Some struggle with having no sense of self-worth. Some people say to have self-worth is prideful. Others say you should have more self-worth – that’s healthy. Which is the right Christian attitude?
Is there a place in the life of a Christian for self-respect, self-worth, and self-love, or does the Bible exhort us to disrespect, devalue, and even hate ourselves? The Bible appears to support both self-love and self-hate, a seeming contradiction that has resulted in a very real controversy. Since the Bible cannot contradict itself, we need godly discernment to know how to think about ourselves accurately. “The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)
Standpoints about self-worth:
- I should not love myself. These proponents say: “It’s wrong for me to love my own life… Instead, I should hate myself.” The Bible says: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Based on the whole counsel of God, we are not to carry hatred in our hearts. When referring to hating our father, mother, sister, brother—and even our own lives—Jesus was not promoting a lifestyle of personal hatred. Such a message is completely inconsistent with the heart of the Bible and the heart of the Lord.
Jesus instead appealed to His followers to hate anything—including anything in their own lives—that stood in the way of their giving their relationship with Him absolute priority. If we are to be true disciples, Jesus must be preeminent—Jesus must occupy the place of highest priority. We should not let anyone take the place that He alone should have (Colossians 1:16–18).
- I should love myself. These proponents say: “God tells me in His Word that it is appropriate to love myself.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18). This idea is also to be found in: Leviticus 19:18, 34; Matthew 19:19 and 22:39; Mark 12:31, 33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8
The Greek word agape in the text means a “commitment to do what is best on behalf of others.” If you truly “love your neighbor as yourself,” you must comprehend the context of this love as well as understand its roots.
The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The essence of God is agape—a love that always seeks the highest and best on behalf of others. If we are truly godly—and we are told to be godly—then we will value what He values and love what He loves. We are to love the fact that He has a purpose for us… We are to love the fact that He values us… We are to love the fact that He has given us worth. You have godly agape for yourself when you do what God says is best for you … cooperating with His perfect plan for your life. And you have agape for those around you by doing what is consistent with God’s very best for them.
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Matthew 22:37–39)