“Let your moderation be known unto all men,” exhorted the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:5.
The admonition to moderation may seem like a simple command, but it’s actually a good deal more complex in application than it appears on the surface.
The English Oxford Dictionary defines moderation as “The avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior or political opinions.”
The Free Dictionary says moderation is “being within reasonable limits, not excessive or extreme.”
Moderation is “an avoidance of extremes in one’s actions, beliefs, or habits,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Webster says related words are constraint. Control. Discipline. Restraint. Rationality. And reasonableness.
William Barclay in his Daily Bible Study series says, ” The word epieikeia translated moderation is one of the most untranslatable of all Greek words.” He points out that various Bible translations render it as gentleness, patience, softness, forbearance, and magnanimity.
Henry Thayer says the word literally means “seemly, suitable, equitable, fair, mild, gentle.”
C. Kingsley Williams comments on this passage: “Let all the world know that you will meet a man half-way.”
In Matthew Henry’s Commentary, he observes that “We are here exhorted to candor and gentleness, and good temper towards our brethren.” Furthermore, he writes, “In things indifferent do not run into extremes; avoid bigotry and animosity; judge charitably concerning one another…The word epieikes signifies a good disposition towards other men”
Moderation is the balance between extremes. It is not legalistic. Nor humanistic. Moderation does “not judge according to appearance, but judges with righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24).
Moderation seeks justice but tempered with mercy. James, the brother of Jesus, expressed it this way, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas 2:13).
Moderation is the ability to balance Bible principles and precepts in areas of judgment, expediency and personal opinion. Moderation requires a blend of courage, kindness, fairness, and gentleness.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were extreme in their application of the law. There was a lack of balance in their lives and in their demands of others. They were often harsh. Insensitive. And unfair.
When the woman caught “in the very act of adultery” was brought to Jesus, they demanded she be stoned. “What do you say”“ They asked tempting him. But Jesus responded, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (Jn 8:7). One by one her accusers left. Be advised that Jesus did not condone her sin. But exercised moderation in his approach to a delicate situation.
Moderation knows how to properly apply Peter’s admonition: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). Love does not excuse sin. Whitewash wrong doing. Or rationalize error. But it does bear with others weaknesses, endure their shortcomings and accept their human foibles. Indeed moderation allows us to “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” (Rom. 14;1).
Moderation allows us to “wave our rights.” Give others “the benefit of the doubt.” And “pursue peace with all people’ (Heb 12:14).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman