Self-esteem is a fickle thing. It seems everywhere I turn people are encouraging me to love myself. Everywhere, that is, except Scripture.
Self-Esteem and the Christian Life
Webster’s definition of self-esteem: a confidence and satisfaction in oneself
Bookshelves at Christian bookstores, blogs, and social media newsfeeds all seem to be encouraging me to love myself. Some of them do it by pointing to some inner strength they think I must contain because I am a woman or because I bore children or because I am _______ (fill in the blank).
Others point to Scripture. They say things like, “YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made” as if the point of that verse (or any verse for that matter) is me and my self-esteem.
But the Scriptures, when viewed in context do not teach that at all. The verse in question (Psalm 139:14) is actually a prayer and it says this, “I praise YOU because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Humans are not the focus of that verse. God is.
But perhaps the one that bothers me most is when seemingly well intentioned Christians make the cross of Christ about my self-esteem.
Don’t misunderstand me, the cross does indeed show us God’s incredible love for all human life. The fact that God would step into His own creation and allow Himself to suffer and die on our behalf screams that you and I are valuable. But do not get this wrong. We are valuable because we are made in the image of God and we are valuable because He has chosen to love us.
What Scripture Says About Us:
- God made us. He is amazing and He does amazing things. He made everything and it was all good. But when He made humans, He formed us. He spoke everything into existence but He took special time and care with human life. He knitted us together. He breathed His breath of life into us. He gave us souls that will last forever. He is amazing and He does amazing things.
- We screwed everything up. The mess we made of our lives was so disturbing and vile to our Creator that He could not allow us in His presence. Though He had created us so He could enjoy us for the rest of eternity, He could not allow us to come near Him because of our sin. The sins we so easily justify are really us spitting in the face of our amazing Creator. We deserve to be separated from Him and His happiness forever.
- But God is so good. In spite of our horrendous evil, God has chosen to love us.
- To reconcile the fact that He loves His people and is passionately, justifiably angry with us, Christ came.
- Christ died on the cross to give His people eternal life. He did not do this because we are so awesome, He couldn’t imagine eternity without us, or because He has some me shaped hole in His heart. He did this because it glorified the Father to showcase both His amazing, unfathomable, perfect love and His fierce, unrelenting, perfect wrath in this way.
Christ died on the cross because it glorified God.
Christ died on the cross because He has chosen to love people who have no way to be with Him, because of their sin, unless He does the whole work.
The Godhead has no need of humans. The love between the members of the Trinity has been perfect for all of eternity and that love has overflowed to creation. Because all of the members of the Trinity are gloriously beautiful, creation, as the outworking of the Godhead, is beautiful.
Do not reduce the cross of Christ to a statement that builds your “confidence and satisfaction” in yourself. It is so much better than that!
The Cross of Christ shows us the depth of our sinfulness and the manifold mercy and grace of God.
Scripture says that from birth we are filled with sin (Psalm 51:4-6). Anyone who has ever raised children can attest to this. You do not have to teach your toddler “no” or “mine” those words come very naturally to them. You do not have to teach your preschooler to lie or hoard toys. Instead you have to teach them to share, speak kindly, tell the truth, and respond in gentleness. This is because we are all sinful by nature.
Scripture does not paint a pretty picture of what we are in our sinfulness. God created us amazingly because He is amazing but we really messed it up. This is a hard lesson to learn but it is true. This picture paints us in utter darkness. But against that backdrop, Scripture shows Christ clearly as the light of all the world (John 8:12). He is captivating, beautiful, supremely glorious, and worth magnifying.
Self-love and self-esteem are fickle. The Cross of Christ is better than that!
Should Christians have Self-Esteem?
Christians were never meant to meet the dictionary definition of self-esteem – “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself”. We are supposed to find our confidence and utter satisfaction of the soul in the person of Christ.
The Cross of Christ shows us just how absolutely horrible we are and how absolutely wonderful Christ is. Christ knows every one of your sinful thoughts and deeds and if you are His, He bore them all. He knows them because He knows everything. He also knows the weight of them because He carried them to the Cross and the wrath you deserved because of them fell to Him.
The Cross should not make us feel good about ourselves, give us confidence in ourselves, satisfaction in our state apart from Christ, or make us feel comfortable in our sin. The Cross should cause us to worship.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.
Naked come to Thee for help.
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.
Foul I to Thy fountain fly,
Wash me Savior or I die.
The Only Lasting Source of Confidence and Satisfaction
You and I have nothing good in us, that is in our sinful flesh (Romans 7:18). But we have a beautiful Savior who is worthy of our worship. We do not need to esteem ourselves because we have something better. We can esteem Christ.
The only lasting source of real satisfaction is in Christ. The only place our eternal confidence should lie is in Christ. And when we find our value and worth in Him, we do not fall prey to the fickle nature of our own self-esteem.
When our confidence lies in Christ, rather than in ourselves, it is okay if we don’t look the way we think we should. When our satisfaction is in Christ’s perfection, it is okay if our career doesn’t take off, our children disobey, or our friends turn against us. If our souls are satisfied and find their confidence in Christ, we can rest.
All of our striving to be valuable in others eyes or in our own eyes can cease because we know we have value in the eyes of God.
Let the Cross of Christ cause you to worship, not yourself but Christ. Let the cross of Christ draw your heart to find utter confidence and satisfaction in what you could never accomplish but has been accomplished for you. Let the cross of Christ cause you to rest. Esteem Christ, not yourself.
If you want to find out more about identity and rest in Christ check out