Self-esteem has to do with how we think about ourselves and how we value ourselves. One definition of self-esteem is a person's overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. Therefore, someone with low self-esteem considers themselves to be worth little, whereas someone with high self-esteem considers themselves to have great worth. Much of the world derives their self-esteem from categories such as wealth, appearance, strength, occupation, popularity, celebrity, and relationships. Inevitably, the self-esteem of these individuals rises and falls based on how they are doing in these categories, especially in comparison to others. But what does the Bible say about self-esteem? How are we to determine our worth? What is the true source of our worth?
What does the Bible say about self-esteem?
The terms self-worth and self-esteem do not appear in the pages of Scripture. Self-worth, when understood as worth DERIVED from the self, as opposed to the opinion we have of ourselves, is a bit of a misnomer. In order to have any self-worth (independent from God), we would have to be self-made, which is impossible. In order to create yourself, you would need to exist already. If you existed already, you would not need to create yourself. Not only is self-creation a logical impossibility, we have the testimony of God's word to refute it. We are, in fact, made by God and in the image of God, and this truth is the basis of our worth. We can say with David, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:13–14). The fact that we are made in the image of the only eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise God could easily become a temptation to pride. This is why we must always remember that our creation, our continued existence and our worth, lies not in ourselves, but in the powerful working of God (Genesis 1:27; Acts 17:28; Hebrews 1:3).
If we are made in the image of God, why do so many people struggle with the issue of their worth? The answer can be summed up in two words—the fall. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the image of God in them became shattered and marred. Whereas they once walked naked in the garden without shame; after they sinned, they became ashamed and hid themselves from God. They covered themselves, and mankind has been covering himself ever since. We cover our sense of shame, guilt, and lack of worth with the attire of wealth, beauty, strength, status, and popularity. However, these coverings merely mask our problem, which is that our relationship with God, the source of our worth, has been lost. Scripture speaks of fallen man as separated from God and at war with Him. We who were created in God's image have become rebels against Him. As C.S. Lewis said, "Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms." Scripture speaks of mankind in our fallen state as sinful and worthless.
Romans 3:10–12 says, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 6:23 tells us that "the wages of sin is death."
So, how do we, who have become enemies of God, worthy of death and damnation, restore our relationship with God, and therefore our worth? The short answer is, we can't and we don't. Fallen, sinful man is incapable of approaching a holy God. For this reason, God, because of His great love for us, sent a mediator, His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and die for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to Him.
"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time" (1 Timothy 2:5–6).
By repenting of our sin and believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are reconciled to God. The worth lost by our sin is regained and surpassed through faith in the righteousness of Christ. As believers in Christ, we have worth because:
1) All humans are made in the image of God and therefore are of value (Genesis 1:26–27; Psalm 139).
2) God loves us and has regenerated us.
Ephesians 2:4–7 tells us, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, MADE US ALIVE together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (emphasis added).
3) Jesus died for us and has appeased God's wrath toward us.
According to Romans 5:8 "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
4) God redeemed us from slavery to sin and has empowered us to pursue holiness.
Romans 6:17–18 declares, "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."
5) God has transferred us into His glorious kingdom.
We read in Colossians 1:13–14 that "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
6) God is our friend.
Romans 5:10 says, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."
7) We are righteous in God's sight.
Romans 3:23–24 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
8) We have been adopted by God.
Ephesians 1:5–6 tells us that God "predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."
9) We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
Romans 8:16–17 says, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
10) We have been uniquely gifted for service in God's kingdom.
We read in Romans 12:3–8: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
The true basis of our worth is not to be found in the things of this world but in our right relationship to God, which is made possible only through faith in Christ, and through the gifts bestowed on us by the Spirit. In Christ and because of Christ, we are of infinite worth to God. Unlike the ever-fluctuating self-esteem of the world, our worth does not and cannot change, for our worth is rooted in the love of Christ.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35, 37–39).
Does the Bible talk about self-love / loving self?
Why did God create humanity?
What does it mean that humanity is created in the image of God?
Who are we in Christ?
How should our identity in Christ affect the way we live?