Proverbs 25:16, 27-28 If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit. … It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour. Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
It is often difficult to see the logical connection between the strings of thoughts in the book of Proverbs. We are told at the beginning of this chapter: “These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah” (1). Even if Solomon just jotted down individual ‘stream-of-consciousness’ thoughts, it is a bit surprising that Hezekiah’s men didn’t try to sort them into a more logical order!
Or, rather, are we meant to recognise some close connection between the sins of gluttony and pride – between the intemperate consumption of honey and seeking honour for oneself?!
Of course, Scripture makes it clear that all our sins are closely connected because they all flow from a sinful heart. As the Apostle James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). Nevertheless, it is good for us to reflect on how insidious and harmful an ego-centric life can be, especially when we were designed to be THEO-centric!
Jesus himself made this point to the Jewish leaders who were so pedantic about ‘correct’ OUTward appearances that they didn’t even recognise the utter depravity of their hearts. “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:21-23).
Satan is very accomplished at tapping into the areas of our lives where we have the greatest difficulty with self-control, and exploiting our weakness to affect every other part of us to our spiritual detriment. He does this at two levels: in our individual lives and witness, and in our corporate witness in the Church as the Body of Christ. John Newton’s great hymn, ‘Glorious things of you are spoken, Zion, City of our God’, based on Psalm 87, is a good reminder that the Church is to be the City of God before a watching world, and if our lack of self-control in any areas of our lives causes us to become “like a city whose walls are broken down”, great damage is done to our Gospel witness – as Satan knows full well!
Let us take seriously the general discipline of ‘self-control’ as a vital part of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (even though it’s the last mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23!), and let us be prayerful for, and encouraging of, one another in this regard.