HomeSSLessons2014b Christ and the Law2014b Teaching HelpsDid Jesus Tell Us to Love Ourselves First?    


Did Jesus Tell Us to Love Ourselves First? — 56 Comments

  1. Inge, I feel uncomfortable as you do when I hear this repeated as a guide to loving others. In my mind it says take care of your needs first, pamper yourself first so you'll know how to pamper others. It does sound logical but I agree with your view on this.

    • How can I give something that I do not have? I Have to first learn before I can teach,l have to nourish myself before I can breastfeed my baby. If it is not in me how can I give it. Hence, loving myself allows me the opportunity to love others. We have to love what we see in the mirror every day before we can share it with others.

      • Jennifer, thank you for your comment that appears to be perfectly logical.

        However, may I suggest that what we need to share with others is not the love of self - what we see in the mirror every day. What we need to share with others is the love of Jesus.

        You are right that we need to be nourished ourselves before we can nourish others. We need to accept the love of Jesus into our own lives as we spend time with Him. In the process, we need to surrender our "self" to Christ (allow Him to crucify self), so that when we minister to others, they will see not us, but Christ in us. (See Gal 2:20)

        The distinction may appear to be subtle to some, but the two kinds of love (the love of self vs the self-forgetful love of Jesus) could not be more radically different. One looks out for self first; the other forgets about self and looks out for others first.

        Jesus said,

        "if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

        He is not advocating love of self, but the crucifixion of self, so that we may reflect His character.

        Unfortunately, we are so steeped in worldly psychology that it has crept into the church and many church publications, and we do not recognize that an emphasis on loving self is radically opposed to Christ's emphasis on self-renouncing love - the type of love He demonstrated on the cross and the type of love He commanded us to exercise. (John 17:20)

        • Does the Golden Rule apply here? My understanding of loving your neighbor as yourself is that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.

        • I think people are simply trying to figure out how to understand/accept/embrace the fact that we are of tremendous value to God, while at the same time wrestle with a sense of condemnation or intrusive negative thoughts about themselves. It just gets all waded up together and becomes difficult to sort out.

      • Here are a few questions for any self-love advocate.

        Would it be foolish to expose oneself to the risk of contracting ebola, with the understanding that doing so would provide the best chance a child, who is unlikely to achieve anything great in this world, might have to survive the threat of the same disease in his/her territory?

        Would it be even more absurd to trade places (say a physical environment swap) with that child, who may amount to nothing much, such that the trader is likely to die, and the child is likely to live?

        And if you would personally proceed with same would it be because of how much you loved yourself (1 Corinthians 13:5)?

        Perhaps some might still not see what is happening, but here is a word of counsel from EGW:

        “Will the church see where she has fallen? A coldness, hardness of heart, a want of sympathy for the brethren, exists in the church. An absence of love for the erring is manifested. There is a withdrawing from the very ones who need pity and help. A severity, an overbearing spirit, such as existed among the Pharisees, exists in our churches, and especially in those intrusted with sacred responsibilities. They are lifted up in self-esteem and self-assurance. The widow and the fatherless have not their sympathy or their love. This is entirely unlike the spirit of Christ. The Lord looks with displeasure upon the coarse, harsh spirit that has been manifested by some,—a spirit so devoid of sympathy, of tender appreciation of those whom he loves. Brethren, you who close the heart against Christ’s suffering ones, remember, that as you deal with them, God will deal with you. When you call, he will not say, “Here I am;” when you cry, he will not answer. Satan is watching, preparing his delusions to ensnare those who are filled with self-importance while they are spiritually destitute.” (RH December 23, 1890)

      • Jesus is our only exemplar in the life that we are intended to live. We need to follow his footsteps in all aspect of our life today. He died for us because he loved us not not self. therefore, the problem that we have today is not loving self but others. That is why the bible focus on loving our neighbor. I cannot remember any verse or place in the bible which encourages me to love myself first. besides,in this context love is defined in terms of loving others not self.

  2. There is a difference between loving yourself as you should love God(My husband always says, I should love Jesus more that I love him) and being severely narcissistic, which is what you seem to have researched about a certain type of serial killer. They did not love themselves...they worshiped themselves, which, I am not surprised, is the reflection of Satan himself.

    We, as God's children, are being taught everyday about how we should throw ourselves into the refiner's fire, until the dross is melted away so as we look at our reflection, we see the face of Jesus.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that it should be taught that if we don't love like Jesus, what we'll see won't be Godly at all.

    • Carmela, I'm not quite sure I understand you. But, I can see nothing in Christ's teaching that tells us to love ourselves. Lacking such a teaching, it seems that people have tended to use the command to love our neighbors as ourselves as justification for self-love by saying that we can't love others unless we love ourselves first.

      If you will think of the way that Jesus loved, He did not stop to think of His own welfare. He poured out all of Himself for the salvation of humanity. And He wants us to love like that - to forget ourselves in the service of humanity like He did.

  3. This is a worthwhile article by Sis. Inge.

    It is easy to make the Bible fall in line with a certain philosophy by overemphasizing a line from the Holy Word without due consideration for the immediate or broader context of scripture as a whole. In doing so it is often necessary to deny the straight testimony of other passages, if not the very same passage.

    To “love the neighbor as oneself,” rather than being a command to self-love is a recognition that we already love ourselves, if anything too much, and an invitation to use this as a starting point to relate to others. It is not the end point, for our model Jesus took it further, demonstrating how to put others ahead. It takes more than equal love to die for another (John 15:13).

    The modern self-esteem movement, which has apparently garnered the sympathy of many in the church, cunningly appeals to a natural, but fallen desire to get mankind to unduly invest in self.

    Recognizing self as the root of sin the Bible is careful to point out and emphasize the problem of high self-esteem in the fallen race (Isaiah 64:6), and has little to say if anything by way of caution against low self-esteem. In fact what is often deemed low self-esteem is an undue concern about self, a form of selfishness, effectively a self-focus with unfavorable outcome.

    The Bible's answer to this is to look wholly to Christ. By this we may develop Christ-esteem. Self may be seen for what it is - nothing - but it matters not to those who are comfortable with Christ being everything.

    Healthy self-worth or self-respect does not come from the intrinsic value of the clay (Genesis 3:19), but actually derives externally from the recognition that the Redeemer places a high value on His Creation, and in order to please Him one needs to take care of oneself as He directs. Hence the health message, Christian education, and the harmonious development of every faculty to serve Him better every day.

    • Thanks, Hugh, for expanding and clarifying my thoughts.

      I can't do better than to reiterate your thought:

      To “love the neighbor as oneself,” rather than being a command to self-love is a recognition that we already love ourselves, if anything too much, and an invitation to use this as a starting point to relate to others.

      I also appreciate what you say about "low self-esteem":

      In fact what is often deemed low self-esteem is an undue concern about self, a form of selfishness, effectively a self-focus with unfavorable outcome.

      I've not thought this through sufficiently to be clear that this is always true, but I can appreciate that this is often the case. For instance, I was extremely shy as a teenager and struggled with a sense of low self-worth. I was earnest in seeking God, and He revealed to me that my shyness and supposed undervaluing of myself was actually a matter of being too self-focused and lacking faith: I was concerned what people would thing about me. I was concerned that I might perform poorly, etc. And I did not accept the value God placed on me. The remedy was to trust God, forget about self and to focus on how to bring some happiness into the life of others.

      A woman in my class today had grown up with a severely abusive father, and she told us how she struggled with accepting God as the loving Father He is. She also struggled with letting go of her "hardness of heart" and accepting His love so that she could minister to others. She opened my eyes to the fact that abuse often does produce a hard heart as a defensive mechanism. And victims of abuse have a struggle to let go of self-defensive behavior and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to others. Again, this sounds like a battle with self, not a need for self-love.

  4. I fully agree Inge, however, on the other side of the coin are people that feel that they are worthless and sometimes are masochistic, I don’t think that is what Jesus wanted either. As always I call for the middle of the road. We are to have a respect for ourselves because Christ sacrificed Himself for us and even He said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mat 10:29-31 NKJV).

    Christ had a Godly dignity about Himself and never relegated Himself to slime like many materialistic Darwinists do. People such as David Attenborough who has publically stated that in his opinion the human population is nothing more than a bunch of parasites never value a human life above that of bacteria. Some groups have even gone so far as to advocate the extermination of up to 90% of the world’s population, all for the sake of mother earth and the insects they value more than humans.

    It seems to me, therefore, that what we are talking about here are the extremes of self worth. Besides in other comments you seem to have advised people to value themselves rather than being a doormat for someone else to continually abuse. So I think we can have self renouncing love without abusing ourselves in the process. To me that is honoring God in the highest sense.

    • Tyler, I am not sure that there is any need to present an extreme position of self-worth here. Inge is not doing so. There is a very big difference between putting others first and being a doormat, and I am sure that most people recognize that. Part of a true understanding or ourselves is to understand our relationship with others. The model of Christian living that serves us best is one of collaborative cooperation where each of us can contribute to one another. Putting others first by contributing to their happiness is something that is at the basis of a good social relationship (and a marriage). There is a very good reason for using the expression "community or believers".

      I think that we also need to be careful of characterizing evolutionists as devaluing humanity. I have done that on occasion at my peril. Many evolutionists have a surprisingly altruistic view of humanity. They just have a different reason for that view than we do.

    • Balance is subject to perspective. There are those who may think they are spiritually balanced because they invest in the church and invest in the world's ways and cash in on both.

      However Christian balance is not making sure everything gets equal representation. Nor is it necessarily at a point of comfort and convenience, where the atmosphere is lukewarm. Human thinking may choose the path of ease or least resistance. Yet Jesus walked the way of sorrows, not because it was delightful, but it was the way of salvation.

      It is the Holy Spirit who decides what Christian balance is, and we understand this in part through scripture, through inspiration, and through a personal indwelling of the Spirit. It is easy to dilute self-abnegation, self-renunciation, self-sacrifice, and self-denial to the point where righteousness does not exceed that of the 'good' non-believer in the world (Matthew 5:39-41).

      If there is a case where being a doormat can advance the kingdom of God or relieve suffering what might Jesus do? Jesus did more. While the average may play it safe and choose ease and self preservation, the regenerated mind chooses the leading of the Spirit. And sometimes that means voluntarily taking some blows for the Master, even suffering so that others might live.

      John the baptizer, and others might have been considered unbalanced and fanatical, but God saw them differently, and counted them faithful.

  5. Loving ones self is as common as peanut butter and jelly. Our society flourishes with that mind set. Jesus was aware of those type in His day as well. The Pharisees were a classic example. It doesn't take a doctorate in psychology to see that man is selfish beyond belief sometimes. I would guess that the majority of crime in the entire world is fueled by self interest and enhancement.

    • That is true to a degree, but the indulgence and poor choices that many folks are making on a daily basis on so many levels actually shows that they don't really love themselves as they ought. When one loves ones-self one would make positive and wholesome decisions rather than making decisions that will be injurious to the soul, body, and mind. It's truly a complex situation...

      • Alexander, I think you mean that people do not understand their value in the sight of God and thus live a self-indulgent lifestyle which is actually injurious to them. And that is very much in line with the worldly concept of loving self first of all. They do what feels good to them.

        An appropriate sense of self-worth is developed by recognizing the value Christ places on us and by service to others which enables us to see that we can make a positive difference in this world.

        Recognizing that we are not our own (1 Cor 6:19) teaches us to take care of ourselves, because we are God's property.

  6. I have heard of a similar teaching saying we first need to love ourselves before we love others and more times I have questioned it! Thank God we do get acces to His word and when Christ said "a new commandment I give you.." .am made to believe that He knew the mind of people and He empasised the point " I have loved..." Its (His love)not an egocentric kind of love He commands us to practice! Its a kind of love of putting self last! I pray this day many others will view it that way!

  7. If "sanctification is the work of a lifetime", and "there's no stopping place down here where we can say that we have arrived", per Sister Ellen G. White, then how does one truly become like the Lord Jesus Christ in this life? I know that God is working with us all while probation lingers, but I always understood that we can not attain perfection in this life because "sanctification is the work of a lifetime" so we're always a work in progress... Also, the Bible declares that "he that says he is without sin is a liar, and the truth is not in him...".

    Someone please explain it to me as I frankly don't fully understand this very important concept.

    Alexander Aaron Goodwill, MSW, LICSW
    Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    SDA Christian

    • Alexander First off I will say I do not have all the answers to many questions. The subject of Justification and Sanctification has been an on going source of discussion for many years. You are right that Sanctification is a life time process. Perfection is understood by most as a condition at what ever stage you might be in the Sanctification process. The very young grass shoot that has just sprouted from the seed is perfect. It is a relatively long while befor it reaches the end of its life but it can still be perfect for whatever stage it is in. Yes we are all sinners but Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners Rom 5:8. That is why he was called Jesus. Because the name means He will save His people from their sins Matt 1:21.
      There may be better answers Alexander but that is how I see it.

    • Hi I pray that by the grace of God I will be able to explain to you what "to be perfect" means in christian life. The word perfection in the Bible mean something completely different than what we think in this world. We think that to be perfect is to be completely sinless. Yet as you have noticed, sanctification is a lifetime process. And that is true. We are sinners and will always be. But when we are walking with Jesus, which we don't so far;-) we always fail, but as little children we grow, we learn to walk with Him, we stumble and fail and come back to Him, and He takes us and cleanses us from the dirt and takes us by the hand again and leads us again. He wants to teach us to trust Him. Which we are hard to learn. And the story repeats over and over, but we must grow to trust Him more and trust not ourselves. There is nothing more difficult for man than to trust something else than our own reason, judgements, our instinct, intuition. But that is what He wants to teach us.

      Yet The Bible commands us to be perfect! How come?

      I understood it when I took close look at the life of Jesus. Our example. And to make the whole story short I will say that the greatest characteristic of Jesus that underlays everything else for me is OBEDIENCE!

      Yes Hebr. 5:8 ...He learned obedience by the things which he suffered...
      For me this is the highest and most important quality for true christian. OBEDIENCE TO GOD.
      Most people will say "love", but think about it. If love is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible clearly states that God gives his Spirit to those who are obedient to Him. Therefore if we are living disobedient, self centered christian life (walking continually our own ways - the music I CHOOSE, the entertainment I CHOOSE, decisions I MAKE, I worship God the way I FEEL) we may express a kind of love but it will not be love of Christ.

      So You will only have Christ's love in your heart if you come to Him with humble obedient spirit willing to leave your "I" behind. willing to bury it.

      You cannot generate Gods love in yourself but you can make this first step: to be obedient. It also is by the power of the Holy Spirit, or I would say persuasion of the Holy Spirit. And here is when you began to understand what perfection mean.

      It becomes simple if you bring it down to daily life. Salomon says "trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on your own understanding" Another words with every decision you make, ask God, pray that you may hear the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding you. He has promised Ps:32:8; Is. 30:21
      So here it is: You always have two choices. listen to the Holy Spirit, or follow your own desires. If you listen to your own ways, you rebel, you choose to be disobedient.

      But if you listened to the Holy Spirit, you are perfectly obedient at the moment. Thus you fulfill the command "be perfect" It is in present tense. Not the future or past. Here and now be perfect, means perfectly obedient (at the moment when He tells you which way to go, what decision to make) to the voice of the Holy Spirit. And that is easy and essential to the sanctification. Because when you choose to follow God with every decision you make, you learn to trust Him more and more, You live with Him, you get to know him better and better every decision you make. and your life will become something you would never imagine it would. And you then will grow in Christ.

      And that WILL HAPPEN because you will see your God making things for you.
      God bless you


      • That was an awesome explanation! It brings to mind the book "The 5 Love Languages". If God's love language is obedience, then it would make no sense to try to love Him in the way that feels good to us!! To truly show we love Him, we must show love in the way He asked: to be obedient to His Commandments and the Holy Spirit's guidance!

    • The only person who was and is perfect is Jesus Christ. There is nothing that we of ourselves to make us perfect. Jesus does not want us to loath ourselves, but he wants to emulate him. When you accept Jesus as your Savior, He has promised to abide in you. When you pray, sing, worship. study Him, He will sanctify you.

      Hebrews 2:11
      Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

      Hebrews 10:9-11

      New International Version (NIV)

      9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
      14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

      Don't look to yourself and your imperfections, but to Jesus. By beholding Him, we become changed.

    • Re: "Also, the Bible declares that "he that says he is without sin is a liar, and the truth is not in him...", I have most often heard that quoted by those who say that we can't expect to stop sinning this side of heaven. But reading the rest of the book of 1 John give a more complete picture. In 1 John 5, we read these verses:

      3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
      4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith.
      18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

      These and other verses make plain that those who abide in Christ have victory.

      We will not claim to have never sinned. We also may not claim to be living a faultless life. But Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 4:4,"I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord." And we, by God's grace, may say the same.

    • Alexander, isn't it all so confusing, or slightly ambiguous? Yes, I know; I've had your same conundrum. No one can fully explain it - keep praying about it. It seems to me that while we're work in progress, since God knows our hearts (motives/intentions), that's when justification kicks in and we're then seen as sanctified, even if we're not fully at that point...If that's incorrect, I've been wrong for a while, but no one's been able to give me a concise explanation, and I'm surrounded by SDA ministers (family and friends). Be blessed!

    • Alexander, I understand that we are perfect in God's sight when we submit ourselves to Him in obedience as best as we know how.

      God sees "perfection" differently than we do, and we should be glad. For instance, when Balaam tried to curse Israel, God inspired Him to say

      “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
      Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.

      Wow! I'm sure you or I could have found some "iniquity" or "wickedness" in Israel. I'm sure they were not "perfect" by our standards!

      But the Lord looks at the heart, and at that time, the hearts of the people were submitted to the Lord, and He accepted their heart's desire to serve Him as the reality. He saw them as "perfect."

      And so we may be "perfect" in God's sight when we surrender ourselves fully to Him. We can safely trust Him with our salvation. And we can not judge anyone else's perfection.

      By contrast, when we focus on trying to make ourselves perfect, we are focused on self - and self-focus is the very opposite of the self-forgetful loving service to which Christ calls us. So perfection does not come from trying to be perfect. "Perfection" is the result of serving God in self-forgetful love.

  8. Im praising God for your article I just read. years ago I read a book "self love self esteem self immage" by some non-adventist christian author, and I loved the way he exposed the evil behind this teaching. I shared it with my familly, but never knew how to share it with the church. And it seemed that everyone, especially pastors were mesmerized by that ideology. Every time I tried to talk about it, people would not understand. Im not a pastor nor a teacher but I prayed to God that He will bring up people who will be able to speak and save the church from the evil influence of that teaching.

    • Thank you for your comment, Stan. I'm guessing that the book you read may have been The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, and Self-Image,
      by Jay E. Adams, the director of Advanced Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. It was originally published in 1986 at the height of the self-esteem movement which seems to have become integrated into the societal consciousness, at least in North America.

      I recommend the book as an antidote to misleading pop psychology which has infiltrated the church. The book is available in paperback and electronic format.

  9. When I think about your article, it makes perfect sense. Jesus told us that if we lose our life for others then we will find it! In so many ways He has shown this, and He is helping me to realize this more and more. Happiness comes from putting self aside, which we can only do through having a new heart in Christ! One of many stories about this is when Peter is fishing with his friends and Jesus performs a miracle of filling the nets with fish. Then Peter tells Jesus to depart from him because he is a sinful man. The Bible says they left their nets and followed Jesus. From what I have read Jesus called the disciples away from their own pursuits to Him. He showed that He would take care of their needs so that they could forget about themselves and think of others!

    • Right on, Brandon! You were referring to

      For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Mark 8:35

      I believe you stated a foundational truth of Christianity that we often forget in our self-sufficient society when you wrote:

      From what I have read Jesus called the disciples away from their own pursuits to Him. He showed that He would take care of their needs so that they could forget about themselves and think of others!

      I also appreciate what Ellen White wrote on the topic:

      Happiness drawn from earthly sources is as changeable as varying circumstances can make it; but the peace of Christ is a constant and abiding peace. It does not depend upon any circumstances in life, on the amount of worldly goods or the number of earthly friends. Christ is the fountain of living water, and happiness drawn from Him can never fail.

      The meek “shall inherit the earth.” It was through the desire for self-exaltation that sin entered into the world, and our first parents lost the dominion over this fair earth, their kingdom. It is through self-abnegation that Christ redeems what was lost. And He says we are to overcome as He did. Revelation 3:21. Through humility and self-surrender we may become heirs with Him when “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37:11 (From Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 16

      It's not in self-love, but self-surrender that we find salvation. When we surrender self to Christ, we can trust Him to take care of our "self."

  10. I think that people often confuse between loving self first and what Jesus said "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39) when explaining what Jesus meant. Jesus teaches self-denying love, while our world doesn't. It is taught in our society that to love others, we must love ourselves first. How is it possible to love others, if we have no love for ourselves?

    I have wondered how to explain what Jesus said to people who have no love for themselves. Should they treat others the same way as they treat themselves? So many Christians believe that God will not accept them because of their sins, although Jesus has promised otherwise. Is it so wrong to take a teaching people are familiar with and then discuss them in the light of the scripture? We cannot assume to know that this was the final message delivered by the pastor(s), and that they did not move to the concept of "loving others as you love yourself."

    • Margie, Jesus said things in many different ways. So for people who do not have a proper sense of self-worth, it may help to use the "Golden Rule": "Do to others what you would like them to do to you." (Luke 6:31) I'm fairly confident that even people with an inadequate sense of self-worth have some idea of how they would like to be treated. 🙂

      What do you think?

  11. Love does not come from self. Love comes from the source of Love, God. We can only have love as it comes from God. By inviting the Holy Spirit to motivate us we allow the Love of God to be our motivation. This is the only way we can truly love anyone. It is God's love for us that is transferred to others (by our choice) as an extension of God's love. We cannot conjure up true love. It has to come from God through us. We cannot have love with selfish motivation which is all we have until we choose to let the Holy Spirit motivate us with God's Love.

    • Well said Don. I have worked with Depressed people for the better part of 20 years and have never met one who was depressed because he/she loved others too much. Self-esteem is the big lie of Satan and his promise that loving ourselves more will make us happy.

      Effective treatment for depression doesn't entail getting people to think about themselves more. In contrast, negative obsession with self is often the problem with depression. Moreover, anyone who has ever lived with a person who is depressed person can confirm that little "other love" comes out of a person who is depressed. Instead, depressed people tend to focus almost exclusively on their own plight, inadequacies, problems and feelings. Even suicide is a selfish act in that it is not intended to help anyone but the (suffering) depressed person despite the unbearable grief it may cause others. It is amazing how much better a depressed person feels if/when he is able to extend his focus and love outward.

      As you stated, all true love originates from God. That includes our self-worth and recognition that we are highly valued by God. That self-worth isn't derived at the expense of loving others as is the case with self-esteem (which, by definition comes from self not God).

      If the love we have for ourselves and for others comes from God, we have nothing to worry about. God is love and His love in us and through us is untainted by selfish motives or earthly desires.

    • Ambrose, I believe that the teaching to first love ourselves is a very dangerous teaching. It originates with the great deceiver who, as Lucifer, loved himself first and thus became Satan.

      To make things crystal clear Christ taught that we are to love one another as He loves us. (John 13:34) He never asks us to do anything for which He does not supply the power.

      It seems evident that God knows that we all love ourselves - we all look out for ourselves first. Some of us may not do it very well. Some of us may do it in twisted (injurious) ways, but human nature is focused on looking out for self.

      If we will accept Christ's teaching, we don't have to focus on loving ourselves. He teaches us that we are to forget ourselves in serving our neighbors - just as He did.

      The problem of self-worth is solved by believing what the Bible teaches about our value - that Christ values us enough to die for us. If the Majesty of heaven puts such a high value on each of us, it is terribly ungrateful and faithless not to accept His evaluation. And that will lead us to take care of ourselves because we are His property - through both creation and redemption. We are not at liberty to abuse our bodies or minds or allow ourselves to be abused.

      As a matter of fact, working on loving self (for those who don't seem to ) doesn't produce the desired results. While it may make them temporarily feel good, it often leads to even greater failure. And it certainly does not result in loving others more. Only acceptance of the new life offered by Christ can bring about this necessary change in focus.

      To sum up: We need to accept Christ's offer of salvation, and we need to choose to serve Him in self-forgetful love.

  12. As I read the responses to the idea of our loving ourselves, it seems to me that there is a misunderstanding of the nature of self-love. First of all, I think Jesus' command to love others AS we love ourselves implies that he expects us to have a healthy and appropriate love for ourselves. Otherwise he would not have worded the command as he did. I think we often confuse self-love with self-worship or narcissism which is something totally different and akin to Lucifer's problem. My nearly two and a half decades as a clinician in mental health has led me to believe that if a person does not love himself, then it is very difficult for the person to believe that anyone else loves him, even God. Therefore, it's going to be nearly impossible for him to have any meaningful and satisfying relationships with others.

    • Roy,
      Apart from the concept of self-love being promoted in schools of psychology (secular and religious), how can one tell that the theory is valid? How do you tell when people love themselves appropriately or otherwise? How can you tell when they love others, or not? What evidence do you look for, since we cannot read the intent of the heart?

      It is precisely because we cannot read the heart, at times including our own, that we need to trust Jesus and His Word.

      Understandably it is hard for someone who is heavily invested in a profession with strong connections to a certain philosophy to simply look at things differently. Yet this is the challenge presented by the radical teachings of Jesus.

      Though we sometimes look down on the Pharisees we might sympathize (not endorse) a little with them. They especially had a difficult time because their career was tied up with something that Jesus overturned. Such is not an enviable position. The instinctive psychological reaction was defend, defend, defend. It was only when they inquired like Nicodemus, "What am I missing?" that they could accept redirection.

    • Roy, thank you for your comment. I think you have put things in proper perspective. We are not worthless otherwise Jesus would not have sacrificed Himself for us. While we recognize our value we should never value ourselves above anyone else and definitely not elevate ourselves to the point of self worship. Jesus has given abundant council on that sort of thing (Matt 20:25-28).

      The point is our attitude and relationship toward others. To make a parallel point Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:26 NKJV). How do we interpret that? Is Jesus actually commanding us to hate the members of our family? I don’t think so and I don’t think Jesus is calling on us to hate ourselves either. To me it is all a matter of priority rather than a matter of loving one and hating the other. To me then what Jesus was getting at is that we are all equals except God who is above all. We are not above others and we should treat them the same way we would like to be treated.

      During the first century the Jews basically were being taught and had the mindset of hating their neighbor rather than loving them and that was one of the concepts Jesus was battling against. To the first century Jew their neighbor wasn’t the stinking gentile next door but instead was the good Jew across the street or across town. In fact, even today we generally have a big problem with what Jesus said about our relationship to those we have trouble with:

      You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:38-45 NKJV).

    • Roy, it seems to me that our Creator God knew that we are all intrinsically self-focused and thus have a "self-love" that seeks survival and/or dominance at the expense of others. And when He commanded us to love our neighbors, He used the one measuring unit every human being has access to - i.e. our intrinsic self-love. He did not command us to love self. He commanded us to love others as we already love ourselves.

      Now I'm wondering how you teach people to have a "healthy and appropriate love for themselves"?

      I suspect that you are referring to a sense of self-worth that is foundational to healthy relationships. I'm not a clinician, but a teacher, and I don't think this healthy sense of self-worth can be obtained by focusing on "loving" oneself.

      I have a little experience working with people with low self-worth. Whether they are children or adults, it seems that they begin to see their worth as they do things that are worthwhile - particularly, as they see how they can make a difference in the lives of others. Thus, from a totally secular perspective Christ's teaching to serve others works to improve our lives on this planet.

      When you combine that with the value that Christ places on them, they can rise above the narrow self-focus of the "poor me, nobody loves me" attitude. I've personally seen it make a difference in lives. (Perhaps some other professional counselors can weigh in on this.)

      I also agree with Dennis Prager's no-nonsense assessment of the negative effect of the self-esteem movement on education in Self-Esteem and Character. When students get praised for anything other than their hard work, they get an unrealistic image of themselves that sets them up for failure later in life.

      Jesus gave us the "new" commandment to love others as He loved us. (John 13:34) That does not square with the modern teaching of loving ourselves. Christ was obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8) for US!

      It's not a matter of balance at all. We need to choose which teaching to believe - the teaching of modern psychology or the teaching of Christ.

      • Inge,
        You have struck a resounding chord in your comment immediately above. It really comes down to whose report one believes (Isaiah 53:1).

        At just about the time the “Two Witnesses” of Revelation 11 (Old and New Testament) came back to life, after the French Revolution; as the Advent movement emerged from obscurity, the Bible societies rose up and the Three Angels Message became relevant; the Dragon produced two witnesses to counter the truth. It was a twin pronged effort through the evolution theory and the doctrine of modern/secular psychology.

        By One was expressed an outright defiance of God and His authority; and through the other a subtle assault that would undermine God’s Word, and ultimately lead to the rejection of His authority. The arch deceiver created two paths to the same end.

        Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), but counted it all dung when he arrived at the precious feet of Jesus (Philippians 3:8). He would be educated in the school of suffering and count it glory to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering (Romans 5:3).

        The question then becomes, are we to be more confident at the feet of Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Wundt and Abraham Maslow; or at the feet of the self-abnegating, suffering Savior of Isaiah 53? Really whose report do you believe?

  13. Isn't loving ourselves first the basic problem with sin? This attitude is what we learn from the start and when the gospel comes to town, it teaches us a different focus which leads us to take up a [daily] cross of self-denial, "as I have loved you" -Jesus.

    The rich young ruler loved himself plenty and Jesus gave him the perfect remedy for that problem didn't He?

    I've never heard this idea taught before, and if I did, I would have a few questions to the one promoting that idea. "As thyself" means as if in their place of need. I believe both the priest and the Levite on Jericho road would not have refused the Samaritan's kindness had they been the one in need. I believe that "agapaho" is a principle of living, not based on fond feelings, but upon real needs and the ability to meet them no matter the cost.

    Wasn't this Jesus' example?

  14. ... I understand this verse , "love your neighbour as yourself " is explained by the Bible itself as " Do unto others as you would like others do unto you". Love without action is meaningless, like faith. so, love's connotation has to include an act or action.

    • Yes. In all of this conversation let us remember that there is a huge difference between emotional love and love as a Biblical principle we are to live by. I don't have to FEEL loving to do the right thing in terms of acting in a loving way towards my neighbor. I can't conjure up warm gooey love for someone who has hurt me. I can however, choose to follow the example of Jesus, and behave in a kind,and loving way....passing on to another the love that God has demonstrated towards me. I can testify that what will follow is a genuine and miraculous, Christian love for that person.

  15. In Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:39 we find the phrase "Love your neighbor as yourself." What does this mean? Is it saying that we should love ourselves first and before we can love our neighbors? I used to think so at one time. I have some to realize that you do not have to love yourself before you love others. I agree with the article, that loving yourself first goes against what Jesus did.

    Matthew 6:33 says to Seek Gods kingdom first and all of these things will be added onto you. Furthermore, the summary of the ten commandments is to Love God first, then love others. When relating to myself I include myself as an 'other'. I am a person, a human being created in the image of God. I do not put myself above other people, I do not put other people above me. What does that mean?

    Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV): 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    This text says that we should count others more significant than ourselves in humility and that we should look out for our neighbors best interests and not just our own. I will now describe how I apply that to my life.

    Instead of looking at myself as better than other people, I look at other people as better than me. This is not having a low self-esteem. It's simply being humble. If I were to look at myself as better than other people then I would be arrogant and self-centered. Furthermore, I'm learning how to be balanced in thinking about how my decisions affect others. It's natural for me to not consider others in my everyday choices. I need to consider myself and others when making decisions, and it doesn't have to be in that order.

    I have lost my identity (my unique personality) before as a result of me not loving who God created me to be. That should never happen. I am a unique creation with a unique purpose. I must embrace that and love myself as God's creation.

    Treat yourself as an 'other' God wants us to love ourselves. We must do that without becoming arrogant, self-centered, and self-absorbed. The only way to do that is by being connected to Jesus Christ. By daily submitting to Him we can achieve His balance in loving others as we love ourselves.

  16. I can only imagine the discourse at the feet of Jesus. Wow! Love of self.... I view this in the context of the crowning glory of creation; "I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well" Psalm 139:14. After each creation God declared it good. At the sixth day creation, God declared it VERY good because man was made. In light of this I can love everyone as the Father loves me because we were/are fearfully and wonderfully made.

    I once had to view autopsies for a class; the Biology Professor who was once a Priest gave the assignment. Upon giving my report in the classroom, I told of how I kept praising God during the autopsies, "what is man that thou art mindful of him and the son of man that thou visit him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the angels and You have crowned him with glory and honor" Psalm 8:4-8. My Professor looked at me and said, "you got it".

    Because I was fearfully and wonderfully made, because 'I' was declared as very good coming from the Creators hands, because He made a contingent plan out of His love for me, then left all His glory in heaven to die on a rugged cross for me (I feel like shouting right about now) I can love this sinful lump of clay, this chief of sinner. A whole lot went into my existence and I praise God for His mercy and grace, His wonderful kindness towards me.

    But it does not stop there; you and you and you, are also God's wonderful and fearful creation, therefore I have no choice; I MUST love you as I love myself: another fearfully and wonderfully made creation of His hands, that was deemed very good at creation.
    In my profession, every human gets treated as I would want to be treated, every person is me, my mother, my father, my sister, my brother. That's what my Professor wanted us to understand those many years ago, that we are all God's wonderful creation and as such should be treated with love and respect.

    That's what I do today; I love me as a wonderful and fearful creation and I love my fellow man similarly. And that is the context in which I understand the scripture that says I should love my neighbor as myself.

    • Paulette, I love the way you direct praise to God for being "fearfully and wonderfully made." 🙂

      A sense of gratitude is one of the best defenses against self-focus. It makes us focus on God our Creator and Giver of all good things.

      May I suggest a bit of a comparison - probably more valuable to women than the average man 😉 :
      When we dress in the morning and know we are well-dressed, we can go all day without even thinking what we are wearing. (If someone asked me what I was wearing, I'd probably have to look down to check. 😉 ) However, if/when we are unsure of being appropriately dressed, we may be self-conscious all day long.

      In like manner, I believe that if we look to Jesus, accept His love and his valuation of us, we can forget about self and just focus on serving Him.

      By contrast, all the "self" words of "self-love," "self-image," "self-esteem" are necessarily focused on self, and seeking to "improve" these doesn't work all that well. It still leaves us self-focused.

      Christ modeled a life of self-forgetful love and asked us to love as He loved. (John 17:20)

      Paul's preaching is based on the teachings of Jesus, and Paul wrote, "in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." (Phil 2:3) When our value and identity is secure in Jesus, we do not have to worry about our position in society. We do not need to seek to be first, and we can afford to esteem others better than ourselves.

      As always, it comes down to nourishing a personal connection with Christ, our Creator and Redeemer. 🙂

      • Inge ,I totally agree with you in the light of the scripture and spirit of prophecy.I've been bringing to work a person who dont have a car. she saved money to buy an old car, but she cannot register the on her name, she ask me to register on my name, should I do it or not .How can I apply in action the loving other first when I think of the legal conseqence that if she have an accident I will be responsible.I need your input.Thank you.

        • Loving others is not about giving people what they want. Love has to be tough. In this case there appears to be a problem that is preventing this person from registering her car and solving that issue is probably more important than doing something that would make you legally responsible for the actions of another person.

  17. Good Article!

    There's two points, 1. Loving Yourself (You) and 2. Loving Others (which is indirectly loving GOD). The Story of Nicodemus reminds me of these topic that point me to the logic of SELF DENIAL to serve GOD that means loving every person in this universe.

    Loving yourself before loving others is a long topic to be discussed considering the fact that we are human. It will go through the dimensions of HOW YOU WILL LOVE YOURSELF? In my life experience, Once you love yourself, tendencies of forgetting GOD is certain. And that means you have just hurt someone! You cannot serve 2 masters at the same could be loving yourself and deny GOD or Loving God and deny yourself... it cannot be both!

    As JESUS CHRIST did, He forget the heavenly realm and splendor for HIS GREAT LOVE TO US.

  18. All needed to be done in the name of Jesus is "Surrender" all the Jesus, He will do the rest! No, loving oneself is sinful.....self/you are sinful. Therefore love yourself first is not biblical it is a lie of the devil. Sounds good but not good. The one & only way to have true love is to give all to the Lord trusting & believing that God IS......and the rest shall come! Amen Love your neighbor as yourself can only be done in the love of Jesus Christ. Open yourself to the Lord & surrender now watch the love of God rain down on you in His will as self die daily. 😉

  19. Being a Christian and a mental health professional for the last 28 years, I find this discussion on "self-love" quite intriguing. The assertion and understanding that "self-love" is antithetical to the teachings and character of Christ, seems to be "a hard saying."

    From the secular or even the psychological perspective, to say that one should NOT love themselves sounds very defeating and negative.

    Of course, in my profession, I have heard from hundreds of patients who suffer mentally and emotionally nearly all of their lives. They believe that have no value, no worth, and no purpose in the world. Very often, many voice thoughts and feelings of self-hate and loathing.

    In fact, in the psychiatric setting and even in non-clinical settings to tell someone NOT to love themselves would be non-therapeutic. At the same time, suggesting that one should "love themselves" would be a spiritual disservice.

    This is where some of the dissonance creeps in-- in the way all of this is communicated, especially to the secular, unregenerate person.

    Language is key. I think it is imperative to start with common ground. If we are talking with persons who have the mindset that "self-love" is a most positive thing, then we may begin to speak to them and say that "self-love" is more or less a euphemism for focusing on self or self-centeredness. There is also widespread agreement in the psychiatric community that suicide is a very selfish act. For the individual, it is about *what I don't have or could not accomplish, or my unmet desires, or my addictions, pain, or problems.* Moving away from that selfish core is about reaching out and caring for others. It is about giving instead getting. These are the markers of true love, joy, and peace.

    With a Christian, the communication around "self-love" should be a bit easier. We know that sin is being at enmity with God. We are against His character. For God so LOVED the world that He GAVE His only Son.... God is love, and love is giving. It is not taking, hoarding, building up or focusing on self. And while too many Christians unfortunately may not hear the idea that self-love is most insidious and dangerous, they can hear that anything about self is selfishness and selfishness is sin. This we know and understand.

    These are just starting points in our language and communication around this topic of "self love" with those around us-- whether religious, Christian, non-religious or secular.

    While we recognize that the message of the cross is foolishness to the unregenerate, to those who are perishing, we can still choose our words and phraseology carefully. With the power of the Holy Spirit, our mission is to reach the hearts of men and women and not simply turn them off.

  20. Jesus Loves me this I know for the Bible tell me so. We sing this in church. If he loves me and God loves me we should love others. I believe that was the new commandment that Jesus gave us.1John4:7-8.


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and preferably significantly shorter than the post on which you are commenting.

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>