Self-love, self-esteem, self-image – these are common topics in our culture today. As Christians, what does the Bible say about how we should view ourselves? There are many passages that provide wisdom and insight into having a biblical perspective on self. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore key biblical principles on this important subject.
Our culture is obsessed with the self. From selfies to self-help books, the focus is constantly on self-improvement, self-esteem, and self-love. While taking care of yourself is important, the Bible calls us to look beyond ourselves and live for God and others.
As Christians, we know our identity is found in Christ. We are children of God, saved by grace, and called to become more like Jesus every day. This biblical perspective impacts how we view ourselves and shapes our attitude toward self.
Here are some key takeaways on what the Bible says about self:
- We are created in God’s image, which gives us dignity and value (Genesis 1:27).
- We have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
- Our identity is found in Christ alone, not ourselves (Galatians 2:20).
- We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
- We should view others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
- God comforts us so that we can comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
- Our lives are not our own; we were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
In the rest of this post, we will explore these and other biblical truths about self in greater detail. My prayer is this overview will help us have a healthy, biblical perspective on self. One that recognizes our God-given value yet keeps our focus on Christ and others.
We Are Created in God’s Image
The foundational truth about our view of self is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Genesis 1:27 says:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (NKJV)
Being made in God’s image gives human beings dignity and significance. We reflect God’s glory in a unique way, unlike the rest of creation. This sets us apart from the animals and robots!
Theologian Wayne Grudem points out two main implications of being made in God’s image:
- We have moral, rational, spiritual qualities that reflect God’s nature.
- We are relational beings and can have fellowship with God and one another.
Both these truths should shape our perspective on self. We have value because God made us like Himself. And we are made for relationship with Him and others.
This biblical truth counters views of self that only emphasize autonomy and independence. It balances self-love with realizing we are made to live in relationship with God and others.
We Are Sinful and Fall Short of God’s Glory
While created good and in God’s image, the Bible teaches all human beings have sinned and fall far short of God’s perfect glory. Romans 3:23 explains it clearly:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (NKJV)
From birth, we have a sin nature passed down from Adam. We regularly break God’s moral law in thought, word, and deed. This universal human problem of sin separates us from relationship with God and damages self as well.
The biblical view of self recognizes we are deeply flawed. This keeps us from pride and an inflated sense of self. But it also highlights our need for redemption. As John Piper puts it “we have all forfeited all honor and right to praise.”
Thankfully, God did not leave us in this helpless condition. Through Christ, we can be forgiven, transformed and restored. But any biblical perspective of self must start with agreeing with Scripture that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
Our Identity Is in Christ Alone
Once saved through faith in Christ, believers have a new core identity. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (NKJV)
Galatians 2:20 further explains our new identity in Christ:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (NKJV)
These passages teach that being “in Christ” changes who we are at the very core. Our old self-centered identities pass away. Being united to Christ gives us new life, new status as children of God, and new power to live for Him.
This new identity redefines how we view ourselves. We no longer base our worth on worldly status, talents, or possessions. Christians find their supreme worth in being purchased by Christ and belonging to Him.
Understanding our identity is in Christ stabilizes our fluctuating self-esteem. God’s love for us does not change based on our performance. God sees us as righteous in Christ, so we can reject false sources of identity the world offers.
We Must Deny Ourselves and Follow Jesus
Part of the biblical perspective on self involves denying natural desires for comfort and self-promotion. As Jesus declared:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
Saying no to ourselves and bearing a cross implies sacrifice and suffering. It is not easy! As Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dying to self is required to follow Christ.
In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus elaborates on what it means to deny ourselves:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (NKJV)
Denying self is linked with losing your life for Christ’s sake. This means saying no to natural desires and embracing suffering in order to gain Christ and eternal life. It is presented as the pathway to life, even if painful.
This directly contradicts the world’s advice to promote, pamper, and prize yourself. The biblical perspective calls us to self-denial, not self-gratification. Trusting Christ’s way is best puts self in proper perspective.
Esteem Others More Highly
Another aspect of a biblical view of self involves how we think about others. Philippians 2:3-4 instructs:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (NKJV)
Humility is a key part of biblical self-understanding. This means not thinking of ourselves as better than others. But even more, esteeming others as more important than self.
This verse has been translated, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Considering others as worthy of more honor than ourselves certainly contradicts the self-esteem message of our day!
But it aligns with other biblical principles like putting on a “heart of compassion, kindness, humility” (Colossians 3:12) and “in humility counting others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Exalting self is discouraged, while elevating others is encouraged.
We Should Comfort Others
An others-focused perspective on self comes through in 2 Corinthians 1 as well:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
God comforts us in our troubles not simply so we will feel better. But so we can turn around and comfort others in their suffering! As John Piper explains:
“God’s purpose is…that you take the comfort of God into the lives of other people who are suffering.”
This is part of the biblical call to get our eyes off ourselves. To look up to God for comfort. And then to look out to others we can comfort with God’s consolation. This develops selflessness modeled after God himself.
We Are Not Our Own
1 Corinthians 6 provides another reality check for our view of self. Verses 19-20 proclaim:
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (NKJV)
These verses teach that as Christians, we no longer belong to ourselves. We were purchased by Christ’s blood. He owns us, and we belong to Him.
The rightful owner of something has exclusive rights to determine how it is used. We are not our own. Jesus Christ is Lord of every aspect of our lives.
This truth puts self in proper perspective. We do not exist primarily for our purposes but to glorify God. We enthrone Christ, not self. Understanding this will shape how we live.
And it will free us from being dominated by selfish interests and introspection. Our lives are not our own.
Developing a biblical perspective on self sets us free to live for God’s glory. We derive deep value from being made in God’s image. But we avoid pride because of our sinfulness. Our new identity in Christ gives us worth that does not fluctuate. And we are freed from self-absorption because our lives are not our own.
To live out these truths, we must daily deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. We embrace His kingdom values of humility and self-sacrifice. With our eyes on Christ, focused on others, we find purpose and joy.
My prayer is this overview will provide a helpful, biblical framework on the important topic of self. May we have a healthy self-understanding that keeps Christ at the center. For His glory and the good of our neighbors.