Biblical Definition of Moderation
The virtue of moderation avoids extremes, exercises restraint, and relates to self-control. Our world defines moderation in similar terms. It defines it as a state or quality of being moderate or keeping a “due mean” between opposite extremes, freedom from excess, temperance, or due restraint. Moderation is a good thing but living a life of moderation is hard in today’s world. Excess dominates our culture. The Bible teaches that excess does not always work to our benefit. Scripture helps define the concept of “excess.”
Even things that are good or necessary can be a problem if used without moderation. For example, sleep is necessary, but the Bible says too much sleep leads to poverty (Proverbs 6:9–11). Part of maturity is learning to say “no” to oneself, i.e., to learn the value of moderation. Practicing moderation is a discipline. Self-control is one of the qualities that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer.
(Galatians 5:22–23)1NIV New International Version Translations – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
When we do not live in moderation, we are lacking self-control in an area of our lives. This can show that we are not allowing God into that area. God does not condemn His children (Romans 8:1). Instead, we have been given the victory over every sin (Acts 13:39). The Holy Spirit is there to help us with self-control. When we surrender to God as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1), God promises to meet the needs that we are trying to satisfy on our own (1 Timothy 6:17). The sheep that follow the Good Shepherd will “lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1).
Our world appeals to the lust of the flesh. It advances the lie that all we need to be happy is more pleasure, more stuff, more entertainment. What is really needed is more God! God designed us to need and desire Him above all else.
(Matthew 4:4) – “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Everything in life must be done in moderation. The only area in which we do not need to worry about moderation is God Himself. We are to love God without limits (Luke 10:27). We can never have too much of God. We can never love Him too much. The more we ask Him to fill our lives with His Holy Spirit, the easier it becomes to live in moderation in all other things.
Moderation in all things is good advice because the Bible gives us God’s Truth. You will not find a quote “moderation in all things” in any Bible verse. You will just find similar advice. We are called to make moderation part of our very nature. Our moderation should be visible to everyone. Proverbs tells us that if we do not live in moderation, (i.e. if we are drunkards and gluttons, the hallmarks of excess) we will come to poverty.
So what is the origin of the quote “moderation in all things”? It is an English proverb that could have been inspired by the Bible, but it also has been attributed to other sources. Some say that in Aristotle’s Ethical Doctrine he advises to avoid extremes of all sorts and seek moderation in all things. There are also two early Roman playwrights, Terence and Petronius, who were given credit for first coining the phrase. Regardless of the origin, living a life of moderation is good advice.
(Galatians 5:22-23) – “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. “
Example of Biblical Moderation
Moderation is avoiding extremes, exercises restraint, and is related to discipline and self-control. A great place to start in the Bible for studying discipline is in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The author of Ecclesiastes is King Solomon. He is considered the wisest of kings to ever rule over Israel. King Solomon was also one of the wealthiest people ever. When it came to excess, he knew a lot about it and went on to write much on how to lead a disciplined life in a world filled with excesses. Solomon was the third and final king of the unified nation of Israel. He succeeded King Saul and King David. He was the son of David and Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah the Hittite whom David had killed to cover his infidelity with Bathsheba. Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes, and much of the book of Proverbs. Solomon ruled for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42).
When Solomon rose to the throne, he sought after God. God gave him an opportunity to request for whatever he desired. Solomon recognized his inability to rule well. He asked God for the wisdom he would need to govern God’s people. God gave him wisdom and wealth (1 Kings 3:4-15).
(1 Kings 10:23) – “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth”
God also gave Solomon peace on all fronts during most of his reign (1 Kings 4:20-25). The combination of being a Godly person, a wise person and having unlimited wealth did not make Solomon perfect. His gift to humanity can be found in how he approached life. Viewing life from a perspective few in history were ever able to get, his wisdom has lasted thousands of years. Here are a few of the accomplishments of Solomon:
- He built a Temple for God in Jerusalem as a fulfillment of God’s promises to David. (I Kings 5, 6)
- He collected and composed thousands of proverbs and songs which were used in teaching and worship (3,000 Proverbs 1,005 songs) (Prov. 1:1 – 5)
- He established and developed trade links with other countries which led to economic prosperity in Israel. He was a successful merchant.
- Solomon started industrial activities. He exploited copper deposits in Edom which had been conquered by David.
- He developed diplomatic relations with foreign countries by marrying the daughters of the Kings of those countries (e.g. He married the daughters of the Kings of Egypt, Moab, Edom, Tyre and many others I Kings 3:1, 1:1). He remained at peace with those countries.
- He built up a professional army equipped with horse drawn chariots, Had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen (I Kings 10:26). Peace was maintained through strength.
- Solomon maintained an ambitious building program. He was able to fortify Jerusalem and other cities, including the construction of defensive walls.
- Solomon practiced delegation of authority. He had government officials who assisted Solomon in his administrative duties. (I Kings 4)
- Solomon divided the kingdom into administrative districts to manage the resources.
- He was able to judge difficult cases and settle disputes (The story of two women and a baby (I Kings 3:16 – 28))
- The queen of Sheba (Ethiopia travelled all the way to test Solomon’s wisdom. (I Kings 10:1 – 9))
- Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple of Jerusalem which represented God’s presence among his people (I Kings 8).
- He built himself a palace that took 13 years to be completed (I Kings 7).
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11) – “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Not only did Solomon test the limits of pleasure. He did the same with things we see as good, like wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:12–18) and hard work (Ecclesiastes 2:17–23). Solomon’s conclusion was that every endeavor of his proved meaningless by itself. It is God’s gift to enjoy one’s life and His gifts (Ecclesiastes 5:19). But to value those things more than God leaves us still desiring what our hearts need, God Himself. Solomon did us a favor by not only collecting true wisdom on how to lead a disciplined life but wrote it down. The Book of Proverbs is a “collection of collections” relating to a pattern of how to live. Let’s look at a few examples:
(Proverbs 6:9–11) – “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
Even good things can become a problem for us without moderation. Sleep is necessary, but the Bible says too much sleep leads to poverty. Part of maturity is learning to say “no” to oneself (i.e. moderation).
(Proverbs 25:26-28) – “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked. It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep. Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
Giving in even a little move one toward sin. Excess, the lack of self-control allows the world to break down even the strongest will.
(Proverbs 23:19-20) – “Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: 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.”
Here Solomon says to be careful of who you associate with. Joining in with those who have no discipline, leads to a life of poverty.
(Proverbs 22:6-9) – “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken. The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. “
In summary, it is easy to see that Solomon’s wisdom was to teach the youth about life. He was quick to share his knowledge and wealth with his people. He warned them about debt, about the power of the rich. Solomon also taught them generosity and discipline.
Ideas to Explore
Practicing moderation is a good discipline. Make a point of reading the Book of Proverbs. Have everyone involved list their top three favorites and discuss why they chose them.
Example of Historical Moderation
It was March 19, 1778, almost three years into the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army had endured a punishing winter at Valley Forge. A stranger, a former Prussian army officer named Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, was assigned rank by George Washington. The purpose was to instill discipline, battlefields skills and restore morale. The baron only knew German and French. He would have 100 men take formation at Valley Forge. Then walk among them, adjusting their muskets. At first the baron would show them how to march at 75 steps a minute. Soon, they were marching at 120. When their discipline broke down, he would swear at them in German and French. His only English curse word was to use the Lord’s name in vain.
Von Steuben had never been a general. Ten years prior, he served as a captain in the Prussian army. While he was a braggart about his position, his skills were real. He had a disciplined military mind. The baron found himself at the age of 47 as the Continental Army’s acting inspector in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It took only two months in spring 1778 for von Steuben to transform Washington’s army. The poorly equipped and near-starving men were transformed into a group of disciplined soldiers who understood tactics. In Washington’s first battle after the winter at Valley Forge, his troops would fight to a draw at Monmouth Courthouse.
Von Steuben had been born into a military family in 1730. At 14, he watched his father direct Prussian engineers in the 1744 siege of Prague. Enlisting around age 16, von Steuben rose to the rank of lieutenant. Here he would learn the discipline that made the Prussian army the best in Europe. In a 2008 biography of Baron von Steuben, the author, Paul Lockhart writes about the Prussian army: “Its greatness came from its professionalism, its hardiness, and the machine-like precision with which it could maneuver on the battlefield.”
Von Steuben would spend 17 years in the Prussian army, fighting in battles against Austria and Russia during the Seven Years’ War. It was here, he became a captain. This enabled him to attend the Prussian king Frederick the Great’s elite staff school. Peacetime and downsizing led to his dismissal from the army. Von Steuben would spend 11 years as a court chamberlain (a position of trust managing financial matters) in Hohenzollern-Hechingen, a tiny German principality. In 1769, the prince of nearby Baden named him to the chivalric Order of Fidelity. Membership came with a title: Freiherr, meaning “free lord,” or baron.
In 1775, as the American Revolution broke out, von Steuben’s boss, the Hechingen prince, ran out of money. Von Steuben, his salary slashed, started looking for a new military job. But Europe’s great armies, mostly at peace, didn’t hire him. In September 1777, the baron sailed from France to volunteer for the Continental Army. A letter from America’s diplomats in Paris, Benjamin Franklin, and Silas Deane, vouched for him and reported that France’s minister of war and foreign minister had done so too. But Deane and Franklin’s letter had claimed that von Steuben was a lieutenant general. There were other exaggerations made too. Congress, desperate for volunteers earlier in the war, had been overwhelmed by unemployed Europeans eager for military jobs. The number of officers from overseas had begun to stir resentment among American-born officers.
In Boston, he met John Hancock. Hancock hosted a dinner for von Steuben and talked with Samuel Adams about politics and military affairs. Next, von Steuben headed to York, Pennsylvania. This was the temporary American capital while the British occupied Philadelphia. Aware that the Continental Congress had soured on foreign volunteers, von Steuben offered to serve under Washington and asked to be paid only if America won the war. They took the deal and sent von Steuben to Valley Forge. What von Steuben found was a hardly an army. Valley Forge, their winter quarters were as punishing as battle. He found hastily built huts, cruel temperatures, scarce food. The soldiers were without uniforms, rusted muskets without bayonets, companies with men missing and unaccounted for. Short enlistments meant constant turnover and little order. Regiment sizes varied. Different officers used different military drill manuals, leading to chaos when their units tried to work together. If the army had to fight on short notice, von Steuben warned Washington, he might find himself commanding one-third of the men he thought he had. The army had to be trained before fighting resumed in the spring.
Baron von Steuben put the entire army through Prussian-style drills, starting with a model company of 100 men. He taught them how to reload their muskets quickly after firing, charge with a bayonet and march in compact columns instead of miles-long lines. Meanwhile, he wrote detailed lists of officers’ duties, giving them more responsibility than in English systems.
Off the drilling field, von Steuben became a friend to the troops. A lifelong bachelor, he threw dinner parties rather than dine alone. One night, the guests pooled their rations to give von Steuben’s manservant the ingredients for a dinner of beefsteak and potatoes with hickory nuts. As von Steuben’s work progressed, news of the United States’ treaties of alliance with France reached Valley Forge. Washington declared May 6, 1778, a day of celebration. He asked von Steuben to ready the army for a ceremonial review. At 9 a.m. on May 6, 7,000 soldiers lined up on the parade ground. They were able to work together as a formidable military force. The rest is history as they say!
Von Steuben served in the Continental Army for the rest of the Revolutionary War. In 1779, he codified his lessons into the Army’s Blue Book. Officially the Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, it remained the Army training manual for decades. The Army still uses some portions of it in training manuals today, including von Steuben’s instructions on drill and ceremonies.
After the war, the governor of New York granted von Steuben a large plot of land in the Mohawk Valley as a reward for his service in the war. Von Steuben died there in November 1794 at age 64. In December 1783, before George Washington retired to Mount Vernon, he wrote von Steuben a letter of thanks for his “great Zeal, Attention and Abilities” and his “faithful and Meritorious Services.” Though his name is little known among Americans today, every U.S. soldier is indebted to von Steuben. The discipline von Steuben taught created America’s professional army.
Ideas to Explore
Read the Baron von Steuben manual. Replica copies are readily available. Have a few ex-military come speak to the group. Discuss why discipline is a requirement to be successful in the military. Then discuss how the attributes of discipline and moderation, work together to help people live more productive lives.
Examples of Historical Moderation Occurring in Florida
We choose as our example of moderation and discipline for Florida a man who made his name in sports. He was one of the greatest professional golfers in history. Arnold Palmer’s career spanned more than six decades and 62 PGA Tour titles. Palmer was Born in Pennsylvania to working-class parents. He learned to play golf from his father, a greenskeeper at a country club. Palmer attended college on a golf scholarship but left to join the U.S. Coast Guard. After serving three years, Palmer returned to civilian life and sold paint for a living. Arnold Palmer even met his first wife of 45 years on a golf course.
Arnold Palmer wasn’t born with unbreakable confidence and superman skills. He made himself confident. One of his interesting disciplines was to read a specific poem almost every day. We have it here for you to read. The discipline was not the habit of reading but the embracing of its message. This constant repetition reinforced the belief that he could do whatever he put his mind to. Arnold Palmer believed that, like anything else, confidence isn’t given to you. You must make a continuous effort to create it on your own.
How good was he? He won the 1958 Masters; 1960 Masters, 1960 US Open; 1961 British Open; 1962 Masters; 1962 British Open and the 1964 Masters. Arnie’s total of seven wins in majors is tied for seventh-best in golf history. Palmer placed second twice in The Masters (1961, 1965); four times in the U.S. Open (1962, 1963, 1966, 1967); once in the British Open (1960); and three times in the PGA Championship (1964, 1968, 1970). That’s a total of 10 runner-up finishes in majors. In all, Palmer finished in the Top 10 at 38 majors. Palmer also won amateur and senior majors, before and after his PGA Tour career. He won the 1954 Amateur. His senior tour victories included: the 1980 Senior PGA Championship; the 1981 U.S. Senior Open; 1984 Senior PGA Championship; the 1984 Senior Players Championship; and the 1985 Senior Players Championship.
At the end of his career, Arnold became known for a unique coffee table in his trophy room. The coffee table had become famous by then. It was designed to hold all the gold medals he had won. Under glass and on green velvet were strewn hordes of gold medals. What made this table unique was not the gold medals but three silver medals and an empty hole for another. The silver medals were for Arnold’s losses in U.S. Open playoffs to Jack Nicklaus in ’62 at Oakmont, to Julius Boros in ’63 at Brookline and to Billy Casper in ’66 at Olympic. He never moved too far from reminding himself that he was not perfect nor was he done with life. There would always be one more opportunity to do something great. He drilled the next hole each time he filled the empty one in his table.
Arnold Palmer was a man of faith, a Catholic. He was a superb athlete, capable of the highest levels of discipline that catapulted him to become one of the greatest players in the history of men’s professional golf. Besides the many championships, Arnold Palmer was also given the Congressional Medal of Honor. What sets him apart from so many other champions are his many contributions to society. He founded both the Arnold Palmer Pavilion at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is a world-class medical facility, which was originally known as the “Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women.” In 2006 a new campus was built next to the original building, the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, named after his wife Winnie, creating separate pediatric and obstetrics hospitals.
Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87 and this legendary golfer will always be remembered for his competitiveness on the golf course, his charitable work off the course, his warm and gracious personality, and the optimism he always exuded. Palmer always believed he could come out on top in each tournament he entered. He always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed against him. He never quit. He never felt that he didn’t have a chance to win. The poem that he would read daily is below:
Thinking by Walter D. Wintle
If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!
Ideas to Explore
Volunteer at one of the many institutions that Arnold Palmer was involved with. Ronald McDonald House is just one located in Orlando, FL. Discipline takes many forms. Our military also provide an excellent opportunity to understand the importance of moderation, self-control, and discipline.
The Museum of Military History also provides a historical glimpse into our military heritage, with heroic accounts of bravery and sacrifices from those who have fought to maintain our freedom. The mission at The Museum of Military History is to educate, increase awareness, build knowledge and understanding of the American military experience through interactive, interpretive exhibits designed for visitors of all ages. Exhibits are well worth a visit with hundreds of genuine artifacts, military relics, photographs, and memorable accounts by former soldiers. It is important to point out that this is a museum only in the sense that military items are displayed here. The main goal of the museum is to pay tribute to those who served while preserving our history and reaching out to help educate our youth. The future of our great country is in the hands of our future leaders and these leaders are in the classroom today. They are our legacy tomorrow!
5210 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy.
Kissimmee, FL 34746
Practicing Acts of Moderation
Moderation means to show restraint, avoid extremes, be disciplined, avoid excesses and practice prudence. Note that the definition of moderation is not avoiding all things pleasurable and living in austerity. It is okay to eat a few bites of dessert, just don’t eat the whole cake. Here are a few ideas on how to practice moderation.
Think about moderation and discipline, even in the simple things you routinely do every day. One way to practice moderation is to slow down and use the time as a meditative event in which all your senses are engaged. Pause, savor, smell, taste, and life.
Focus your attention on what is around you. Engage in conversation, laugh, enjoy your friends and family. Give attention to those you love. It takes time and discipline to share yourself.
Plan. Planning is helpful in learning to practice moderation. Avoid the last minute rush because you forgot things. Knowing how to plan may be the most valuable life skill people can learn.
- 1NIV New International Version Translations