Respectable Sins: Self-Control | Part 3

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.

Personal Finances

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 [1]. 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”[2].

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)”[3]. 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”[4].

Questions for Reflection

  1. What do you believe Americans buy that get themselves into such massive debt? Why do they buy these things?
  2. Does your shopping habits reveal a lack of self-control when it comes to your finances?
  3. What do you hope excessive spending will provide for you?

Resources

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 113.
[2] Ibid., 110.
[3] Ibid., 111.
[4] Ibid.

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Respectable Sins: 4 Manifestations of Selfishness | Part 3

In my last post in this series, I discussed how we are often selfish with our time. If you would like to read that post, you can do so by clicking here. Today I will deal with our selfishness regarding our money.

Our Money

America is one of the, if not the, riches countries in the world, but less than 2 percent of our money is given to charities or religious causes [1]. When we do give, it is often a minimal amount, and it is usually directed toward popular charities that have popped up as a result of a world disaster. The reason people typically give once to major popular causes rather than often to lesser known causes is because it makes them feel good, which is a form of selfishness.

Why is selfishness with our money a sin?

The reason selfishness with our money is a sin is because it is a form of greed (see Matt. 23:25). Here is what Paul has to say,

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Co 5:11)

Going even further, the underlying sin or motive of someone who is selfish with their money is at least three-fold.

First, there is a lack of trust in God. They do not trust Him to provide for their needs.

Second, there is a lack of joy in God. They seek happiness in the things money can buy, rather than in their relationship with the Lord.

Lastly, there is a lack of finding their status in Christ. Instead, they seek the status money affords them, showing they find their significance in what other people think about them.

What can we do to rid this sin from our lives?

I believe there are three things we can do:

First, we need to trust in the Lord. Realizing that He is the One who provides us with everything that we own, and He is the One who will take care of our needs.

Second, we need not find our happiness or joy in our money because it is fleeting. We only gain true joy from accomplishing our God given purpose in life, which is to serve and glorify God. Then and only then can we experiencetrue joy that is not fleeting or circumstantial. 

Lastly, we need to realize that what others think of us is not what should provide us with significance. Everyone is significant because they have been created in the image of God. As well as those who are believers are God’s children. A status and significance greater than anything the world could ever give us. So we are to find our significance in God and not in other people. 

Looking Forward

In my next post in this series, I will look at how we are selfish with our consideration of others. Until then, use the questions below to help you reflect on this post.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How does selfishness with your money manifest itself in your life?
  2. What underlying sin do you think causes you to be selfish with your money? Is it a lack of trust in God, a lack of joy in God, or a lack of recognizing your status is found in Christ alone?
  3. What other verses would you recommend for those dealing with this form of selfishness?

Resources

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 104.

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Who do you trust? Riches or God?

Do you trust God? I mean do you really trust God, or have you placed your hope in something other than Him? In Luke 12 we encounter a man who put his trust in his possessions rather than in God. The reason was that he thought they would bring him happiness, comfort, relaxation, and protection. Does not this hold true? It is what the world tells us is the key to happiness. We see this message portrayed through countless magazine ads, movies, television shows, and bill boards plastered on our cities walls. However, Jesus has something different in mind. Lets pick up the narrative in verse 13.

The Narrative

A man in the crowd, who has obviously not been listening to Jesus’ teaching, says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replies by asking him, “who has made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then Jesus turns to the crowd and gives them this command: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” With that one sentence Jesus shakes up the world’s idea of possessions. He tells us that our life does not consist in our possessions, or you could say it this way, our possessions are not an essential element for our life. We do not need them to live. This immediately prompts the question, well, what do we need to live? This is exactly what Jesus is going to tell us, but in order to do so, he gives us an illustration in the form of a parable.

The Parable

Jesus tells us that the land of a rich man produced plentifully and as a result he had no where to store the excess. His barns were not big enough to hold the crop, so he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. After building the new barns and storing his excess crop in them, he believes that his life is now complete. His soul can now enjoy rest and relaxation, and he can eat, drink, and be merry. This man believed possessions were essential for his life. Without them, he could not enjoy life, nor could he live. This is because this man trusted in himself, rather than in God.

Notice throughout the parable the heavy use of the first person pronoun “I” and “my”. This shows the man had no regard for anyone other than himself, nor did he recognize that his riches and excess crop came from God. Notice in verse 16, the text tells us that “the land” produced the crop. God, as the sovereign ruler of this world, provided for this man, but he still did not trust in the Lord. Rather he placed his trust in himself.

God comes to him after he has finished storing all his crops and says, “Fool! This very night your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared whose will they be?” To put your trust in your riches is foolish. They are temporary, finite things, that have no bearing on your life after you die. But what does have bearing on your life is your relationship with God.

Jesus comments in verse 21 saying that those who lay up treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God will end up in the same predicament as the man here in the parable. They will face eternal damnation, rather than eternal rest, relaxation, joy, and comfort for all of eternity with God. Oh, don’t get me wrong, things may satisfy us momentarily, but that satisfaction will wane quickly. Notice that the man in the parable was a rich man. He already lived a life of luxury, but the satisfaction, comfort, and relaxation his things once brought to his soul, did not last, and his soul was once again troubled until he was able to amass more riches. Surely, the cycle will continue to repeat in this man’s life because he has a giant hole in his heart that only God can fill. No earthly riches will do. That is why only those who are rich towards God will truly be satisfied.

Conclusion

So then, we must understand that it is God who provides for us, it is He who knows what we need. Once we understand that our possessions are not essential for our life, they are not necessary for us to live, but that our relationship with God is necessary, then we can be freed from the sin of covetousness – desiring what we do not have. We are freed from coveting others things: talents, abilities, jobs, homes, cars, clothes, families, etc because we understand that those things are not essential for our lives. They do not bring us everlasting rest, relaxation, comfort, and joy like our relationship with the Lord. Once we understand that, we are able to stop trusting in our possessions and start trusting in the Lord.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net