self-control?
Jerry Bridges wisely says,
“Biblical self-control is not a product of one’s own natural will power”.
That is because it requires us to exercise self-control in all areas of life. While we may be able to exercise self-control in certain areas in order to gain something, it is impossible for us to do so in our own power in every area of our lives. For example, an athlete exercises self-control with their diet in order to perform better, but they may not exercise self-control in their spending habits.
So then, how do we exercise self-control in every area of our lives? Only through the power of the Holy Spirit and a continual exposure to the Word of God are we able to exercise self-control in every area of our lives. You see, self-control “requires an unceasing conflict with the passions of the flesh that wage war against our souls (see 1 Peter 2:11)”. The only way we can consistently exercise that level of self-control is by the influence and enablement of the Holy Spirit. This lead Jerry Bridges to say,
“Continual exposure of our mind to the Word of God and continual prayer for the Holy Spirit to give us both the desire and power to exercise self-control [is required]. We might say that self-control is not control by oneself through one’s own willpower but rather control of oneself through the power of the Holy Spirit”.
Questions for Reflection
- What do you believe Americans buy that get themselves into such massive debt? Why do they buy these things?
- Does your shopping habits reveal a lack of self-control when it comes to your finances?
- What do you hope excessive spending will provide for you?
 Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 113.
 Ibid., 110.
 Ibid., 111.