Question: "What does the Bible say about moderation?"
Answer: Moderation avoids extremes, exercises restraint, and is related to self-control. Moderation is a good thing, but living a life of moderation is an uphill battle in today’s world. Much of Western culture is saturated with excess. Restaurants serve “all you can eat” of our favorite foods. Advertisements constantly push things we “need” to buy because, of course, the things we have just aren’t good enough. The Bible teaches us that excess doesn’t work so well, and it helps us understand how and why we should live with moderation.
A great book in the Bible on the subject of moderation is Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was the wisest king to ever rule over Israel, and he experimented with excess. We can learn a lot from the conclusions of this wise king. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon lists many different projects and pleasures he pursued: “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 of all my toil” (verse 10). Yet, in the end, he was left unsatisfied: “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” (verse11). Not only did Solomon test the limits of pleasure, he did the same with things we normally 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 really need—Him.
Even good things can become a stumbling block to us, if used without moderation. Chocolate is good, but too much is unhealthy. Sleep is necessary, but the Bible says too much sleep leads to poverty (Proverbs 6:9–11). Children are naturally immoderate—they want to watch the same movie over and over, they want to eat too much of one thing, they lack restraint in expressing emotion. Part of maturity is learning to say “no” to oneself, i.e., to learn the value of moderation.
One of the most common topics in respect to moderation is that of drinking alcohol. Ephesians 5:18 commands, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.” Balance that with the fact that Jesus Himself did not completely abstain from drinking (see Matthew 11:19) and Paul’s statement to Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness” (1 Timothy 5:23). Taking these verses together, it’s clear the Bible permits the drinking of alcohol, but absolutely forbids drinking to the point of drunkenness, which is excess. Some people conclude it’s better not to drink at all, and that’s perfectly acceptable, too.
Practicing moderation is a good discipline. In fact, self-control is one of the qualities that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer (Galatians 5:22–23). When we are not living in moderation—when we lack self-control in a certain area of our lives—it can indicate that we’re not allowing God fully into that area. We need not live in defeat. God does not condemn His children (Romans 8:1), and we have been granted the victory over every sin (Acts 13:39). Plus, the Spirit wants to give us self-control. When we surrender to God as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1), He will meet the needs that we’re trying to satisfy on our own (1 Timothy 6:17). The sheep that follow the Good Shepherd will “lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1).
The world appeals to the lust of the flesh and advances the lie that what we need is more pleasure, more stuff, more entertainment, etc. What we really need is God. God designed us to need and desire Him above all else (see Matthew 4:4). All other things must be in moderation.
The only area in which we don’t 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, and we can never love Him too much. And the more we ask Him to fill us and invade our lives with His Holy Spirit, the easier it becomes to live in moderation in all other things.