Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

Text: II Corinthians 2:14-16

“For we are the aroma of Christ… a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? A thermometer merely reflects the temperature of its surroundings while a thermostat affects those surroundings. A thermometer is a reactionary instrument. In a sense it assumes the temperature around it. Its outcomes are always dictated by settings and circumstances within its proximity. The thermometer can relay valuable information about atmospheric conditions, but it doesn’t have the capacity to change anything about those conditions.

In contrast, the thermostat influences its surroundings. It is set to a determined temperature regardless of the room environment. It affects outcomes. It produces change in the atmospheric conditions. It doesn’t react, it regulates. It doesn’t fluctuate up or down, it remains fixed even as environments oscillate.

Too often we take on the likeness of the thermometer. We conform to the world around us. Our feelings are dictated by what others may think or say about us rather than being at peace with our unalterable identity in Christ. We can let circumstances control us to the point of feeling like victims. Our language becomes reflective of the world’s tone instead of being fixed on God’s Word. Our hearts become anxious about what’s going on around us. We find our circumstances speaking to us, rather than our faith speaking to our circumstances. We fluctuate. We sway. And if we are not careful, we can become lukewarm.

The good news is that we can make a decision today to be more like the thermostat! We can choose to have our heart regulated by God’s Word. Each day we can renew our minds to become more fixed on truth despite ever changing surroundings. We can influence our environments rather than just being a reflection of them.

Noah became a thermostat though everyone around him was a thermometer (Genesis 6:9). He stood out in a time of unprecedented evil because of his intimate walk with God. Those three Hebrew teenagers in Babylon became thermostats when they chose to worship God alone, while everyone around them took on the likeness of thermometers—conforming to cultural idolatry (Daniel 3:1-30). Even the fiery furnace had no affect on them! Conversely, God’s grievance with the Laodicean church was that they had become lukewarm and were no longer affecting the culture around them. They had become thermometers when they should’ve been thermostats.

Paul seems to have a “thermostat” mentality when writing to the Corinthian church:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)

The Greek word for “aroma” was translated to mean a sweet smell, an odor of satisfaction, or incense well pleasing to God. This aroma will always affect its ambience. The imagery is that, as a Christ-follower, we are expected to bring the fragrance of Jesus into every environment in which we find ourselves. We are to have an atmospheric influence on our homes, our workplaces, our social circles, and those outreach contexts in which we serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. Paul describes this as a “triumphal procession” in every place where we spread the fragrance of Him.

This week you can choose to live in “climate-controlled” environments. You may not be able to change people, circumstances, or surroundings, but you can affect them. You can bring the fragrance of Jesus into each and every situation. Your genuine smile can change the warmth of a room. Your kind words can speak life into arid places. Your faith may not remove your problems, but it can certainly dictate their volume level in your heart. Your soul can be climate-controlled with God’s peace though storms may rage outwardly.

We have a choice! Will we be a thermometer or a thermostat? Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.


Heavenly Father, there are a lot of things we cannot change. But we are so thankful that you haven’t left us helpless. You’ve given us your Holy Spirit as a ‘Helper.’ Your presence is with us everywhere. Help us to remember that your fragrance in our lives is constant regardless of the ambience or surroundings. Because of this, we don’t just adapt to environments, we can affect them. We can influence them. Help us to be mindful of how you want us to look more like a thermostat than a thermometer, and bring your fragrance into every situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

twitter-64Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? One is a reactionary instrument, the other affects its environment. Tweet this

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. What were the most dangerous weather conditions you’ve ever experienced? How did it affect you?
  2. What makes us become more like thermometers than thermostats?
  3. When have you ever felt like your faith had become lukewarm? To what factors would you attribute the lukewarmness?
  4. Why do you think Paul used the terms “fragrance” or “aroma” to describe the “triumphal procession” God spreads through us?
  5. What factors will inhibit you from being that aroma this week? Identify them and pray for victory over them!


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