"I wish it hadn't happened," she sobbed. "But I'd just had it. I lost my temper and said some really terrible things. I hope we can get past it now and make things like they used to be. I should have had more self-control."
Those could be the words of a wife about a situation at home. They could just as easily be spoken about a relationship in the office or with a client. It doesn't take much imagination to hear them being said about something that took place in the church parking lot last week.
Self-control is named in practically every list of virtues in the New Testament, but it is contrary to the spirit of our time. Citizens want lower taxes but not any loss of subsidies or services; thus the spectacle of a "what's-in-it-for-me" attitude dominates the political scene. We lament the breakdown of the family and its terrible consequences for children; yet a philandering husband and father expects us to understand that he "couldn't help it" when he fell in love with someone new.
The Bible says: "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control" (Proverbs 25:28 NIV). Ancient cities like Babylon or Jerusalem were protected from their enemies by fortified walls. One whose walls were broken down was a city inviting attack and plunder. In the same way, human beings without self-control are in danger of being ruined and humiliated by the blind pursuit of egocentric, self-indulgent, and forbidden desires.
While each of us may have particular areas of vulnerability such as food or alcohol, the "big three" where we must all keep some safeguards in place are money, sex, and power.
Advertisers work overtime to make you think you can't do without their products, and easy credit means you don't have to wait to buy them. Three loans and four maxed-out credit cards later, the young couple decides they need some help with money management. No, they need God's help to discipline their greed.
Lust can make an otherwise astute, sensible, and good man take leave of his senses and devastate the lives of everyone who once mattered to him. Pride and ego have taken over a part of his life that was once under God's sovereignty.
The devastating temptation for others is power. Authority goes to their heads and makes them insufferable. Power becomes control, and control turns into bellowing and bullying. They antagonize and alienate everyone.
Ancient cities needed walls. You and I need to pray for self-control.