The Biblical Importance of Self Esteem

What do you think of when you think of yourself? How would you rate your self-esteem? How would you define your self-image or self-worth? What does the Bible say about self-esteem? The truth is… it says absolutely nothing about the importance of having a positive self-image or high self-esteem. Shocking? I know.

Now someone will say, “Are you sure, Joseph? That just doesn’t sound right to me. I think God wants us to think positively about ourselves and have a healthy self-esteem.” Correction: God wants you to think truthfully about yourself and have an accurate self-image. This is why He gave us the law. The law was meant to be a mirror to us and when we look in that mirror the reflection isn’t all that pretty. Looking into that mirror we see that “there is none that does good, no not one that is righteous.” Not really a good mirror for building a positive self-esteem. For that we would need a mirror that lies to us.

But we don’t get a mirror that lies. We get one that is honest. One that points out all our flaws and imperfections. One that points us to our need for a Savior if there is to be any hope for us. And when we look to the Savior we don’t get one that encourages us to have a positive self-image and a healthy self-esteem. The Savior we get tells us to look to Him and deny ourselves. From start to finish the Bible doesn’t really leave us with a good platform for building self-esteem.

Now the temptation here is to assume that if God doesn’t want us to think positive about ourselves then the opposite must be true. He must want us to think negative about ourselves. I believe this is why so many sincere believers get caught up in all the hype of having a high self-esteem. But why do we have to limit our thinking to be so linear? Just because God’s assessment of us is honest and He wants our assessment of ourselves to also be honest does that make it a negative when it doesn’t pan out to be what we want it to be? Because it aims at truth instead of aiming at making us feel good about ourselves it is negative?

This kind of thinking is simply a testimony to how easily we can unknowingly construct false gods who are not anything at all like God. Any concept of God that is an inaccurate concept of God is nothing more than a false god. This is why I’m such a strong advocate on the importance of sound doctrine. Unsound doctrine produces idols and false gods which we have shaped to our own likings.

I’ll never forget when I confessed to one of my mentors that I didn’t believe in the Trinity but still believed I was saved because I believed that Jesus died for my sins. His response: The only problem with that is that the Jesus you believe in isn’t the Jesus of the Bible; and the Jesus of the Bible is the one that died for your sins, not the Jesus you believe in. And he was right. My false doctrine had caused me to create a false god. I believed in a Jesus that was not Jesus at all. One constructed to my likings because he was easier to understand than a Trinitarian Jesus.

For most people it seems reasonable to think that a good and loving God wants us to think positively about ourselves and have high self-esteems. The problem with both of these concepts is that they’re SELF-centered. The human obsession with self is what has gotten us into this mess of a sin infested world in need of a Savior.

My purpose here is not to say that God doesn’t want you to think positively about youeself. It’s to say that He wants you to think honestly about yourself. God’s assessment of us is honest because He is good and loves us and wants to point us to the hope we have in Christ. There is nothing negative about that.

And this is not an indictment against you, dear reader. This my own confession. Just because we have confessed our need for a Savior does not mean we have come to the end of ourselves. I have recently learned this the hard way through some recent trials. I was so preoccupied with my own self-esteem, self-image, self-worth and self-confidence that I was not free to rely on and be guided by the greater esteem, image, worth and confidence which I have in Christ. I’ll leave you now with these two questions as food for thought for your own lives:

1) In what ways might you be so concerned with yourself that you have created your own image of God to accomdate your self centered concerns?

2) Can you honestly say that you have been freed from self to enjoy the greater riches which are in Christ?

Joseph Sterling

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