Low Self-Esteem vs. Esteeming Self Less

One of the foundational things we have to recognize when coming to Christ is that we’re not worthy. The Bible makes it clear that the human “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). We can’t earn salvation, and we have not done anything to deserve God’s love. This should fill us with humility as we enter a relationship with God, knowing He loves us even through we are nothing without Him.

But I know far too many people who get stuck on the “I am undeserving” part of this truth. Instead of finding our identity in Jesus Christ  and defining ourselves by our relationship with Him (“I’m a Christian”), we can be tempted to find our identity in the fact that we don’t deserve His forgiveness and love (“I’m worthless”). Maybe you’ve been told your whole life that “you’re not good enough,” and you’ve carried that into your relationship with God. Maybe you’re a perfectionist who’s stopped using your attention to detail to get things done right and started letting it rule your life so you feel useless unless you’re constantly giving 110%. Or maybe your self-lies are more like mine — that I’m not brave, strong, or clever enough to be of use to God.

Is this what God wants when He asks for humility? Do His instructions to think less of ourselves than of others mean He wants us to have low self-esteem? What does the Bible say about our value?

Marvelous Love

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

Low Self-Esteem vs. Esteeming Self Less | marissabaker.wordpress.comEven when we were sinners — working at cross-purposes to God — He loved us enough to die for us. God is love, and there is no greater example of this than the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to transform broken people who had done nothing to deserve His attention into something special.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)

Look how Jesus describes His followers, as friends so valued He was willing to die for and share His thoughts with them. And those who follow Christ are not only His friends, but His family as well, and “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11). Think of that. The One who knows you best — all your sins, weakness, foibles, and most secret thoughts — is not ashamed to say you are His family.

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.  … For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. (Is. 43:1, 3, 4)

These early verses of Isaiah 43 are some of my favorite scriptures. I read them when I’m feeling lonely or doubtful of my worth in God’s eyes. Isn’t it a lovely reassurance of how highly God values His people? When God looks at you, He doesn’t think, “that person is worthless,” He thinks, “that person belongs to Me, and I love them.”

What We Are

So far, we’ve seen God call us precious, beloved, family, and friends. When we look a bit deeper into how He interacts with the church for today, we see even more evidence of how highly He values us.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

God must value us highly to call us “holy,” dwell inside us, and to destroy those who “defile” us. This part of the verse can be read as a warning to individual parts of the temple that we not become corrupt, and also as a warning to those who would set out to “subvert or corrupt” us as God’s temple. In that sense, it’s similar to God’s Isaiah 43 promise to protect and defend us. God is saying, “They are mine. I prize them highly, and I will fight for them.”

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

Jesus Christ thought we were worth paying the price of His life to redeem. In the words of Matthew Henry, “A spouse so dearly bought and paid for could not but be dearly loved. Such a price being given for her, a high value must needs be put upon her accordingly” (commentary on Song 4:8-14). Jesus did not redeem us so we could be worthless, weak, uninteresting, or whatever it is we call ourselves. He redeemed us to adopt as His siblings (Rom. 8:15-17), marry as His bride (2 Cor. 11:2), and give us a share in His glory (John 17:22; 1 John 3:2).

A Proper Attitude

So, what attitude are we supposed to have about ourselves? One thing we absolutely cannot do is allow the knowledge of how much God loves us lead to an idea that we’re something amazing in and of ourselves. God hates pride, arrogance, and vanity. When He says He values us highly, that’s not the reaction He’s looking for in return. Rather, the Lord requires us “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8)

Low Self-Esteem vs. Esteeming Self Less | marissabaker.wordpress.comBut we can’t go to the opposite extreme either. If we tell ourselves we have no value, there’s a danger of becoming paralyzed by fear of doing something wrong and attracting attention to our own worthlessness. But that kind of fear has no place in a person where God’s love dwells (1 John 4:18).

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:3-5)

This is the key — having the mind of Christ. His was the most valuable human life ever, and yet He chose to use His greatness to serve others, first by giving up the glory He had before the world existed, then in how He lived His life, then by dying for us, and now by living as our High Priest and the Head over all things to the church. His every act on this earth was one of love and service and esteeming the needs of others as more important than His own. That’s the example we should be following.

When we find our identity in Christ and believe we are precious in God’s sight, we can be bold, courageous, and strong in Him (Heb. 4:16; John 16:33; Eph. 6:10). We are also humble, knowing the things that make us valuable come from our relationship with God and not from ourselves. And we esteem our brethren higher than ourselves, because they are also temples of God and we are called to serve and love them as Christ serves and loves us.

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