I love the passages in the epistles of Paul where he offers rapid-fire advice: a series of pithy statements, any one of which would be worth a sermon, but which, taken together, describe the character of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Two examples of these passages are Romans 12:9-21 and 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22.
Alma’s charge to his son Shiblon contains a similar passage. Today, I was thinking about the breadth of advice packed into a few short verses (Alma 38:10-15). Here is my interpretation of each piece of advice:
- “Be diligent and temperate in all things.” Work hard, and avoid excesses. Discipline yourself.
- “See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength.” Don’t let the things you are good at go to your head. Don’t obsess about them, and don’t spend a lot of time talking about them.
- “Use boldness, but not overbearance.” Speak up, but not at the expense of others. Tell the truth, but don’t attempt to compel others. This is a delicate balance, and it requires sensitivity to the impact of your words on your listeners.
- “See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.” True love requires self-restraint. Unbridled passion, even if it is motivated by love, leads to self-indulgence which harms relationships.
- “See that ye refrain from idleness.” Spending time on low-value activities is not a road to happiness. We all need rest and relaxation at times for our physical and emotional health, but we also need to accomplish something meaningful every day.
- “Acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times.” When you approach the Creator of the Universe from a position of self-righteousness, you immediately inhibit your ability to receive answers from Him. If you really believe in God, and if you really want to receive counsel from Him, you must approach Him with a teachable attitude.
- “Be sober.” There’s plenty of irony in this world. There are many things to laugh at, worry about, criticize, or complain about. But if we want to be productive and happy, we will keep all of those things in their place, we will maintain our perspective, and we will remain clear-headed and serious about the things that matter most.
Today, I will strive to follow the guidance Alma gave to his son Shiblon. I will discipline myself, work hard on important goals, avoid exaggerating my strengths, approach God with a teachable spirit, and pay attention to the impact of my words and actions on the people around me.