We’ve all done it. Lost our temper, said something we regret, gave in to sin, allowed our friends to tempt us.
No, we don’t want to dwell on these indiscretions, but perhaps a study on self-control scriptures and a little heart examination will help prevent the pain caused by our lack of self-control.
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Self-Control in the Bible
Self-control must be a human struggle for all of us because the Bible is packed with stories, instructions, and examples of both self-control and the lack thereof.
Self-control in the Bible is worth studying as it will help our relationship with Christ, our relationships with others, and bring us peace.
Self-control in the Bible covers both actions and words.
King Solomon, in all his wisdom, states it best when he says,
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”Proverbs 25:28 NIV
Back in the Bible days, those walls protected the city. They kept the good in and the bad out. The same goes for self-control.
It is meant to keep the good in and the bad out. The bad being temptation, friction with others, and painful encounters.
Why Is Self-Control a Fruit of the Spirit?
Paul frequently explains sins we are supposed to avoid. This is the case as he is writing to the Galatians. He first lists the sins we should not partake in:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.Galatians 5:19-21
Note that many of these sins are a result of lack of self-control;, fits of rage, dissensions, drunkenness.
He then continues with the flip side and lists godly behavior with the fruits of the spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Galatians 5:22-25
So why is self-control listed among the fruits of the spirit? Let’s first look at the definition of self-control.
“The ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations.” – Lexico.com
Our human nature, born into sin, has a mind of its own. When we have self-control, we resist the list of sins Paul mentions in verses 19-21 (and sin in general). We control our behavior.
Paul compares it to a runner in training.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Strict training would be self-control. If you’ve ever been on a weight loss program, you know what I mean!
What Are the Benefits of Self-Control in the Bible
So, what are the benefits of self-control in the Bible? What’s the point?
- Prevents discord
- Nourishes relationships
- Strengthens your relationship with God
- Encourages perseverance
Biblical Examples of Self-Control
The Bible is full of examples of self-control or those who needed to use self-control.
Do you ever wonder why God included so many of the faults and sins of his people throughout His word? Because we are just like them! We are made of the same cloth, so to speak and we need these examples to teach us.
Examples of Self-Control in the Bible
The first person who comes to mind when I think of examples of self-control in the Bible is Job.
He had everything taken away from him and he suffered from horrible health but he NEVER blamed God. Even his wife was fed up and told him to curse God and die! What does he reply?
“You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”Job 2:10
Joshua is an excellent example of self-control as he marched around Jericho for seven days. Do you ever wonder if he was anxious to get on with taking over the city? But he patiently marched with his army for seven days in obedience to God’s word.
Examples of Lack of Self-Control in the Bible
The most obvious example of lack of self-control in the Bible is that of Adam and Eve. They could not resist the fruit of the forbidden tree and plunged us all into a world full of sin.
David was also known to forgo his self-control as is seen with BethSheba. Not only does he act on his lust, but he has her husband killed.
As far as lack of self-control regarding women, we should mention Samson. His great strength was taken from him because he gave into a wicked woman.
And what about Moses, striking the rock in frustration as the children of Israel murmured and complained. His lack of self-control lost him the promised land.
Now that we’ve hashed out the concept, let’s get on with Bible verses about having self-control in your life. I tried to divide it up a bit, but many of these verses cross lines as they emphasize self-control in both speech and behavior.
Related: Overcoming the Spirit of Gossip with Prayer
Scriptures on Self-Control and Discipline
Paul gives strict instruction about the elders of the church and sets the stage for teaching discipline in the Bible.
While Paul is instructing those in a more leadership role, we should not use this as an escape from obeying these rules as well.
Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.Titus 1:7-8
Discipline in the Bible, as talking to adults and not parents, is also found in Hebrews. Here Paul compares the trial of life as God disciplining us and removing the sin from our lives.
These are not easy verses, but they serve to further encourage us to be patient and embrace self-control when life is hard.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.Hebrews 12:7-8
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!
They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:9-11
Bible Verses about Self-Control and Anger
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20
This is a hard one to live by because so often we feel justified in our anger and need to produce a result in order to relieve ourselves of it.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27
Paul understands the feelings of anger as a human emotion. He knows it is pointless to instruct us not to be angry. Instead, he gives good advice. Do not sin in your anger because in doing so you give the devil a foothold. Such truth!
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.Ecclesiastes 7:9
Fools cannot control their anger. I’m sure none of us want to be counted as a fool!
Related: What Does the Bible Say About Judging Others
Bible Verses about Patience and Self-Control
Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.Proverbs 16:32
Some personalities are always ready to fight or take matters into their own hands. Solomon warns us to have patience.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.Romans 12:11-12
Sometimes self-control is more about patiently waiting on the Lord to deliver us from a bad situation or to answer our prayers.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9
Self-control would be not throwing in the towel when we are tired. Paul encourages us to keep going, remain faithful, and believe that God will reward us.
Self-Control Scriptures in the Proverbs
Proverbs is FULL of Bible verses about self-control. There is no disputing that Solomon was wise.
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.Proverbs 29:11
There’s that “fool” word again. Fools do not contain their anger (and give the devil a foothold we read earlier).
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:1
I keep trying to pound this verse into my child’s head! When we are not in the situation, it is easy to see that controlling our mouths and speaking peacefully, even when we are justified to be angry, can prevent problems.
Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.Proverbs 13:3
How often have you said something you regret? Hopefully, it did not ruin a relationship or cause undue harm. We all know the power of our words. Guard your lips, my friend.
There you have it! Over a dozen scriptures about self-control, enough to probably prick your conscious, as I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t struggle with this fruit of the spirit.
May the spirit of God work in your heart as you seek to be obedient to him in all things.