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Consequences of a Lack of Self-Control
Self-Control Word Study, Lesson 1
What picture comes to your mind when you think about self-control? Do you picture a person who is sitting calmly and resisting the temptation that is set before them? Or maybe you picture a person with a lack of self-control—someone who lashes out at others in anger or who is constantly stuffing their face with food. On the spectrum of self-control, where do you fall? Are you great with self-control in some areas but not in others? Try to identify at least one area in your life where you struggle with self-control. As you read through the lessons in this study, hopefully you can take away at least one verse or strategy that will help you develop self-control in that area.
To understand the importance of self-control, let’s look at the outcomes of not having self-control. For some people, focusing on these negative consequences of a lack of self-control can convince them to gain self-control. We’ll focus on the positive reasons to have self-control in Lesson 2.
To help you process your thoughts as you go throughout this lesson, a reflection journal sheet is available. You can access it by clicking here.
Lack of Self-Control Brings Misery
What does it look like when you don’t have self-control? I think about the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He started with selfishness—give me my inheritance. Then he went on to live a life that completely lacked self-control. The Bible says he “squandered his wealth in wild living” (Luke 15:13). Where did that get him? Feeding the pigs (an animal that the Jews considered unclean), wishing to eat the food that the pigs were eating.
One word the Bible uses for this situation is self-indulgence, or living for pleasure. Jesus berated the religious leaders for this very reason in Matthew 23:25-26:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
The word translated “self-indulgence” here, akrasia, is translated “lack of self-control” in other places in the Bible. Just like with the religious leaders, the Bible is clear that self-indulgence or living for pleasure will bring misery and death in the end. James warns against this in James 5:1-5:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.
James condemns rich people who have lived their lives in luxury and self-indulgence, who have hoarded their wealth for themselves, all while oppressing those who work for them. This passage states that the self-indulgent will have their wealth rotted away, and they will be left in misery. Similarly, 1 Timothy 5:6 says that “the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” What a depressing picture for those who value self-indulgence over self-control.
Lack of Self-Control Brings Isolation
Think back to the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). As a child, the picture we were always given about the prodigal son was that he gained a lot of friends by throwing parties and buying stuff for others. Then when his money ran out, all those “friends” he thought he bought abandoned him. He was left alone and isolated, out with the pigs. Although the Bible doesn’t actually include these details in the story, it’s likely an accurate picture of what it means to squander wealth in wild living.
The feeling of isolation that I imagine the prodigal son experienced is a consequence of lacking self-control. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us to stay away from people who lack self-control (along with a host of other sins):
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
If you are constantly boastful, abusive, unforgiving, without self-control, conceited...and the list goes on...do you think people will want to hang around you for long? Would you want to hang around that type of person? Probably not. Instead, you’ll end up feeling isolated and alone. If you wouldn’t want to be around this type of person, then you should also try not to be this type of person.
Lack of Self-Control Brings Defeat
Proverbs 25:28 paints another picture of those who lack self-control: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” The Hebrew words that make up the “lack of self-control” phrase in this verse have the context of breath or wind. When the fortified walls of a city are broken, any enemy can get through. Even the wind or a breath is enough to knock down any resistance you have.
Think back to the area in your life where you lack self-control that you identified earlier. Is that how you feel? Even the tiniest temptation or trigger causes you to give in? Or maybe you don’t even have to have a temptation or trigger now. You just do it out of habit. You’ve been completely defeated by Satan in that area of your life. That’s what happens when you lack self-control.
Now apply the consequences we learned about above to your lack of self-control, your self-indulgence. If you continue on the path of self-indulgence, you will be like the religious leaders, full of filth on the inside. Maybe others will start to avoid you because of your lack of self-control. Or maybe you will be like the wealthy ones who end up in misery, or you will feel like you are dead inside rather than alive. Is that where you want to end up? I know I don’t.
I hope you’ll come back week after week as we walk through the rest of this study. We’ll discover reasons why we need to develop self-control, specific common temptations that require self-control, and how to develop self-control. It’s a tough reality to face, but we all need more self-control in some area of our lives.
To help you process your thoughts as you go throughout this lesson, a reflection journal sheet is available. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically.
You can access all the resources for this study by clicking here: Premium Resources