May 23rd, 2019
Smooth and consistent seems to be where the sweet spot in life is. Never mind bold and flashy.
Most of us when we started driving, at some point early on realized that jack rabbit starts and heavy braking, while it may seem to hasten our arrival depletes fuel reserves in a hurry. Perhaps exhilarating and exciting, but costly in terms of fuel, and vehicle maintenance.
Some auto insurance companies are now providing discounts to drivers that agree to be monitored and who demonstrate that their driving is exactly that, smooth and consistent. They do this because studies have shown them that their costs are less with drivers whose driving habits pattern after moderation.
Their theory is if they can encourage you to slow down, anticipate your turns and not dart in and out of traffic, the probability they will not have to shell out money for avoidable repairs will decrease. Offering the discount provides an incentive for the driver to comply with this objective so that they spend less on their monthly premiums.
Solomon recognized the futility of excess.
In my futile life I have seen everything: someone righteous perishes in spite of his righteousness, and someone wicked lives long in spite of his evil. Don’t be excessively righteous, and don’t be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Don’t be excessively wicked, and don’t be foolish. Why should you die before your time?
Ecclesiastes 7:15-17 (CSB)
The theme of moderation has been shown throughout the scriptures.
The Israelites, as they journeyed in the wilderness pleaded with God to provide food for them. God did just that as he sent mana from the sky each morning, they could pick it up, off the ground and consume for nourishment. It was a perfect food for them, but they were told to only gather what was required for that day and not to stockpile it or it would go bad.
Some didn’t listen and opted to gather more than what was allotted to them. They found the following day, maggots in the jar where the mana had been stored.
The only exception to this we the day before the Sabbath they were allowed to collect a double portion so they could eat on the Sabbath without having to labor collecting it on the Lord’s Day of Rest.
God implemented the mana in this manner for several reasons.
First and foremost, God wanted them to rely on him for their sustenance. It’s not too much of a stretch to see this daily refresh of mana, as a type and shadow of our daily filling of the Holy Spirit, which would come with Christ’s ascension into heaven after his death, burial and resurrection.
Without this daily resupply we are left weak, lacking motivation, and powerless.
But the mana was moderated by design. Such that to take more than you could consume in a day, was pointless because it would go bad. God made it abundantly clear to the Israelites this was his intent, because when they collected a double portion the day before the Sabbath, the additional mana was preserved for consumption on the following day.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Philippians 4:5 (KJV)
The interesting thing about the use of this term in the King James Version is that you’ll have difficulty finding the original Greek translated as moderation anywhere but in this version. Others use words such as, reasonableness and gentleness, to describe what is fairly clear is moderation in Greek. I refer to the Strong’s definition for it…
epieikēs; appropriate, i.e. (by implication) mild: — gentle, moderation, patient.
You see Gentleness is implicated along with moderation and patients, within the context of being appropriate. All the translations I looked at are in fact accurate, but only the KJV underscores the term moderation.
What really stands out to me is that in the letter to the Philippians, Paul and Timothy, were seeking to encourage the readers to moderate themselves to an appropriate level.
Sounds a bit like the desire of the insurance companies we talked about earlier doesn’t it? They desire that you don’t drive too fast or too slow, brake evenly and accelerate smoothly. This apparently is also where Paul and Timothy were coming from.
I thought it interesting that as I did this word study that the popular phrase calling for, “Moderation in all things”, simply wasn’t part of the scripture. It has been inserted into our vernacular, related to this topic in scripture where specific reference to moderation exists but isn’t stated in such a manner.
The originator of the phrase could be attributed to Aristotle’s Ethical Doctrine, or a couple of Roman playwrights, Terence and Petronius. It’s not to be found in Scripture.
What God is calling for is to address is the appropriate level of engagement for all things. The middle or moderation may not be appropriate, some things God calls for in excess and that is appropriate, but not moderate.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
Examples of this are “rejoice always”, “pray without ceasing”, and “give thanks in all circumstances”. These are far from moderated activities. Instead, it is full out, pressed to the metal, all in rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving; not moderation; instead appropriate.
Reflecting back to the mana God desires we moderate the collection of things to our possession for our sustenance, as with the mana for the Israelites.
We touched on Philippians 4:5 in the King James Version earlier, noting that ‘moderation’ in that passage was associated with appropriateness. Let’s revisit that and expand it to include the verse before and the subsequent two verses after as well, this time in the ESV.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
We see copious volumes of rejoicing. It is seen as “reasonableness” (appropriate), then but a few words later the concept of moderation comes into play as Paul tells us “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Appropriateness here is moderation of concern and maximization in prayer, supplication and thanksgiving.
Less focused on the world and those things which would ensnare us, but much greater focus on submission to God and communication with our Lord and Savior.
In the Grace of Jesus!