Moderation is an important concept in the Bible that refers to practicing self-control, avoiding extremes, and finding balance in life. In a world filled with temptations and excess, God calls His followers to live moderate, prudent lives according to Biblical principles. But what exactly does moderation look like according to scripture? This article will explore the meaning of moderation throughout the Bible and provide key takeaways for applying the principle of moderation to the Christian life.
Moderation is valued highly in the Bible, though the word itself is not used extensively. Related concepts like self-control, restraint, balance, sobriety, and temperance convey aspects of moderation. Essentially, moderation speaks to not being extreme, excessive, overindulgent, or imbalanced. The Bible promotes moderation in all areas of life, though it is perhaps most emphasized in relation to food, drink, physical pleasures, and finances.
Here are some key takeaways about moderation in the Bible:
- Moderation means practicing self-control and actively limiting excess.
- God highly values temperance, prudence, and sober-mindedness.
- Avoiding gluttony and drunkenness are two areas where moderation in eating and drinking are explicitly commanded.
- We are to exhibit moderation in work, play, and rest to maintain balance in life.
- Moderation applies to our spending and attachment to worldly goods.
- Liberty in Christ should not become an excuse for overindulgence or lack of self-control.
By looking at a variety of Bible passages, we will paint a thorough picture of moderation and see how it applies to our thoughts, behaviors, habits, attitudes, values, and lifestyles. The Bible promotes moderation not to deprive us, but to help us live wisely and freely.
Moderation Means Practicing Self-Control
Moderation is closely tied with self-control and the active limiting of excess. The Bible praises those who exercise control over their desires and actions. Self-control is listed by Paul as a fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a NKJV)
In his writings, Paul emphasizes the importance of self-mastery for the believer:
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27 NKJV)
Discipline and self-control are portrayed as the antithesis of gluttony and overindulgence:
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV)
Moderation often requires conscious limitation and restraint of our cravings and impulses to avoid excess. We are called to be intentional about controlling our bodies and appetites.
God Values Temperance, Prudence and Sober-Mindedness
The Bible praises sober-mindedness, prudence and temperance as virtuous qualities for believers to cultivate.
Temperance speaks of moderation, self-restraint and control:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge…And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness (2 Peter 1:5-6 KJV)
Prudence means acting with wisdom, caution, discretion and level-headedness:
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty (Proverbs 27:12 NIV)
Sober-mindedness refers to being clear-headed, watchful, and avoiding anything that could compromise sound judgement:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
Cultivating these qualities is presented as the best way to navigate life and please God. Moderation means exercising restraint, wisdom and discernment instead of recklessness, foolishness and lack of control.
Avoid Gluttony and Drunkenness
Two areas where the Bible explicitly commands moderation are eating and drinking. Overindulging in food and alcohol is strongly warned against.
Gluttony is portrayed as a lack of restraint that leads to sickness and ruin:
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21 ESV)
Drunkenness is described as debauchery and dissipation that impairs judgement:
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. (Romans 13:13 ESV)
Moderation in these bodily appetites is applauded as prudence that leads to health:
Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags…It is not for kings, Lemuel— it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. (Proverbs 23: 20-21, 31:4-5 NIV)
Self-control provides freedom from bondage, while excess leads to slavery:
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV)
Moderating our intake of food and drink is an important application of Biblical moderation.
Exhibit Moderation in Work, Rest and Play
Moderation also entails balancing work, rest, and recreation to create a well-rounded life.
Though hard work is commendable, working excessively can be counterproductive:
Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12 ESV)
God modeled the rhythm of work and rest in creation, instructing man to labor for six days and rest on the seventh:
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work. (Exodus 20:9-10 ESV)
Play and recreation in balance provide needed breaks from the strain of work. But amusement can become intemperate when taken to excess:
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13 ESV)
Moderation seeks balance between work, rest and recreation to refresh and maximize productivity. Neglecting any of these areas can lead to imbalance.
Practice Moderation in Finances and Worldly Goods
The Bible also teaches moderation in relation to money, possessions and financial aspirations.
While wise saving and providing for one’s household is encouraged, materialism and greedy accumulation of wealth is strongly warned against:
Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NIV)
Those with excess wealth are urged to be generous, sharing with those in need:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17 ESV)
The love of riches and desire to be rich create temptation and a trap:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)
Jesus instructed His followers to store up eternal treasures rather than earthly riches:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)
Pursuing sufficiency over surplus enables generous giving and avoidance of materialism and greed.
Liberty in Christ Should Not Become Excuse for Excess
An important consideration when examining moderation in scripture is Christian liberty. Becoming a follower of Christ offers freedom from sin and legalism. However, this liberty is not an excuse for undisciplined living and lack of self-control.
Paul addressed this issue in a letter to the Corinthian church. After explaining that food itself is not unholy, he gives this caution:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience. (1 Corinthians 10:23-25 ESV)
While believers have freedom in Christ, they should be careful not to allow their liberty to cause others to stumble:
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)
self-control and moderation should still guide believers’ choices and practices:
“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV)
Freedom in Christ empowers believers to live by the Spirit’s guidance from within. But this same Spirit promotes temperance, prudence and sober-mindedness.
Moderation is a virtue that the Bible promotes from beginning to end. Finding balance, avoiding excess, and exercising self-control bring order and wisdom to life. While the word “moderation” itself may not appear often, the principles of restraint, temperance, prudence and sober-mindedness are woven throughout scripture. God desires His people to live moderate, upright lives by the empowerment of the Spirit within them. The Bible speaks about moderation to guide believers into joyful, liberated living.