Saturday, September 21, 2019

Is self-esteem a bad thing?

Yesterday a youth in my church emailed me the following (exchange shared with permission):

I have a question. I’m reading through a little book about self-esteem, and I’m now wondering:  Is self-esteem a bad thing?

My response: 

Regarding self-esteem:

On one hand, one could say that the Bible does affirm the worth and value of every human being. We were made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and this is true even after the fall (post-Gen 3) (Gen 9:6; James 3:9). In addition, the Bible says we were made a little lower than the angels, have been crowned with glory and honor, and been given dominion over the creation (see Psalm 8, esp. vv. 4-8). We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14). So, we should value every human being (ourselves included), because we are image-bearers. In the Great Commandment, Christ also said we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:33-34).

On the other hand, the Bible teaches that we are sinners, who do not seek God, cannot do good, and are in need of God's grace (cf. Romans 3:11-12, 23; 6:23; 5:8).

So, the Christian is one who both knows he is made in God's image and that he is a sinner whose only hope is Christ.

I'm not sure what book you are reading. In today's world "self-esteem" is a pop-psychological term that is not always used in a Biblical way. There are some people who do struggle with low self-esteem and need to be reminded they are made in God's image. Other people actually suffer from an over-inflated self-esteem and need to cultivate humility and lowliness. Consider verses like these:

Matthew 23:11-12: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

James 4:10: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift you up" (cf. 1 Peter 5:6).

Consider Christ's parable of the Pharisee and the publican (tax collector) in Luke 18:9-14, followed by his teaching that one must receive the kingdom like a child (Luke 18:15-17).

Maybe Paul sums it up best in Romans 12:3 when he urges each Christian, "not think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly [seriously, honestly]."

Hope this helps. Let me know Sunday what you think.


1 comment:

Daniel Chamberlin said...

It is noteworthy that pride is never spoken of as a virtue in the Scriptures. This flies in the face of today’s philosophy and way of speaking. The Christian alternative to pride is thanksgiving. Pride gives credit to self; thanksgiving points away to God. Instead of being proud of our achievements, we should be thankful to God who has enabled us. Instead of being proud of our children or our country, we should be thankful.