“Not only is temperance beautiful in itself, but it renders men beautiful.” (Beauty meaning the glow of the true and good irradiating from order). Bringing chaos to order, in a sense, defines what temperance does to a man. The Greek translation of moderation is that of directing reason. And the Latin translation of temperance is disposing various parts into one unified whole. Temperance does not in whole mean abstaining from food or drink or sensuality though these play a part. Temperance is allowing God to change the sinful habits of man to the glory of God. God’s sanctification in disciplining the disorder of man’s fragmented, sinful mind, attitude, and behavior makes the man whole—more like Christ. It is not that food, drink, and sex are evil, but all three can become obsessions of man. Our desires can overshadow God and become idols.
Temperance holds man back from a completely selfish way of life. When one is selfish doing all things for the benefit of self (not self-preservation or taking care of oneself) man loses the inner order that God has put in place. God created man in His image. God brings order out of chaos. Man as his best, in his goodness has order. This order has been lost in the fall. But because of Christ, he is bringing all things to order. We are brought to more similitude the more we move toward Christ—the more we are made perfect in Christ.
Man was told to procreate and fill the earth. The sexual act has a purpose and the pleasure involved is also good. But when one is bent toward selfishness in sexual pleasure, this is a distortion of what God intended. Temperance in this case disciplines the man in self-control. This can go with most kinds of addictive, obsessive behavior. When the man chooses self-control, this is temperance. In short, “chastity, humility, gentleness, mildness are realizations of temperance. Un-chastity, pride, uninhibited wrath are forms of intemperance.”
Look to Christ for the supreme example of temperance. He is order; for He is God. When one uses his body contrary to order, he “injures Christ the Lord Himself.” Chastity is abstaining from unity with a woman until marriage—which is the order God has revealed. Modesty is also part of this order—this helps to deter temptation. The “purpose of sexual power [not] to be perverted but fulfilled (in marriage);…that the inner structure of the moral person be kept intact;…justice between men be not infringed.” If one is unchaste, the man is solely thinking of his libido and any way to expend it. This clouds the man’s reason to even consider goodness. The inner part of the man is in turmoil—constantly in sin (this goes for many sins).
When one marries, what is owed the man and woman is fulfilled. When there are single men and women sleeping around, there is no justice. There is no contract between a single man and woman hooking up. They leave when they wish and go to someone else causing more and more injustice toward the one left and the new relationship. It causes more and more disorder—more and more brokenness. The men and women have no wholeness they are incomplete. Chastity brings order to men’s sexual drive and marriage is the fulfillment.
In the same way, with one’s search for the other (meaning god or gods) one can jump from one god to another. They jump from one idol to another because it did not fulfill their selfish need, so they seek another. When one meets God, the believer gives all to God. They enter a contract (in a sense). The marriage of God and the believer fulfills the relationship. Their wandering and temptation to wander was un-chastity and temperance holds them in place with their relationship with God or their spouse. They are chaste in marriage with God and with their spouse because they are in order—their purpose is fulfilled (which was set up by God).
“Un-chastity does not dedicate itself, it offers itself.” It seeks what it can get from another. One who has no regard for sin (an intemperate one) has made an attitude a habit of sin with no thought of repentance. This is because sinning has become natural for him.
When one is directed in reason to be made whole (in Christ through temperance), one must have a cheerfulness of heart. The practice of abstaining from certain sinful acts must be done in humility not in pride. One must not put on the outward appearance of burden by fasting or being chaste or a virgin like the hypocrites do. Humility has a major role in temperance. It is the realization of who one is—whether one is smart and capable of “high-minded” things or if one is limited and admits this—humility is knowing ones capabilities and limits and not flaunting them or pretending one is more brilliant or less. In a way, one can even be prideful in self-flagellation in the sense of knowing that he is smart but saying “I am not.” Pride is the one sin that stands against God while all other sin flees. Pride denies the creaturely nature of man. “Humility is not outward behavior, but an inner attitude, born of decision of the will.” In the acts of temperance, one learns who He is. By submitting to God’s will and being brought to order, man knows himself. He is brought to order knowing he is God’s creature; that all things are permissible, but in the way God has ordered it.
“The virtue of temperance and moderation aims at preserving man uninjured and undefiled for God.” God is all about transforming His beloved. Temperance allows God to discipline man to become more like Christ. By his love and grace we are made whole. God’s discipline purifies us and transforms our hardened hearts into trustful hearts. God has put limits to protect us. These limits purify us to be in union with God on the Last Day.
The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance come to reality in faith, hope, and love. Faith in Christ brings all virtue to perfection. Hope in Christ and the culmination of God’s kingdom make all the virtues “worth it.” And love (agape/charity) is what drives all virtue.
To weigh the pros and cons of a situation and coming to a good decision (in a virtuous man) always considers justice. These two virtues are the beginning of wisdom. Fortitude is facing the decision made through prudence and what is rightly owed (justice). Fortitude gives the man courage to stand up against evil and fulfill his good decision in the midst of opposition. Temperance disciplines self-seeking pleasure. Prudence is knowing the Good. Prudence is the measure of all the other virtues. One cannot be just, fortitudinous or temperate without knowing the Good. Faith in God begins virtue. In order to have fortitude, one must know the Good and hope in some good and be driven by love and justice. Justice must be driven by love because one is considering action toward the neighbor. One must fight against what is evil and not be complacent when one knows the good of a given situation. In the same sense, one must be gentle in the decision made to bring about the most good. There are exceptions in all decisions. One must have wrath against evil and be passionate, within reason, but also compassionate. There cannot be one or the other toward evil. Christ will return and have absolute wrath against the evil and compassion toward the repentant.
To be a virtuous man begins with God. He has given man His goodness in the image of God. Knowing God’s goodness, brings justice, which is fortified by fortitude, which temperance humbles man to know all the other virtues. Being in a relationship with God makes the virtuous man. God sets limits because they are good for the man. He gives man courage to move forward through obstacles set by the world, Satan, and self-centeredness. He gives us wisdom of Goodness to make prudent decisions and just decisions, which are the highest because the decisions affect the neighbor, (individually and communally) and the self. God has given virtue to bring order and all under his wing.