There are 13 areas for self-control found in Proverbs chapter 23, which is probably the most complete and succinct guide from God on the subject. If we can manage ourselves in these 13 areas we shall be well-protected from harm and embarrassment, and be all set to be productive and successful in every area of life.
Personally, I think that even if we have a strong will, and start working at this self-control from our childhood, we are going to need God’s help, or we won’t be able to do all of this. Certainly not at once. We must allow ourselves the luxury of leaning heavily on the Lord for help to do it all. He will gladly give us the strength of character to choose self-discipline and to carry through in all 13 areas. We just need to be humble enough to ask.
What are these 13 Life Compartments, and what must we control in ourselves?
1. Greed. Control what you eat at a sponsored meal - or you will throw up . . . .vs.1-3
In other words, control your greed when you get free food or other gifts. Just in case the giver has ulterior motives and wants something from you in return. Learn to discern and self-control those motives!2. Control the time spent on your business. Don’t wear yourself out; it could all fly away.... vs.4-5
To be able to discipline yourself to work hard is commendable to a degree. If you don’t know when to stop yourself and take time for other priorities, like your family, or seeking God, then your hard work at your business becomes a problem that could ruin you.
3. Control your appetites (physical and otherwise) when dealing with a stingy person; he’ll get it out of you yet! vs.6-8
This sounds very much like the first one, but if you apply it as a principle for your business and your life, you will watch people closely to see whether they are motivated by greed, or justice, or generous compassion. If you learn to be on guard for greed in your own heart, you will recognize it sooner in others, and you may be able to avoid doing business with the stingy.
4. Control how much you tell a fool; he will only mock you.vs.9
Sometimes we blurt out all our thoughts and feelings to anyone who listens to us for even a minute. This is not good. Some individuals will use what you say to mock you, if not to your face, then to others. Learn to discern whom you can confide in. Don’t reveal everything under your shirt to every person you meet. This doesn’t mean you have to be secretive about your business. Just restrain yourself from blurting out facts and feelings to those who are likely to use that information to your harm. There are five kinds of fools in Proverbs. Learn to recognize them.
5. Don’t take advantage of the helpless by taking away their long-time rights. God is their Defender and He will come against you to defend them. vs.10-11
This is another aspect of self-restraint in business. You may spy a purchase or venture that can make you money, but if you see that this would be taking away the rights, or putting helpless people at a disadvantage - back off! If you proceed, God Himself will come to you as a Champion of the poor and helpless, and you will suffer consequences. They may not be monetary right away, for God has wisdom and power to take it out of you where it will hurt the most. God will be far more pleased if you turn that opportunity around so that you are helping those poor - helpless individuals.
6. Search for instruction and information. (implied: manage your time to include this). vs 12.
Control, or manage your time to be continually looking for instruction and information. Be ever deliberately learning. Our default setting is to become complacent, and fall into a rut, just working with what we already know. This leads to a dead-end in business and in life. It is good to have a general attitude of eagerness to learn, but if you want to succeed in business it is better if you deliberately set times into your agenda to research and look for fresh information in your work niche, and better methods. For balance, I would suggest your also make time to study God’s Word on a daily basis and to nourish your spirit.
7. “Control/discipline your child - you will save him from death”. vs.13-14
If you have a child, you will soon observe that being cute doesn’t make them good. A child must be trained to think in good ways and to avoid, or hate what is evil. They must be disciplined and trained to have good habits and attitudes. Everyone knows puppies must be trained; children even more so! Some will be more tender and easy to train, but your success here will depend to a large degree in how well you have learned to control yourself.
8. Control your spirit/heart so you will be wise and speak what is right. vs.15-16
In the short Bible book of James, we are reminded by Jesus’ earthly brother, that the tongue is the hardest part of our lives to control. Our tongue is the most dangerous part of us! It can shipwreck us, and the lives of those we touch in a matter of seconds. No matter how much we regret our hasty, unwise words, we cannot suck them back into our mouths. So the earlier we start in life to learn to control our tongue and spirit so we only say what is wise and correct, and as kindly expressed as possible, the better our lives and our businesses will go. Yet we can never let our guard down. This takes constant vigilance.
9. Control your spirit/heart to keep it from envying sinners, rather that you will always be zealous/keen for the LORD… Then there will be a good future for you, and your hopes will come to pass. vs.17-18
Did you realize that envy can ruin your future so powerfully? Or maybe we should give more credit to the power in being zealous and keen for the Lord and His will. That’s what will give us a good future and bring our hopes to pass. But envying bad people who seem to have all they want will greatly reduce our success in life. So let’s be on guard for any hint of envy in our hearts and root it out quickly. It made a huge change in my life when I vowed to refrain from jealous “compliments” when my friends had things I wanted.
10. Control your drinking and eating; don’t keep company with those who over indulge. vss.19-21
This should be so obvious! Once we slip into obsessive drinking and eating we lose control, and can’t stop ourselves any more. Many have confessed that they had to have outside help when these addictions take over. But, if we practice self-control from early on in our lives, and never allow these temptations to take hold we can stay free. Notice that the best clue for this self-control is not even to keep company or hang out with people who indulge in drinking and eating too much. If you stay away from such people, you have won most of the battle. Now, of course, if you are born into a family of over-indulging people, you may have no recourse - unless someone inspires you as a child or young adult to be different from all your family members.
11. Control your attention and respect toward your parents, go after truth and understanding, this will make your parents very glad and proud of you. vs.22-25
When we are infants and young children our parents and caregivers are the only creatures we really are aware of, and of course we want and need them to like and love us, so we naturally desire to please and love them. If they don’t, our world falls to pieces.
But as we grow older and meet other people, we catch on that we have the power to choose or reject people. Even if the parents have been loving and gracious, children often turn rebellious and for many reasons - though, I think mostly for selfish ones, children will grow up to ignore or neglect their parents for other loves. Maybe it is a simple as assuming their parents will always be their safety net, and they are free to live for themselves and their own pleasures.
It takes some self-discipline to recognize that we have a responsibility to love and care for our parents as we grow up and they grow older. However, if we live in the light of the Bible, and are mature in a spiritual sense, so that we desire truth and understanding, we will develop a good, compassionate attitude towards our parents. Obviously, such traits will make them very glad and proud of us! But this will especially please God too!
12. Control your lusts. . . . do not go after prostitutes; it is a trap! vs.26-28
If we have learned to control ourselves in all the previous areas this one should be very clear to us! Yet isn’t it astonishing how many people fall into this trap. Nor can we say this problem applies just to the men. Now-a-days, women are also falling into this means of self-indulgence. We might say this applies mostly to those who have felt unloved and rejected and they have a great unmet need for physical closeness, and what appears - on the surface - to be love. Yet there are countless tales of people who have perfectly good, healthy marriage relationships, who suddenly fall into this trap, are quickly addicted, and can’t seem to resist passionate encounters any more. After a while they have to face it – they have little or no control over their sexual passions.
The time to be self-disciplined is in advance, and not to allow it to happen even once. Still, we can turn to God, and the help of other, stronger believers in God. We can repent and with supreme efforts and grace to over come that magnetism.
13. Control your drinking of wines and strong drinks. . . . don’t even admire the colours in the glass, you will be tormented – and addicted! vs. 29-35.
This one area is so big it is reemphasized here, even though already mentioned several times. Only God can count so high as to identify all those who have ruined their lives by becoming addicted to alcohol. So many businesses have been run into the ground by lack of self-control here.
Almost everyone knows someone who crashed in this way. How can we more obviously warn each other? Will jumping up and down and waving our arms do it? Maybe – writing openly about this in a situation like this where you, dear reader, are open to ways to succeed in business, is one way I can clearly, emphatically warn you; please CHOOSE to put up your guard against drinking wines and strong drinks. But also cry out to God to help you. Face it, your self-discipline will not be strong enough for every temptation.
Do you see after all this; it would take a super-strong person to be able to control themselves in all 13 areas. No human can be perfect at all points. We need God’s help. He can make us strong enough through His Holy Spirit so we have all that control.
Ruth Marlene Friesen
The Responsible One