One hundred years ago, Boston was a thriving center for molasses trade. Ships would come from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the West Indies to unload their sweet syrup into large storage tanks at the port. While some molasses was used for cooking, most was fermented and distilled into alcohol for either consumption or World War I munitions. In January 1919, a large storage tank (50 feet tall and 90 feet wide) filled with over two million gallons of molasses burst. A wave of warm molasses surged through the streets of Boston. It was 25 feet high traveling at 35 mph. Buildings were swept off their foundations. A streetcar was tipped off its tracks. Several blocks were flooded to a depth of up to 3 feet. Soon the molasses cooled and became viscous, trapping people and animals, hampering their rescue. Twenty-one people were killed and 150 were injured. The cleanup lasted for weeks. Boston Harbor was stained brown until the summer. The sweet smell of molasses lingered in parts of the city for years.
God blesses us every day with many wonderful gifts. The pleasure of delicious food. The security of prosperity. Time to rest. The intimacy between husband and wife. Speaking words of encouragement and kindness to one another. God also warns us that we are only to enjoy His blessings within certain boundaries and limits. When the molasses sat in the storage tank, it was a valuable commodity with much benefit to its owners and many uses for the community. But as soon as it left the boundaries of the storage tank, the molasses lost all of its value and actually became a hazard to everyone nearby.
We see God’s warnings for the importance of self-control in Scripture (Proverbs 25) and in the general revelation of the law of reaping-and-sowing. (Galatians 6) Overeating leads to gluttony and obesity. Preoccupation with money leads to greed. Too much leisure leads to poverty. Sex outside the marriage covenant ruins relationships. Angry words harm others. It is important to keep all of these good and wonderful blessings contained within their God-given limits. When we don’t, God’s wonderful gifts become worthless to us and dangerous to others. Thankfully, we do not have to rely merely on our own power. The Fruit of the Spirit includes self-control. (Galatians 5) And God graciously empowers His children to flourish under His care and direction, and to increasingly think and act more like Jesus.