Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:Sober-minded, Prudent, Thoughtful, Sensible
Some of us may think that this quality is old-fashioned or dry, cold and lacking in “fun.” But what does God really mean when He refers to this quality or fruit of sober-mindedness and sensibleness?
The Authorized Version (KJV) of the Bible uses the term sober frequently, but this is seldom found in our contemporary language. Today, sober is defined as plain or subdued, or devoid of frivolity, excess, exaggeration, or speculative imagination, straightforward, or marked by seriousness, gravity, or solemnity of conduct or character.[i]
The Greek sophron means of sound mind, or self-controlled, soberminded.[ii] It means prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled.[iii] The verb sophroneo means be reasonable, sensible, serious, keep ones head, and sophrosune means good judgment, moderation, self-control.[iv] The noun means of sound mind, self-controlled.[v]
It should be clear that this quality is largely missing in our day. There is much superficiality, frivolity, worldly thinking, and a general lack of spirituality, but God calls us to have this quality of good judgment, sound thinking, and prudence. He wants us to be sensible, sober, and serious people. Peter writes, Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit (1 Peter 1:13). The ESV has, be sober-minded. In light of the spiritual dangers that surround us, Peter says, Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (5:8).
If you were walking through a jungle and heard the roaring of a lion, you surely wouldnt spend your time in distracted joking but would be sober and alert to danger. We are in a dangerous and crucial spiritual battleground, thus we need to face the enemy with a seriousness that this enterprise deserves.
Paul writes to Titus and says that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men (2:11). But this grace teaches us something: . . . instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age (v. 12). This world and this age are characterized by ungodliness and worldly desireswhich we must avoid. Instead, we must live sensibly or with a sober-mindedness and serious purpose. This is not the time to play spiritual games since eternity is in the balance!
The apostle again emphasizes sober-mindedness in a world on the brink of disaster: You are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6). He then admonishes us, Since we are of the day, let us be sober (v. 8a). Only if we are sober-minded will we be prepared to fight the present spiritual battles. Peter also makes this connection with the end time: The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7).
Scripture singles out various classes of Christians and their need for sober-mindedness. The overseer (elder) must be temperate or sensible (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). Women likewise (perhaps wives of the overseers, or other women) must be temperate or sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:11, NASB, ESV). Older men also must be sensible or sober-minded (Titus 2:2, NASB, ESV). Young married women are called on to be sensible or self-controlled (Titus 2:5, NASB, ESV).
A woman must cloth herself with special care. Paul exhorts, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good words, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10). He says that women should be clothed modestly and discreetly. The term discreetly here is sophrosynes, which may also be translated as self-control (ESV, NET Bible, English-Greek Interlinear) or propriety (NIV). Women, do you pay special attention to clothe yourselves with sober-mindedness and self-controlor do you allow the lustful, prideful, frivolous ways of worldly fashion to influence your clothing choices?
This character quality is seldom found in our contemporary culture. Believers must live, speak, and conduct their life in a sensible way, with sober-mindedness, self-control, and holy prudence. How about you? Are you sober-minded and prudent? Are you thoughtful and sensible? Let us strive to be what God wants us to be, by the power of His Spirit!
[i] The American Heritage College Dictionary.
[ii] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.
[iii] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.
[v] NASB Exhaustive Concordance, Greek Dictionary.