Our culture’s pre-occupation with self-esteem has been knit into the fabric of modern day Christianity for so long that, though some in the world now consider it fallacious, many within the church still do not see it for what it really is—a subtle form of pride that is diametrically opposed to the biblical call to esteem God first, through our loving obedience, and others second, by loving them as we already (naturally, effortlessly) love ourselves. Consider some of the prominent voices of self-love within professing Christianity for the past few decades.
“Self-esteem is …the single, greatest need facing the human race today.” “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” “A person is in hell when he has lost his self-esteem.” – Robert Schuller
“If I could write a prescription for the women of the world, it would provide each one of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and personal worth (taken three times a day until symptoms disappear). I have no doubt that this is their greatest need.” – James Dobson
“Under the influence of humanistic psychologists like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, many of us Christians have begun to see our need for self-love and self-esteem.” – Bruce Narramore
Is self-esteem really what our children need? Or do we need to prayerfully instill in their hearts and minds an awe for God and a loving respect for others who are created in His image? I think the answer is obvious. Our children need God-esteem built into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, through the gospel, as we faithfully train them in the fear of the Lord and point them to Jesus. Here are 11 practical ways we may do so:
- Make the pleasure of God the guiding principle of our home (Rom 8:8; Gal 1:10; Col 1:10; 1 Thess 4:1).
- Make the glory of God the goal of our home (1 Cor 10:31; Ps 86:9-12).
- Teach each of our children that he or she is a unique creation, made by God for a specific purpose (Ps 139:13-16; Isa 43:7).
- Practice the “Two Commandments” – loving God, loving others (Matt 22:36-40). By the way, notice there are only two commandments here, not three, as some self-esteem teachers proclaim. Jesus is not saying we must learn to love ourselves before we can learn to love others. We already love ourselves and are now—in Christ—called to live a life of self-denial.
- Teach our children to esteem others as more important than self (Phil 2:3-4; Mark 10:45).
- Teach our children that God is more concerned about the inner person than outward beauty (1 Sam 16:7). Protect them from becoming preoccupied with what Dobson rightly calls the “beauty cult.”
- Consistently speak to them as fellow persons made in God’s image (James 3:8-10).
- Keep the Lord’s Day and God’s work through the local church very high on our family’s priority list (Heb 10:24-25).
- Teach our children that to follow Christ means they must continually learn to deny self (Luke 9:23-26).
- Teach our children that their adequacy is in Christ, not themselves (2 Cor 3:4-6).
- Train our children to honor and obey our divinely-delegated authority, which is the basis of submission to all other earthly authorities (Eph 6:1-3; Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-25).
“Man must come to the knowledge of himself, be terrified of himself, and be crushed as a prelude to receiving and appreciating God’s grace, forgiveness, and new life in Christ Jesus.” — Martin Luther