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?
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.