Richard G. Mendoza, MPH, PHD

Pr. Richard Mendoza works at the Central Luzon Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. An educator and promoter of health, he complements his advocacies with spiritual and valuesoriented insights.

For comments, chardgrace@yahoo.com

The celebration of the Christmas season is often characterized with over-eating, over-drinking, over-spending and too much partying. Thus, it is wise to talk about self-control, restraint, temperance and moderation. I suppose abstemiousness sounds like a new word to many, but I believe, it is the antidote-word for overindulgence this holiday season.

The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines abstemious as an adjective—marked by restraint especially in the eating of food or drinking of alcohol. The dictionary explains this strange word “abstemiousness” as being sparing or moderate in eating and drinking. It originated from the early 17th cent.: Latin abstemius, (from ab- ‘from’ + a word related to temetum ‘alcoholic drink’) + -ous.

We have all heard the motto, “Moderation in all things.” Usually it is understood that all “good things” are what is referred to. Surely we cannot endorse the moderate use of illegal drugs, moderation in adultery or being moderately disposed to negative attitudes like hate, bigotry or deceit. A precise definition of abstemiousness would be “moderation (avoiding extremes) in those things that are good, and avoiding or totally abstaining from those things that are harmful.”

God dealt with abstemiousness right from the very beginning as recorded in the Bible, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 KJV)

In the introductory scripture God gives us the principle of abstemiousness upon which the right to enjoy eternal life is based. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and had no disposition toward selfish self-gratification and so would naturally practice self-control or temperance. They had no tendencies toward the extremes. They were to practice moderation in their free eating of every tree in the garden. But they were not local from one certain tree the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God wanted them to experience only good. Satan suggested that they ought to find out what a little evil would be like, too. They distrusted God and ate of the forbidden fruit. They broke the health principle of abstemiousness and decided to go beyond the moderate use of those things that are good and also throw in a little of the bad.

Their disregard caused a change to take place in their very natures. Once giving in to a selfish desire, they had now opened the floodgate of intemperance and eventual death. God had warned them, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

If God in His great love and mercy had not intervened, their situation would have been hopeless. God had a plan already in store just in case such an emergency should arise. This plan to save not only Adam and Eve from eternal death, but also all their descendants as well, are the main theme of the entire Bible. It is God’s way to restore to the human race perfect self-control, just as Adam and Eve had in the beginning. That way is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. “And this is the record, that God bath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son bath life; and he that bath not the Son of God bath not life.” 1 John 5:11-12. The evidence that a person has received the Spirit of God in Christ is described in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

We can summarize what has been said up to this point as follows:

1. Abstemiousness is the moderate use of those things that are good, while abstaining from those things that are harmful.
2. This abstention requires self-control or temperance.
3. Temperance is a gift from God that comes to us only as we receive Christ.

Temperance, then, is required in order to build a lifestyle that is in balance physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. After all, without self-control we could not put into practice the knowledge that we have. Unless we have the power to carry out all our good intentions, they are not of much use. Once we have the power of God working in us, we can practice moderation in those things that are good. We will avoid extremes-the “over/unders.”

Overeating leads to stomach-upset and/or obesity. Under eating leads to malnutrition or starvation. Overwork leads to exhaustion or injury. Under work leads to atrophy and weakness. Over-rest leads to weakness and laziness. Under-rest breeds mental confusion and exhaustion. We also need a balanced intake of air, water, and sunlight–not too much and not too little.

Abstemiousness should regulate not only our physical health habits, but the mental and social aspects of life as well. Too much reading, too much talking, too much thinking, too much entertainment, too much sports, too much television, too much texting, too much use of gadgets, materialism, fashion and social media—all of these things, if not properly regulated, can overtax the mental powers and even lead to physical breakdown somewhere in the body. It could even be said that they are, in a way, intoxicating when carried to excess.

We’re familiar with the expressions “glued to the TV”, “computer geek”, or “sports fan” (short for fanatic). These examples serve to illustrate how one’s entire life can become unbalanced, and the mind somewhat intoxicated, or warped by over stimulation. The Bible teaches us, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8. This antidote would certainly be effective for many of society’s mental and social ills.

Dec 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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