AND the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the
garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die." Genesis 2:16-17
The dictionary defines this strange word "abstemiousness"
(temperance) as being
sparing or moderate in eating and drinking. We have all heard the motto,
"Moderation in all things." Usually it is understood that all
"good things" are what is referred to. Surely we cannot endorse the
moderate use of heroin, moderation in adultery or being moderately disposed to
negative attitudes like hate, bigotry or deceit. A precise definition of
abstemiousness would be "moderation (avoiding extremes) in those things
that are good, and avoiding or totally abstaining from those things that are
In the introductory scripture God gives us the principle of abstemiousness
upon which the right to enjoy eternal life is based. Adam and Eve were created
in the image of God and had no disposition toward selfish self-gratification and
so would naturally practice self-control or temperance. They had no tendencies
toward the extremes. They were to practice moderation in their free eating of
every tree in the garden. But they were not local from one certain tree-the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil. God wanted them to experience only good.
Satan suggested that they ought to find out what a little evil would be like, too. They distrusted God and ate
of the forbidden fruit. They broke the health principle of abstemiousness and
decided to go beyond the moderate use of those things that are good and also
throw in a little of the bad. Their disregard caused a change to take place in
their very natures. Once giving in to a selfish desire, they had now opened the
floodgate of intemperance and eventual death. God had warned them, "In the
day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
If God in His great love and mercy had not intervened, their situation would
have been hopeless. God had a plan already in store just in case such an
emergency should arise. This plan to save not only Adam and Eve from eternal
death, but also all their descendants as well, is the main theme of the entire
Bible. It is God's way to restore to the human race perfect self-control, just
as Adam and Eve had in the beginning. That way is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3:16. "And this is the record, that God bath given to us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son bath life; and he that bath
not the Son of God bath not life." 1 John 5:11-12. The evidence that a
person has received the Spirit of God in Christ is described in Galatians
5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no
We can summarize what has been said up to this point as follows:
1. Abstemiousness is the moderate use of those things that are good, while
abstaining from those things that are harmful.
2. This abstention requires self-control or temperance.
3. Temperance is a gift from God that comes to us only as we receive Christ.
Temperance, then, is required in order to build a lifestyle that is in
balance physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. After all, without
self-control we could not put into practice the knowledge that we have. Unless
we have the power to carry out all our good intentions, they are not of much
Once we have the power of God working in us, we can practice moderation in
those things that are good. We will avoid extremes-the "over/unders."
Overeating leads to stomach-upset and/or obesity. Undereating leads to
malnutrition or starvation.
Overwork leads to exhaustion or injury. Underwork leads to atrophy and
Over-rest leads to weakness and laziness. Under-rest breeds mental confusion
We also need a balanced intake of air, water, and sunlight--not too much and
not too little.
Abstemiousness should regulate not only our physical health habits, but the
mental and social aspects of life as well. Too much reading, too much talking,
too much thinking, too much entertainment, too much sports, too much television,
materialism, and fashion—all of these things, if not properly regulated, can
overtax the mental powers and even lead to physical breakdown somewhere in the
body. It could even be said that they are, in a way, intoxicating when carried
to excess. We're familiar with the expressions "glued to the TV" or
"sports fan" (short for fanatic). These examples serve to illustrate
how one's entire life can become unbalanced, and the mind somewhat intoxicated,
or warped by over stimulation. The Bible teaches us, "Whatsoever things are
true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever
things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these
things." Philippians 4:8. This antidote would certainly be effective for
many of society's mental and social ills.
Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, as commonly used (excluding rare medicinal
usages), do no good whatsoever and have been proved to trigger many harmful side
effects, depending on the pattern of use. Each one has its place to some degree
in the lineup of prime suspects contributing to the epidemic of the degenerative
disease—atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, obesity,
and so on. They also play a role in violent behavior, accidents and fires. There
is almost always some degree of dependence involved in their use. Aside from the
physical harm done, this dependency is detrimental mentally and socially, as the
user is subconsciously conditioned to use them as crutches. The development of
important problem-solving skills and everyday coping skills is retarded to the
extent that the chemical crutch is used as a substitute. All that the user need
do to discover the extent of their dependency is to stop their use.
Illegal drugs should be rejected for the same reasons. They carry the
additional drawback of moral guilt and possible civil punishment. Even
over-the-counter prescription drugs should be avoided. They always carry side
effects, many times do not work as they should, and usually there are safer
alternative remedies that could be used instead.
Sometimes strong medications are the lesser of two evils, and in such cases
their use is justified. Until something better is found, their use may be
While we need to practice moderation in the eating of any food, we need to be
more moderate in the use of some foods than in others. The U.S. Senate Select
Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in 1977 issued these recommendations to
1. Eat less sugars and sweets. 2. Eat less fat and cholesterol. 3. Eat less
salt. 4. Eat more fruits, vegetables and starches. 5. Keep your weight normal.
In practical, everyday language these guidelines mean we need to eat less
refined, processed foods, and less animal products of all kinds. A basically
vegetarian diet composed mostly of natural, simple foods eaten in quantities to
maintain a healthy body weight is ideal.
Some food additives, irritating spices, condiments, vinegar, baking powder
and baking soda should also be avoided, as they are upsetting to the stomach and/or
Temperance and abstemiousness foster safety as well. Most accidents are
either caused by law-breaking, human error (miscalculation), or unsafe
conditions. Almost all automobile accidents and injuries could he prevented if
alcohol were eliminated, seat belts worn, laws obeyed, and vehicles maintained.
Around the home the main danger areas are gardens, paths and steps, roads,
machinery, and water. Inside the home consider toys, flammable clothing, fires,
electricity, medicine, chemicals, and kitchen appliances and implements as
potential threats. The old adage certainly is true, "an ounce of prevention
is worth a pound of cure."
One of the differences between people and animals is the way that they
acquire behavior patterns. Most of the things animals do, they do because of
instinct. This knowledge and behavior is inherited by the animal. The capacity
to learn or be taught anything varies considerably, depending on the type of
In contrast, man has very few instincts, although tendencies are inherited.
Most of what we do, we do because we learned it somewhere. Through various
learning processes we acquire habits. Habits are convenient, since once we have
them, we don't have to deliberate about every little thing we do. They can also
be a nuisance if we don't like them or try to change them. Some habits are hard
to get rid of. It is easier to learn good habits than to unlearn bad ones.
Every time we do or think something, a specific nerve pathway is activated in
the brain. These pathways become permanent fixtures in the brain and are
strengthened the more they are activated. In breaking a habit we deactivate
those pathways. By saying "NO" to the habit, inhibitory nerve fibers begin to
form on the old pathway which tend to weaken the strength of the habit. Then by
substituting something else in place of the old habit, a new pathway is formed
which acts as kind of an alternative route over which the strength of the old
habit can be directed. Even though it may be deactivated, the old pathway is
still there, making it easy to reactivate if we revert back to it even once.
To break a habit, then, one must be decisive. Don't be ambivalent or
indecisive. This tends only to excite both the inhibitory and excitatory nerves
at the same time. Instead, be firm. Starve that old habit and begin feeding a
new one. Concentrate on a positive substitute, and you won't have to expend as
much energy fighting the negative one. For example, substitute deep breathing or
water drinking for smoking. Every time you have an urge to smoke, do some deep
breathing or get a drink of water instead. But the most important thing is to make up your mind. Strengthening any positive lifestyle habit always lends to
weaken the negative ones. For example: a good exercise program is one of the
best antidotes to smoking. Good habits tend to foster more good habits, and bad
habits to promulgate more bad habits. "Birds of a feather..."
When attempting to eliminate a habit, anticipate trouble spots. Be prepared
for the time when you are likely to experience that old habit clamoring for
attention. Plan ahead. Rehearse in your mind how you will successfully overcome
it. Try to avoid situations where the habit will be aroused. Don't make
exceptions. Remember, one exception reactivates that dormant habit. Be honest
about your weaknesses. Acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them. Dwell on the
positive and practice the good habits you wish to keep and strengthen often.
It must be remembered that genuine self-control is a gift from God that we
can receive only in Christ. Jesus said, "I am the vine, ye are the
branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much
fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." John 15:5. We often, in
this life, find ourselves at the end of our rope. But in God we have an infinite
store of resources. So much so that the apostle Paul could say, "1 can do
all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13
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