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4 Maccabees 2Common English Bible (CEB)

So why is it surprising when the soul’s desire to join with something beautiful is defeated? Joseph, an example of self-control, is praised for this very thing.He had full control over his sexual desire through mental effort. Although he was a young man in his sexual prime, he defeated his sexual urges[a] with clear thinking. Clear thinking isn’t just being able to have control over strong sexual urges but over every other desire as well. So the Law says, “You will not desire your neighbor’s wife or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Since the Law commanded us not to desire, I should be able to convince you even more that clear thinking is able to control desires.

This also proves true in the case of emotions that prevent justice. It is obvious that clear thinking is in charge of the emotions—otherwise, how could someone who always indulges in binge eating in private, or a person who tends to overeat, or a person who tends to get drunk, learn a better way? As soon as people who love money decide to live according to the Law, they are forced to change their way of life, lending to those who ask without charging interest and canceling all debts in the seventh year. If people are greedy, they are forced by the Law through clear thinking, so they don’t pick up the grain in the field that they missed the first time or go back through the vineyard to pick the last clusters of grapes.

In every other matter we can also see that clear thinking controls the emotions. 10 The Law even controls affection for parents so that a person does not desert moral values because of them. 11 It exercises control over a husband’s love for his wife so that he corrects her if she ignores the Law. 12 It rules love for children by punishing them when they do wrong. 13 It comes before the affection for friends, and it challenges them if they are doing evil. 14 Don’t think it’s strange that clear thinking should have control over hatred between enemies. Because of the Law, we don’t cut down an enemy’s orchard in war, but instead we try to keep an enemy’s property safe from destruction and help rebuild what has fallen down.

15 clear thinking even keeps the more violent emotions in check, like the thirst for power, desire for glory, pride, self-importance, and jealousy. 16 The sensible mind rejects these destructive emotions, along with anger, because it rules over that emotion as well. 17 When Moses was angry at Dathan and Abiram, he didn’t act against them in anger. Instead, he controlled his anger with clear thinking. 18 The sensible mind, as I have said, is able to get the upper hand over the emotions, transforming some and defeating others. 19 If this were not the case, why did Jacob our wise ancestor denounce the households of Simeon and Levi for the unreasonable killing of the whole nation of Shechem, saying, “Their anger is cursed”? 20 If clear thinking couldn’t control anger, he wouldn’t have said this. 21 When God formed human beings, God planted emotions and character traits inside them. 22 At that time, God also set the mind on the throne in the middle of the senses, to function as a holy governor over them all. 23 God gave the Law to the mind. Whoever lives in line with the Law will rule over a kingdom that is self-controlled, just, good, and courageous.

Clarification about godly thinking

24 Someone might say, “Then why doesn’t clear thinking control memory loss and ignorance, if it is in charge of the emotions?” But that argument is completely ridiculous.


  1. 4 Maccabees 2:3 Or he swatted the gadfly of his urges.
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


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