“To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.” Proverbs 19:8 (NLT)
Here is a topic that has gotten a really bad wrap in Christian circles – loving ourselves. We are often urged to love others above ourselves… Yet, scripture tells us, in both the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) and New Testament (Matthew 19:19), to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. There is no ambiguity here – we are called to love ourselves first before we love others. If God put it in scripture, then yes, it really is important and true!
God fully demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for our sins (John 3:16). God’s love for us gives us intrinsic value that no one and no circumstance and no imperfection can ever change. And God tells us that NOTHING in all creation can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38). If God loves each of us, wouldn’t He want us to also love ourselves? Friends, there is a lot that I have done that caused me to dislike myself, so I get it, it can be hard to love ourselves… The enemy definitely wants us to hold on to the lie that we are unlovable or that loving ourselves is wrong. When we don’t love ourselves well, we won’t love our neighbors well, which means we won’t live up to God’s command to love others as ourselves – so are you seeing why the enemy does not want us to love ourselves well? Not loving ourselves is a form of disobedience to God!
Sadly, I think that “loving ourselves” has been misused by some to be insensitive to the needs of others, which is not God’s intention for us in giving us this commandment. So, what is this love we are to have for ourselves? What it is not is a selfishness that ignores the needs of others, nor is it about materialistic indulgences for our personal pleasure. I am not decrying wealth, nor am I saying we should not enjoy the abundance God blesses us with. But that is not really about loving ourselves the way God calls us to.
Think about the person you love most dearly… What do you want for that person? I am sure the list will include all that is good, such as success through making good choices in life, joy, peace, good health, strong relationships, upright character and the list can go on. You want the ones you love to see themselves as valuable. Yet we often deny ourselves these very things. We don’t love ourselves well when we knowingly make poor choices; we don’t love ourselves well when we don’t value and develop the gifts God gave us; we don’t love ourselves when we compromise our integrity; we don’t love ourselves when we ignore discipline; we don’t love ourselves when we think we don’t matter. The many choices we make to not love ourselves result in a heart and mind burdened with guilt, shame, regret, worry, and often a body that is abused and not well cared for. We won’t want this for those we love dearly…. Why then do we choose it for ourselves?
When you think about what love is (as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7), how would your life be different if you chose to love yourself like this? If we love ourselves like this, then we will be patient with and kind to ourselves. We will not demand our own way but yield to God. We will not harbor grudges within our heart. We will rejoice in the truth. We will not give up on ourselves but instead hold on to our faith and always be hopeful in God as we journey through life. (If we love ourselves like this, can you then imagine what it will be like to love others as you love yourself? World-changing, I think!) The more time I spend in God’s Word and read it as God speaking directly to me, the more I am humbled by the concept of loving ourselves. The foundation of wisdom is the truth of God’s word. The essence of Proverbs 19:8 is about acquiring this wisdom and applying it to our lives, which is a generous act of love toward ourselves.
We are created by God, who loves us and places value in us. We are loveable because Christ loves us. Loving ourselves, the way God calls us to, is an act of obedience to God. And the greatest part about it is that the more we love ourselves the way God calls us to, the more we are transformed into His likeness. Would you take this step of obedience today?