Beit Gamaliel

The House of Gamaliel: The confluence of knowledge and faith.

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Everything in Moderation

By our lack of restraint are we actually being unfaithful? What marks those who follow the scripture are those who demonstrate restraint and abstinence. The true indicator of the journey of faith is the discipline to walk on the very narrow path of obedience…

I recently listened to a teacher who shared a great message how the journey of faith should be a great adventure. The basic premise was that too many people get caught up in the rules and regulations of religion and forgo “fun” things. While I certainly agree that the walk of faith can become rote, the converse results in the misunderstanding of moderation to mean the liberty to do whatever one desire.

Moderation is defined as “without excess”. The very connotation of the word ‘moderation’ implies that I can do whatever I desire up to a limit as long as it is not “excessive.” This seems a plausible interpretation until we begin considering extremes. The scriptures prohibit cannibalism, but are we now allowed to eat other humans as long as we don’t overindulge? Stealing is permissible as long as the value of the item is not too high? Or, maybe the prohibition to have make graven images, or have other gods now allows us to not only make graven images, but we can follow Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism, as long as we do not get too extreme. Clearly, the modern conception of moderation falls apart very quickly when turned toward the macabre and extremes.

Since the majority of scripture was written by Jews (both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures), we can assume that they substantially comport Jewish thought. The Hebrew for moderation is ממתינות, or, metiNOOT, which reflects two basic concepts: self-restraint and abstinence. The very core idea behind this is restraint, the set limit of expression. A great Jewish scholar by the name of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, also know as Nachmanides, or simply, Ramban states, “Therefore, after having listed the matters which God prohibited altogether, Scripture followed them up by a general command that we practice moderation even in matters which are permitted….”

An interesting statement in the Hebrew scripture is found in 2 Chronicles 28:19, where it is explaining the sin of king Ahaz. The passage says that “the LORD humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the LORD.” Is our freedom of religious expression actually a lack of restraint? By our lack of restraint are we actually being unfaithful? What marks those who follow the scripture are those who demonstrate restraint and abstinence. The true indicator of the journey of faith is the discipline to walk on the very narrow path of obedience, not wander all over the super highway of freedom.

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