Self-Esteem Versus Self-Worth: A Biblical Perspective
Author: Tammie Burak
Publish date:
Summary: Is our value based on achievement and beauty, or is there more to the story?
 
 

Self-esteem is based on a subjective, emotion-skewed opinion of yourself. A little girl might be praised for being pretty by family members, friends, and strangers. Heard often enough, praise about her can cause the girl to grow up believing that she is valuable because she is pretty. As long as she believes she is pretty, she will have high self-esteem.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/3518042098/in/photolist-6mSTmf-4ob8kn-4q4kM2-ngoMtQ-b4PaXg-92jKWA-7cyKCm-diFY1w-92gHiF-nb97Q1-92jKXy-crjeCW-9hLP5g-edHQ1P-edPumd-edPucE-e4RSdT-4iFh4w-4q4kSc-63Bumf-9kFctT-9kFaUZ-sdYmZy-9kFbbX-kG7H32-rZjo4v-diFXZW-crjeF3-epuMhj-emktjH-emrfgu-emksVx-4q8pm3-9RNYSv-92jPCu-4caEEK-9bHHoc-5Vi65Q-6dAkio-x8zEda-6BNNdD-b4PeNi-b4PdLi-b4Pd78-b4Pc6n-eecX5T-edPu1d-9kF5Hx-ecbSPg-qf2rNn

But what happens when she becomes a teenager and develops blemishes on her face? Her self-esteem is shattered. She loses the confidence she once had, simply because her self-worth is based on her appearance. This may explain why so many women and even teens are willing to have surgery to perfect their appearance. The underlying problem could be that their self-esteem is built upon the way they think they look.

For some, self-esteem is based upon achievement. When you meet the goals you set for yourself, you tend to feel good about yourself. When you fail to reach the goals you set, you tend to feel bad about yourself. Is there any way to break free from this up and down, self-love, self-hate experience?

The Difference between Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

The problems with the concept of self-esteem are that:

  1. It is not Biblical, but developed in the minds of men opposed to God,
  2. It is based upon our own perceptions of ourselves and,
  3. It is subject to change.

Ideas about your value as an individual should not fluctuate with every change in your personal circumstances. You should not feel great about yourself today because you have just gotten a job promotion and then feel worthless tomorrow because you’ve been fired. Your looks, your achievements, or your material possessions do not determine your value as an individual. What others think of you or even what you think of yourself does not determine your personal worth either. And remember, society's views of beauty are far from realistic.

It’s time we dumped the idea of self-esteem for a Biblical perspective. Rather than striving for greater self-esteem, we should strive to understand our value to God. A clearer view of our worth to God will result in a lasting sense of self-worth.

Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If Jesus was willing to leave His glorious place in heaven, suffer humiliation, torture and death, so that you might enjoy heaven with Him forever, then you are priceless. What you’re worth to God never changes. You are worth the life of His only Son. Philippians 2:8 says this about Jesus:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus went through the experience of death because He wants to live forever with you by His side. Your eternal life has been paid for with the priceless gift of the life of Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

And if that weren’t enough, did you realize that you are a source of joy to God? It’s true:

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)

Never doubt your value to God. You are priceless to Him.

Sadly, those who do not know this God of love have no clear sense of self-worth. For them, self-esteem must come from whatever positive feedback they can glean from others and from a positive self-evaluation in relation to society’s standards. Often what we mistake as self-esteem in those who reject God or don’t know Him, is simply pride which is transitory since it is based on a person’s evaluation of himself at the moment. Not only that, but pride itself is sin, having originated in the heart of Satan.

Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way.” Pride can make you feel good momentarily, but it can never replace self-worth rooted in God’s immoveable, unchanging love for you.

Now here is a crucial point: it is not because you are perfect that God loves you. God hates sin, but loves the sinner. And He never saves anyone in sin, but from sin. When you sin and feel bad about yourself as a consequence, you are feeling the effects of the warning system that God built into the human mind. God told Satan after he tempted Eve into sin, ”I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” Genesis 3:15. So that unsettled, guilty feeling you have when you sin and fall short of the glory of God is a gift from God to help you feel your need for cleansing from the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (see John 1:29).

Recognizing that you are a Sinner does not need to Diminish your Self-Worth

Those who teach that you should dismiss your guilty feelings when you’ve sinned are deceitful. When coupled with all that God has done to redeem you by sending His Son in your place, your value actually increases. The difference is that with modern self-esteem theology, you lift yourself up with an attitude of self-esteem about yourself. Whereas in Biblical thinking, God lifts you up by placing value upon you and showing you his love for you by dying for you. In the Christian worldview, you accept God’s estimation of you by faith, despite your faults and shortcomings, and live in the love God lavishes on you every day of your life. Then despite trials and disappointments that may come your way, you can remain secure in the love of Christ.

For instance, Robert Schuller in his book, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, makes these shocking statements:

If the gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed as a theology of self-esteem, imagine the health this could generate in society!i

The classical error of historical Christianity is that we have never started with the value of the person. Rather, we have started from the "unworthiness of the sinner," and that starting point has set the stage for the glorification of human shame in Christian theology.ii

It wasn’t Jesus’ mission to make people feel good about themselves. He boldly pointed out the sins of the haughty church leaders, calling them “vipers,” but gently instructed poor sinners to “go and sin no more.” Jesus’ battle was against Satan and sin, not low self-esteem.

Schuller also wrote this:

The core of original sin, then is LOT: Lack Of Trust. Or, it could be considered an innate inability to adequately value ourselves. Label it a "negative self-image," but do not say that the central core of the human soul is wickedness...positive Christianity does not hold to human depravity, but to human inability. I am humanly unable to correct my negative self-image until I encounter a life-changing experience with non-judgmental love bestowed upon me by a Person whom I admire so much that to be unconditionally accepted by him is to be born again.iii

Robert Schuller directly contradicts the Bible when he denies the wickedness of the human heart, for Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The Bible also teaches that Satan committed the original sin when he rebelled against God and His government. Regardless of how Schuller and others would like to redefine sin, the Bible is clear that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). And none of us can claim that we are without sin, because 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Romans 3:23 affirms, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” When a person realizes this truth and feels his need for a Savior, he can turn to Jesus for salvation. To believe Schuller’s lies is to forfeit God’s gift of eternal life.

And while it is true that Jesus loves us even though we are sinners, He is in fact our Judge. Schuller may say that God bestows “non-judgmental love” upon him, but the Bible tells us that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Those who live in rebellion against God will have to give an account to Him. Amongst them will be many religious people who trusted in their own righteousness, rather than in the righteousness of Christ (see Matthew 22:11-12 and Philippians 3:8-9).

 

The self-esteem movement is self-centered, not Christ-centered. But the Bible offers a better perspective on how we should view ourselves. Ellen White describes the correct Christian perspective:

It is not wise to look to ourselves and study our emotions. If we do this, the enemy will present difficulties and temptations that weaken faith and destroy courage. Closely to study our emotions and give way to our feelings is to entertain doubt and entangle ourselves in perplexity. We are to look away from self to Jesus (MH 249, 1905).

God gives clear teaching about this very topic. Read Biblical Principles for Developing a Healthy Sense of Self-Worth.

 



i. Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco Texas: Word Books, 1982).

ii. Ibid.

iii. Ibid.

Science Deceptions
Media Deceptions
Reformation
Spiritual Deceptions
Health Deceptions
A Basis for Conflict
Is there evidence for Creation science? How does it compare to evolution? The following articles give insight in to these questions and more.
Conforming Under Pressure Evolution Is Not Science—It's Religion The Big Bang Theory How Can We See Stars That Are Billions Of Light Years Away? Creation and Evolution: Is Compromise Possible? Understanding the Creation Week Geocentricity: It's Time to Face the Facts The Rise of Evolutionary Thinking Earth's History: Conflicting Paradigms Lamarck Proposes Natural Selection Where did the Universe Come From? Evidence for a Young Universe Age Of The Earth A Basis for Conflict Articles Is Carbon-Dating Accurate? Flood Chronology
Evidence in Stone
Can we understand the age of the earth by the rocks? What theory does the evidence support?
Soft Rock Evidence for Rapid Washout
The Fossil Record
What does the fossil record show us? Is it all random or a defined science that we can understand? Where does evolution fit? Uncover mysteries in the history of the Earth.
Evolutionary Sequences Order in the Fossil Record Evolution of the Horse Explosive Evolution Fossils prove a Flood Fossil Footprints Dinosaurs and the Flood Petrified Trees The Biblical Flood Reasons For Extinction Fossil Reefs The Post-Flood World Human Evolution
Genes of Genesis
As we study the genome, the molecule, and the atom, we see a vast network of intricate systems beyond our understanding. Were these systems really formed by chance?
Why So Many Species - Glossary Is the Gastraea Hypothesis Viable? Mechanisms For Variation Built-in Variation in the Gene Pool "Species" versus "Kind" Molecules That Began Life Creating Life in a Test Tube? Reproductive Exchange Natural Selection Transposable Elements Natural Selection as a Creative Force Recombination of Chromosomes Dinosaur Extinction and Global Catastrophe Ernst Haeckel's Theories Variation and Classification Evolution: Miracle of Miracles Why So Many Species? Spiders and the Creative Genius of God Things That Negate Evolution: Snake Legs The Australian Problem Synesthesia: Mystery of God’s Creation
Creation to Restoration
How did this world change from the perfection depicted in Genesis to a world full of thorns, thistles, parasites, and death? If God made everything perfect, how could it have all been so changed?
A Good World Gone Bad An Imperfect Planet Evidence For Design Evidence For Transformation Rapid Transformation The Dawn Chorus and Life Forces Clean and Unclean: The History of the Human Diet
Archaeology and the Bible
Archaeology and prophecy have proven the Bible to be true. But what's so special about the Bible that makes it a point of so much controversy?
Archaeology Confirms the Bible The Lost Books of the Bible
Crossing Musical Boundaries
Music is a powerful emotional motivator that crosses cultural and language barriers. Its message can be understood by every culture and people across the planet.
Can You Feel the Music? The Bible and Rock Music: Are they Compatible? The Last Great Contest – Worship From the Horse's Mouth: The Rock Industry Condemns Itself
Hollywood and the Movies
What is the system of worship found most often in our society? Does it glorify God?
Hollywood's History Gnostic Themes in the Movies Hollywood and Gnosticism
Brain Closed—Please Come Again
Research has shown that our sensitivity to stimuli reduces itself yearly by about 1%. Is your brain hibernating?
The Dangers of Television
Beware of the television's abilities to hypnotize, alter moods, and even cause depression.
Violence and Video Games
Like music and movies, video games are addictive and can cause behavioral problems.
The Origins of Halloween
What is the origin behind this popular festival celebrated every October 31?
Catholic Councils
What happened at the Council of Trent? The First Vatican Council The Second Vatican Council
The Jesuits
Learn what people throughout history have had to say on the reputation, history, and political nature of the Jesuit Order.
Ignatius Loyola and Spiritual Formation Protestantism Destroyed The Jesuit Superior General
The Pope Claims to be God on Earth
Read proof that throughout the Roman Church's history, the Papacy has often claimed that the Pope is divine.
Cross and Crown
This book "Cross and Crown" is a powerful and thrilling recital of the most romantic and dramatic incidents in history to be found on record, told in the simplest, most graphic, and entertaining form.
The Aggressive Intentions of the Papacy
The historian Ranke says this about Protestant-Catholic relations: "In the year 1617, everything betokened a decisive conflict between them. The Catholic party appears to have felt itself the superior. At all events it was the first to take up arms."

This article highlights quotes from historical and Catholic sources proving the Papacy's aggressive nature.
The Bloody History of Papal Rome - A Timeline The Bloody History of Papal Rome - Quotes Christianity and Violence
Stories of the Reformation
Dive into history to uncover the remarkable stories of faith and passion in early Protestantism.
Philipp Melanchthon John Laski Jerome of Prague John Wycliffe Louis De Berquin Gaspard De Coligny
Religious Doublespeak
Language can be used to communicate both truth and lies. Learn about the religious doublespeak being used to pull the wool over the eyes of the world.
Hegelian Thinking and World Politics
Hegelian dialectic thinking is applied in many situations in world politics. Often the ordinary people are used as pawns in the game of Hegelian psychology played by those who pull the strings of world control.
The Great Controversy
Read this classic work by Ellen G. White.
The Destruction of Jerusalem Persecution in the First Centuries An Era of Spiritual Darkness The Waldenses John Wycliffe Huss and Jerome Luther's Separation From Rome Luther Before the Diet The Swiss Reformer Progress of Reform in Germany Protest of the Princes The French Reformation The Netherlands and Scandinavia Later English Reformers The Bible and the French Revolution The Pilgrim Fathers Heralds of the Morning An American Reformer Light Through Darkness A Great Religious Awakening A Warning Rejected Prophecies Fulfilled What is the Sanctuary? In the Holy of Holies God's Law Immutable A Work of Reform Modern Revivals Facing Life's Record The Origin of Evil Enmity Between Man and Satan Agency of Evil Spirits Snares of Satan The First Great Deception Can Our Dead Speak to Us? Liberty of Conscience Threatened The Impending Conflict The Scriptures a Safeguard The Final Warning The Time of Trouble God's People Delivered Desolation of the Earth The Controversy Ended
Prophecynew!
How will Christ return, and what will it mean for His people?
The First Beast—Comparing Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 Revelation Identifies End-Time Babylon The Second Beast of Revelation 13 Identifying the Antichrist The Final Confederacy The Seven Plagues Walking Through Daniel Walking through Revelation
Religious Trendsnew!
What are the trends in the religious world today? Sun Worship, The UN and the One World Religion, Eastern Mysticism and Spiritism... Just what do all these things mean in light of Bible prophecy?
Babylonian Religion Sun Worship The Charismatic Movement Politics and the Papacy Paganism and Mary Wealth Redistribution Spiritism throughout Religions Catholic Pentecostalism Unity at All Cost? Sustainability Paganism and Christmas Pentecostalism The Charismatic Movement and Spiritual Gifts Manifesting the Charismatic Spirit The New Age Movement Paganism in our Culture Secret Societies The United Nations' Global Government The History of Tongues Revival and the "Power of God" Signs and Wonders What’s So Bad about Spiritual Formation? Zionism
Sabbathnew!
Most people can understand the reasoning behind nine of the Ten Commandments—don't kill, don't lie, don't steal. But what about the Sabbath Commandment? Why would God give such a law? Why should we follow it?
What is the Seventh-Day Sabbath? Creation and the Sabbath The Weekly Cycle Why Sunday? Sabbath FAQ
The Second Coming of Christnew!
How will Christ return, and what will it mean for His people?
Signs of The Second Coming of Christ Viewpoints How Christ will Return What will Happen to God's People? What will Happen to the Rejecters of God? Will there be a Secret Rapture? The Millennium of Peace
The Biblenew!
Can the Bible be trusted to provide answers to our questions? Does it contain truth? Learn about the evidence that proves the Bible's authenticity.
Archaeology Confirms the Bible Choosing the Books of the Bible Studying Scripture Scripture is Inspired by God Testing the Gospel of Thomas Testing the Gospel of Judas The Spirit in Scripture The Gospel Story The Lost Books of the Bible Spiritual Gifts
Jesusnew!
Is Jesus really who He says He is?
Who is Jesus?
Christian Living: Sin and Salvationnew!
Consider the crucial points of the Christian life.
Christian Living Good God, Bad World. Why? God's Plan to Eradicate Sin The Ceremonial Feasts Pointed to Christ
Death
Is there more to death than the fact that it is the opposite of life? What are the false doctrines involving the immortality of the soul?
Death: Understanding the Terminology A Biblical Understanding of Death The Resurrection of Lazarus Spiritism Hell and Purgatory An Immediate Afterlife? The Parable of Lazarus
Excitotoxins
Excitotoxins cause physical and spiritual destruction. Learn about the main types of exitotoxins and what can be done to avoid them.
Aspartame MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets
Is a Little Wine Good for the Heart?
Reports show that red wine may be beneficial to heart health. Is that a good enough reason to start drinking alcohol?
Is a Little Wine Good for the Soul?
The Dairy Controversy
Get the truth about lactose, calcium, and the need for caution around dairy products.
Drink Milk? Udder Propaganda Lactose Intolerance Calcium
Poisoned Meats
Today's meat and dairy industries are focused on profit rather than health.
The History of the Human Diet
Genetically Modified Foods
The agriculture industry is fast becoming reliant on genetically modified foods. Learn the facts about GMOs and the effects this trend is having on health worldwide.
Soy Safety Summarized Still Eating Genetically Modified Foods? The Big GMO Cover-up
Refined Grains
Most of the bread products consumed today are made of refined grains. Are our breakfast cereals and "fortified" loaves as healthy as we like to think?
The Gluten Connection: Weighing in Against Modern Wheat
Coffee
Do the stimulating benefits of coffee really outweigh the costs?
America's Number One Drug Problem—Coffee Caffeine
Sugar—Affecting the Body and Mind
Refined sugar is addictive, destructive, and devoid of any nutritional value. Why does it continue to be a staple food across the world?
Sugar and Mental Illness Eating Sugar is Worse than Eating Nothing at All Sugar Substitutes The Truth About Evaporated Cane Juice
Can You Beat the Nicotine?
Smoking leads to massive amounts of sickness and death every year. Can you beat the nicotine?
Kicking the Tobacco Habit Nicotine and Depression
Necessary Treatments?
From mammograms to prescription drugs, the modern medical industry is always presenting a new way to diagnose and solve health issues. But are these new treatments really healing anything?
Mammograms or Thermal Imaging? How to Kill a Cold, Starve a Fever Are Hospital Births or Home Births Safer? Compromise in the Pharmaceutical Industry Many Doctors Ignore the Root Cause of Cancer Hepatitis B Vaccines Mercury Poisoning from Amalgam Dental Fillings Tylenol, the tip of the iceberg
Deathtraps in the Cosmetics we Use
There isn't one person I have ever met who knew anything about cosmetics, and that is because the chemistry of cosmetics has always been cloaked in secrecy.
Depression
Find practical ideas for dealing with depression in these articles about symptoms and treatments.
Diseases of the Mind SAD and Bright Light Therapy
Get Healthy!
We are surrounded by unhealthy foods, unwise practices, and even harmful medical advice. Learn how to overcome these obstacles and choose a healthy lifestyle.
The Eight Laws of Health "You've Changed" When Sin Has Nothing To Feed Upon Physical and Spiritual Health Use it or Lose it! Living off the Land An Attitude of Gratitude Serving Others The Healing Power of Honey A Healthy Attitude Iron in the Vegan Diet Healing
Helpful Health Charts
These graphs and tables can help you jumpstart your health routine.
Sources of Calcium - Chart Animal Products and Food-borne Illness Chocolate and Carob Compared Compatible Combinations of Plant Foods - Graph Acid and Alkaline Ash Food Groups - Graph Schedule for a Healthy Lifestyle