Perils of Pride #10: Self-Esteem: Pride’s First Cousin

I was baptized and became a member of a church in 1976 when I was in the fourth grade. But it was not until 1990 that I became a Christian. I distinctly recall, even to this day, the morning I was driving my car on my way to work, when God confronted me. His message was this: “You are wasting your life.” Now I see that this was God’s way of telling me I was a sinner and needed to repent and be saved. The first thing I did was to tune my car radio away from the rock-and-roll station to which I had been listening over to a Christian radio station. It was on that day that I was introduced to David Jeremiah, James Dobson, and Larry Burkett. I attribute these three men to putting me on track spiritually, in my family, and in my finances. David Jeremiah taught me to love the Word of God, James Dobson and “Focus on the Family” may well have saved my marriage, and Larry Burkett made it possible for me to see the pit of debt I was in and he also showed me that my wife needed to be a stay-at-home mom. 1991 and 1992 were two great years and also terrible years. I learned a lot about being a Christian in 1991 and 1992, but they were also years that I paid the price for many bad decisions. The morning my wife and I put our firstborn six week old baby in daycare, so my wife could go to work because of our debt, was one of the worst days of my life. It took the entire year of 1992 to set things right.

I share this bit of my personal testimony in order to get to this point. One of the first books that I read by James Dobson was “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women.” I recall that the basis of this book was surveys that Dobson conducted on the sources of depression in women as he spoke at conferences across the United States. The top source of depression among women cited in Dobson’s book was low self-esteem. Dobson’s arguments for the need for self-esteem among women made sense to me back then. I found that self-esteem was a theme for Dobson. Not only did women suffer from low self-esteem, but so did children. It seemed to me that Dr. Dobson’s prescription for everyone was a good dose of healthy self-esteem.

Unfortunately, I believe that we have turned self-esteem in modern-day American idol. I looked up the word “self-esteem” in Webster’s Dictionary and found these definitions: “a just opinion of oneself”; “an overestimate of oneself”; “conceit.” I think what has happened in America is that well-meaning mentors have told us we need to have self-esteem according to the first definition – “a just opinion of oneself.” However, we Americans heard this message as the latter two definitions – “an overestimate of oneself”; “conceit.” Just glancing through a website with a page dedicated to self-esteem quotes will verify that my supposition is true. I could have spent the next hour cutting and pasting quotes on self-esteem into this post to show that the notion of self-esteem we have in America today is in direct contradiction to the Word of God. I will suffice it to give only my “favorite” quote. This is from Golda Meir, a former Prime Minister of Israel.

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

When I read this quote, I read “Believe that you are a god unto yourself.” The message of self-esteem we hear today is nothing but the message of pride inside a different wrapping paper.

So what is proper self-esteem? Can we have a proper self-esteem? I believe that the answer to this question is “Yes.” The Bible tells us in Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (NIV) How should we think about ourselves? We do not need to turn to the world to answer this question. Psychology cannot answer this question. Self-help books cannot answer this question. Neither Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura. Dr. Ruth, or Dr. Spock have the answer to this question. And Joel Osteen definitely does not have the answer to this question. Everything we need to know about ourselves can be found in the Bible, in the very Word of God. And when we take the Bible as a whole, we can have a right view of self-esteem. How should we think about ourselves? I call this “the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.”

First, the good.

You were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (NIV)

You were fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-14 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)

God knew you before you were ever made. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV)

God has a plan for you. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

But now for the bad.

Because of sin, the image of God created in you has been corrupted. Genesis 6:5-6 “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (NIV)

Nothing that we do is pleasing to God. Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (NIV)

There is nothing good in us. Romans 3:10-11 “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (NIV)

But it gets worse. Here is the ugly.

We are all sinners before God. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NIV)

We deserve nothing but death because of our sins. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death” (NIV)

We should be separated from God forever because of our sins. Galatians 5:19-21 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (NIV)

We deserve to spend eternity in hell because of our sins. Revelation 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake
of burning sulfur. This is the second death
.” (NIV)

But for all those who have been called by God, those who Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, there remains the beautiful.

Even though you are a sinner, Jesus Christ died for you. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

Jesus Christ died for you because of his great love for you, enough to call you his friend. John 15:13-14 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (NIV)

We are no longer alienated from God because of our sin. We are, in fact, the children of God. John 1:12-13 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (NIV)

Because we are the children of God, we are also heirs of all the riches of God. Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

And finally, we can look forward to the day when we will be re-created in the image of God. We close with a chance to meditate on these verses found in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
. (NIV)

By Berean Husband

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.