Temperance Shows Love :: You Are What You Love

The clipping sound of reel-to-reel film almost echos in the mind when someone talks about temperance. Images of police, bashing bottles of bootlegged liquor, seem to replay in a scratchy black and white in the imaginations. However, there is more to temperance than social control.

The temperance movement at the start of the 20th century was a response to the impact alcohol was having on society. Workers punched clocks with brandied breath, and workplace accidents were on the rise thanks to break time beer. Husbands were delayed from kissing heads goodnight because the bar offered after-work drinks. The people couldn't control their pleasures.

The government responded by restricting the people. The people had no temperance. They saw freedom as license, and sought to exploit it. There isn't much difference between the alcohol craze of the 30's and the 21st Century's love of sex. Pleasure beats temperance regularly.

Nixon's hachetman-turned-apologist, Chuck Colson, used to ask if freedom can survive where virtue is not allowed to flourish. The founders regularly referred to the American political system as a ruling order for a virtuous people. But today, students are encouraged to pursue passions and throw-off restraints found in virtue. For some, temperance restricts progress. Historically, temperance is a restraint that delays gratification. Successful people delay gratification.

There is a mechanism God establishes for growth. Students at Hillcrest are understanding this as they see the Bible inform and direct their school studies. Classes at Hillcrest are highlighting God's creative act in making man. Students have heard, in nearly every class, that God worked for six days and called his work good. God made man in his image, so when man works it is an expression of bearing God's image. Work is premiere example of delayed gratification. Before there was evening and morning, there was work. And as the sun set, God called his work good. 

In the same way that God found satisfaction in calling the creation good in Genesis 1, man is able to find joy in his work. From this work, God highlights that man should not be alone, and in that moment God created a suitable helpmate who brings pleasure and satisfaction. After Adam named the animals, his work, he was able to find pleasure. He tempered the pleasure of the garden to find more fulfilling pleasure by following God's commands.

However, the entire model broke apart when Adam and Eve acted on disordered loves. The temptation of the serpent to be like God won the day because the two could not delay their gratification and seek God's will.

Students at Hillcrest also see what happens in the subjects they are studying when loves aren't rightly ordered. Students in the marketing class saw this week how self-gratification and personal pleasure-seeking is a god that drives man to respond in wonton acts. A life that seeks pleasure first exploits others in marketing.

However, students saw how a Christian perspective seeks to reflect the image of God. In the way that God communicates to man, sharing hope that meets the needs of image-bearers, marketers can communicate hope, joy, and satisfaction to customers by affirming humanity, when humanity is defined by God and not pleasure. 

Temperance is an exercise in showing the God being served. If temperance is void in pleasure-seeking, it is easy to see what is being worshipped. If temperance is enacted, delaying pleasure, it shows that there is something greater than self-gratification driving the person. Temperance shows habits. Habits show the heart. The heart shows love. Humans are what they love. Temperance is a practice in love, and at Hillcrest that practice is rooted in Biblical training.

Wayne StenderComment