This article is by Kathryn Graves and published by Crosswalk
As a Bible teacher in our church, pastor’s wife, and speaker, I come across women on a regular basis who struggle with feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. In spite of the fact that many authors and teachers address the issue, from my perspective, the struggle seems to be more prevalent now than ever before.
I can think of several reasons for this—including that we live in a culture where human life is not valued as sacred. The threat of being “cancelled” on social media, along with news headlines about sexual abuse even within “Christian” settings only makes the situation worse. Many people, not just women, are subjected to all kinds of maltreatment and even exploitation.
On the other hand, sometimes we’re made to feel guilty for recognizing our personal value. It’s deemed a sign of conceit and considered almost evil by some religious leaders who caution against pride.
What does the Bible say about how we are to view ourselves and our personal worth? Let’s take a stroll through its pages to see if we can answer this question.
What Does the Bible Say about Self-Worth?
Genesis 1:27 says that God created human beings in his own image. Genesis 2:7 tells us how God formed the first man from the dust of the earth and then breathed life into him with His own breath. Genesis 2:22 describes the woman being created from the man’s rib.
In each case, God took care to form the person exactly as He wished—and they only lived because they had the breath of God in their lungs. Chapter 2 relays to us that God was not fully satisfied with His creation until He made people. People are special to Him.
The Psalmist acknowledged in 119:73 that he was created, or fashioned, by God. Then in Psalm 139:13-17 we read what is perhaps the most oft-quoted passage about how God forms us. It’s the description David wrote—and could only have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. He details the intimate relationship of the Creator with His creation even in the womb.
This special-ness was not limited to Adam and Eve or David. The prophet Jeremiah wrote in 1:5 that God knew him even before He formed him in his mother’s womb. Two things are evident from this statement—God specifically made Jeremiah as an individual with a life purpose, and He carefully constructed the prophet’s body before his birth.
In the New Testament, we read in Luke 1:39-45 that Elizabeth’s pre-born baby recognized Mary’s—who was Jesus—while both women were still pregnant. This incident confirms the individual creation of people.
We can agree from these passages that we are created by God, in His image, for a life purpose. All these verses—and the idea they present that we are each unique and loved by God—lead us to believe that we should love ourselves. The Bible even goes so far as to say we are chosen by God to be His children in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and Luke 12:32.
We might think the deal is sealed when we read the command that Jesus gave in Mark 12:30-31 to love your neighbor as yourself. His statement seems to affirm that we already love ourselves—and that it’s okay.
The Confusion around Loving Ourselves
However, confusion may set in when we remember what many of us heard from our mothers—that our order of priorities should be God first, others second, and ourselves last. Wouldn’t that mean we shouldn’t be proud of, or love ourselves?
After all, the Bible does indicate in Proverbs 16:16 that pride is a negative. Also, we are sinners by nature. Romans 3:23 makes that truth evident. We might believe, then, that sin makes us bad and pride reveals evil, so loving ourselves is out of the question.
I think the answer we seek lies within the context of all these Bible verses. While we are made in the image of God, on purpose, for a purpose, we can’t allow our feelings about ourselves to veer toward pride and conceit. The first command in Mark 12:30 is to love God with our whole being. If we truly do that, we’ll gain the proper perspective.
By keeping God at the center of our thoughts, we’ll gain a healthy understanding of ourselves and our place in His plan. Since we are chosen and loved, we can have confidence that our abilities are designed by God and useful in His kingdom.
We’ll realize that while we don’t get the credit for creating, we do have a part to play. It is up to us to join the plan.
How Loving Ourselves Leads to Loving Others
Then we can begin to fulfill our God-ordained purpose. This will involve serving other people. No matter if it is through our professional vocation, or simply through friendships we cultivate, or even intentional missions, we will discover needs around us and God will direct us so we can meet those needs.
In this way, we put others first—and gain indescribable positive feelings. It’s almost as if serving others creates endorphin hormones.
Is this what it looks like to love ourselves in the biblical way? I think we’re getting close. When Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves, I also think He was talking about our bodies. We instinctively protect ourselves from harm or death, and we eat to fuel our energy needs—and much more sometimes!—besides sleeping for adequate rest. It’s just a natural thing for us to take care of our own bodies.
This care demonstrates self-love. It’s an intrinsic characteristic of being human. These are the things Jesus wants us to notice about others around us—our neighbors. Do they have adequate food, shelter, clothing, and safety so they can rest? It should be just as natural for us to care for these needs of others as it is our own.
Love is the most important thing in the world, according to the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13). We are able to love ourselves when we accept the forgiveness of sins that Jesus paid for with His death on the cross and resurrection. Then our eyes are opened to the needs of others around us with whom we can share the love of Christ. As believers we love each other so that the world can see a visual of what God is like.
The key to our answer is keeping God’s truth at the core—and then acting on it. This means our focus won’t be on ourselves, but on Jesus Christ. If we lose ourselves in Him, then we gain everything that matters (Luke 9:24). So as long as we define love the way the Bible does, then yes, it is biblical to love yourself.