Self-Control – Exploring the Passages

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Proverbs 16:32 (printed below) tell us about a man who is able to control his spirit?

He who is slow to anger is greater than the mighty, and he who controls his spirit is greater than he who conquers a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

The mightiest man and the greatest conqueror is the one who can master his own passions, the one who exercises self-control. The man who is slow to anger (i.e., the man who controls his anger) is better, or greater, than the mighty; he displays a God-like character (note Psalm 103:8, “Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”)

2. How does Proverbs 29:11 (printed below) contrast a fool and a wise man?

A fool expresses all his anger, but a wise man holds it back and calms himself. (Proverbs 29:11)

A fool fails to exercise self-control and self-restraint: if something upsets him (such as an injustice or a disappointment), he is quick to express his anger. He gives free reins to that anger and allows it to carry him away with reckless abandon like a team of wild horses pulling a run away chariot to everyone’s peril. A wise man holds back his anger and calms it down. Literally, “he stills it in the back;” he senses that his anger or frustration is mounting and he immediately takes preventive measures to bring it under control before it breaks forth like a geyser and controls him. The wise man recognizes when the pot is simmering and is approaching the boiling point, and he removes it from the flame before it boils over.

3. What is being described in Proverbs 20:25 (printed below) and what are we told about this practice?

It is a snare for a man to rashly say, “I dedicate this to God,” and only later to consider his vows. (Proverbs 20:25)

The situation described in this proverb is as follows: A man thoughtlessly, irresponsibly and impulsively dedicates something to God; then he later considers his action, asking, Was this a wise vow to make? It is a vow that I am able and willing to fulfill? The Word of God urges us to think carefully before we make a vow to God (or a promise), because God holds us responsible to fulfill our obligations and to keep our word (note Numbers 30:2).

4. Describe the contrast between the diligent and the man who is hasty as it is presented in Proverbs 21:5 (printed below)

The plans of the diligent tend to lead only to profit, but everyone who is hasty will only come to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)

The contrast is between well-thought out plans pursued with diligence, that lead to prosperity, success and profit, and hastiness (or, impulsiveness), that leads to want, loss, and debt. This proverb is describing that lack of self-control that causes us to seek the immediate enjoyment of the benefits of industriousness, frugality, and hard decision-making without going through the bother of investing the time, the effort and the planning that bring about such benefits and make them possible.

5. What does Proverbs 28:20 (printed below) tell us about a man who is hasty to get rich? What does this proverb imply about such a man?

A faithful man will be richly blessed; but a man who is hasty to get rich shall not go unpunished. (Proverbs 28:20)

“A man who is hasty to get rich” is one who is in such a hurry to become wealthy that he allows that overriding ambition to break through the bounds of self-control. The statement, he “shall not go unpunished,” indicates that the man’s runaway ambition will lead him to pursue his goal by means of immoral and unscrupulous conduct. The proverb further asserts that he will not escape the consequences and the accountability for such conduct.