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What does it mean to be sober-minded?

Being sober-minded is mentioned several times in the New Testament (1 Peter 4:7; 5:8; Titus 2:2, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:34). Paul encourages Timothy to be "sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfil your ministry" in 2 Timothy 4:5. (ESV). "Free from intoxicating influences" is the literal meaning of the term "sober-minded." We refer to someone who is "sober" as someone who is not inebriated or high on drugs. A dangerous outside force does not have control over his or her mind.

To put it another way, being sober-minded means refusing to be swayed by any type of influence that would lead us away from sound judgement. The sober-minded person is not "intoxicated," in the sense that he or she is calm under pressure, self-controlled in all areas, and rational. Other translations of 2 Timothy 4:5 include "keep your head" (NIV), "keep a clear mind" (NLT), and "exercise self-control," among others (CSB).

One of the requirements for becoming an elder or church leader is that both the elder and his or her wife be sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:2, 11; Titus 1:8). That is, they should live in awe of their responsibility as Christ's representatives (2 Corinthians 5:20). "The end of all things is near; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers," Peter warned (1 Peter 4:7, ESV). Those who are sober-minded will be aware of the need to pray and will seize the opportunity to do so when it arises.

In our world, we frequently witness the polar opposite of sober-mindedness. Silliness, irresponsible decisions, foolish experimentation with harmful substances or behaviors, and crude joking all go against the command to be sober-minded. Some of the following behaviors are listed in Ephesians 5:3–4 as being incompatible with sober living: "However, there must be no trace of sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed among you, because these are unfit for God's holy people." There should be no profanity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, as these are inappropriate." "For this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God," Paul continues, in case anyone thinks this is a list of judgmental preferences. Let no one deceive you with empty words, because God's wrath is poured out on those who disobey Him. As a result, do not associate with them" (Ephesians 5:5–7).

Being sober-minded does not imply a life that is bleak and devoid of joy. In fact, Christians who are sober-minded are to be constantly filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Acts 15:32; Romans 14:17). We can focus on what is real, eternal, and inspiring by removing foolishness, frivolity, and mind-numbing silliness from our lives. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation," Jesus commands His sleepy-eyed disciples (Mark 14:38).


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