Question (from 1993, excerpts): You say that the need for self-esteem and self-love are not taught in the Bible but that we naturally esteem and love ourselves too much. Yet Jesus Christ said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we obey that command if we hate ourselves? I’ve heard people sincerely say, “I hate myself!” Dr. Dobson and other Christian psychologists aren’t the only ones who emphasize the need to acquire a positive self-worth, self-esteem, self-love, and self-image. Many preachers have taught the same. Who are you to disagree with them?
Response: Any Berean comparing such teaching with God’s Word will find that it doesn’t pass the test, e.g., “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other[s] better than themselves” (Phil:2:3). Romans:12:3 warns us not to think of ourselves “more highly than [we] ought to think.” Nowhere does the Bible warn us against thinking too poorly of ourselves. The Bible frequently reminds us that we are sinners and unprofitable to God in and of ourselves. How reluctant we are to admit that truth!
Yes, there are people who sob, “I hate myself!” Common sense, however, tells us it isn’t true. They may hate their status, stature, physique, ineptness, looks, job, salary, academic record, or the way people treat them, but they don’t hate themselves. If they did, they would be glad they were unattractive, poorly paid, abused, etc. Psychology has convinced millions of a lie. The Bible tells the truth: “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh [i.e., himself]” (Eph:5:29).
When Christ said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He wasn’t telling us we hate ourselves and need therapy or seminars to teach us to love ourselves. Christ was correcting the obsession with self that is our natural bent. He was saying, “Give some of the love and attention and care to your neighbor that you give to yourself!”
Look at Paul. Hated by the Jewish community and rejected by most of the church (“no man stood with me” [2 Tm 4:16]; “all they in Asia ...turned away from me” [2 Tm 1:15]), he considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Tm 1:15) and “less than the least of all saints” (Eph:3:8). Did God seek to build up Paul’s self-image and self-esteem? No, Christ declared that His strength was made perfect in Paul’s weakness (2 Cor:12:9). Try to reconcile Paul’s self-evaluation, “when I am weak, then am I strong” (v. 10) and “in me dwelleth no good thing” (Rom:7:18), with psychology’s three essentials: self-esteem, self-worth, and self-acceptance. Nowhere in the Bible is God enriched by man. It is man who is always benefited by God....God, being infinitely rich and needing nothing, cannot be enriched by anyone or anything.
Christian psychology has promoted the lie that God loves us because of some value He sees in us; and even that Christ’s death proves we are of infinite value to God. In fact, He died for our sins. Spurgeon said it well: “Jesus did not come to save us because we were worth saving, but because we were utterly worthless, ruined, and undone [nor] out of any reason that was in us, but solely...because of reasons which He took from the depths of His own divine love. In due time He died for those whom He describes…as ungodly, applying to them as hopeless an adjective as He could.”
It is only since psychology entered the church that the selfisms of today became popular. Let us get back to the Bible!