A Biblical View of Self-Esteem

An Explanation of Key Verses


Definitions from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary

Self-Esteem: Undo PRIDE in oneself (p. 1646)

Pride: Overhigh opinion of oneself; conceit (p. 1428)

Humility: Absence of PRIDE or self-assertion (p. 884)

The attached Bible verse explanations (New Testament and Old Testament) detail how God views us and how we should view ourselves. Taken in proper context, the attached Biblical references clearly indicate that there is no Biblical basis for self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-forgiveness, self-assertion, "proper" self-image, self-actualization, or any of the other selfisms advocated by the worldly system of psychology. The Bible's answer for our emotional "problems": turn from self to Christ (and His all-sufficient Word).


Adams, Jay E., The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image.

Bobgan, Martin and Deidre, The End of Christian Psychology.

PsychoHeresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity.

Prophets of PsychoHeresy I (Critique of Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, & Minirth/Meier -- OP).

Prophets of PsychoHeresy II (Critique of James C. Dobson -- OP). [Reissued as James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology]

12 Steps to Destruction: Codependency/Recovery Heresies.

Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing.

Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible.

Brownback, Paul, The Danger of Self-Love: Re-Examining a Popular Myth.

Walter, Tony, Need: The New Religion.

Owen, Jim, Christian Psychology's War On God's Word.

New Testament Verses

Mt 22:36-40 -- Jesus gives two great commandments: (1) Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; (2) Love your neighbor as yourself -- there is no third command to love yourself. Jesus is saying, "as you already love yourself" -- "as" is used in the same way in Eph 5:25,28,33, indicating a state of current existence, not a command. Jesus knows we already love ourselves and thereby commands us to love others with this same commitment.

Lk 10:25-37 -- Example given by Jesus to illustrate the "love neighbor as yourself" command, presents a story of self-sacrifice (not self-love) towards an object of hate (a Samaritan)!

Mt 16:24,25 -- Deny self, i.e., say no to self; not told to self-affirm, self-gratify, or self-actualize.

Lk 9:23 -- Deny self, i.e., put self to death, daily; not told to self-affirm, self-gratify, or self-actualize.

Mt 20:26,27 -- The great are the servants, not the ones served.

Mt 23:11,12 -- The great are the servants; the humble will be exalted.

Lk 22:24-27 -- The servant is the greatest, not the proud.

Lk 14:26 -- Cannot be a disciple of Jesus, unless deny even yourself.

2 Tim 3:2-5 -- "Lovers of Self" listed with other "detestable" sins such as slanderers, the treacherous, abusive, proud, conceited; therefore, high self-esteem/pride is a sin!

Jn 12:25 -- Lover of one's own life (self) will lose eternal life.

Jn 13:16,17 -- Humble service is a command.

Jn 15:5 -- Apart from God, i.e., lover of self vs. lover of God, you can do nothing.

I Cor 1:18,19 -- Message of the cross (denial of self) is foolishness to those perishing (i.e., to the psychological self-worshipers).

I Cor 4:3-5 -- Objective judgments are ours to make, but those regarding overall worth or esteem belong to the Lord.

I Cor 13:2 -- Self-esteem advocates teach we must be of value to ourselves in order to be able to love others, but God tells us that we are nothing, unless and until we love others.

I Cor 13:4,5 -- Definitions of what love is not -- not envy, not boasting, not proud, and not self-seeking.

2 Cor 3:5 -- No competence in ourselves (no pride), but only from God.

2 Cor 5:15 -- Live for Christ, via humble service, not for yourself.

2 Cor 10:12,18 -- Look to Christ for comparison, not to yourself; i.e., no self-esteem gospel.

Eph 3:8; I Tim 1:15; Rom 7:24 -- Sounds as if Paul has a terrible self-esteem problem! Paul recognizes his rotten condition, to be resolved only through the gospel of the cross, which is a "humble servant" attitude.

Rom 12:3b -- Don't think of yourself too highly, but with sober judgment -- notice that Paul makes no mention of the possibility of one under-valuing himself.

Gal 6:3,4 -- Sober evaluation should be made not on the basis of how one is doing in comparison with others, but by comparing oneself with Scriptural standards, and of course, Scriptural standards stress humility and putting self to death (denial of self), not boosting one's self-esteem.

I Cor 10:24 -- Nobody should ever seek his own good, but the good of others.

Eph 5:21 -- Submit to others for Christ's sake: i.e., humble submission, not pride.

2 Cor 11:30 -- If boast in anything, boast in weakness!

Phil 2:3 -- Do not act out of self-concerns, but for others, and then in humility.

Heb 13:17 -- Submit to your spiritual leaders, not your self-desires.

I Pet 5:5b-7 -- Be humble toward others because God opposes the proud.

Col 3:12 -- Christians should clothe themselves in humility.

Eph 4:2 -- We are commanded to be completely humble and gentle.

Js 4:10 -- Humility leads to esteem -- esteem from the Lord.

Lk 6:31 -- The golden rule: Jesus could confidently make this statement because He knew we already loved ourselves; i.e., if hating ourselves was our natural condition (as the "self-esteemers" tell us), then it would make us happy to be treated badly (as it would confirm our hateful feelings of ourselves), and Jesus would, thereby, be telling us to treat others with the same contempt and loathing that we desire for ourselves.

Lk 6:32 -- The fact that Jesus refers to "sinners" (i.e., enemies of God) as practicing the, "I'll love you if you love me first," philosophy, the self-esteem teaching that, "You have to love yourself before you are able to love others," must, thereby, also be rejected as being ungodly.

I Jn 2:16,17 -- Man's "boasting of what he has and does" (i.e., self-esteem/pride) is not the will of God, but is "of the world."

Phil 2:5-8 -- One's "attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus" -- i.e., "made Himself nothing," "taking the form of a servant," "humbled Himself," "became obedient to death." In general, one should have an attitude of a humble servant-loving, self-sacrificing, compassionate, submissive, obedient, courageous, and holy -- i.e., no "selfisms" at all, only "otherisms"!

2 Cor 12:6,7 -- Even though Paul would have possibly been warranted in having a so-called "healthy" self-esteem, he refused to boast; God, also, didn't want Paul to have high self-esteem -- i.e., conceit.

Old Testament Verses

Gen 18:27 -- Abraham, a believer at this time, has a proper view of self before God -- "I am nothing but dust and ashes."

Exo 3:11,12 -- God didn't build up Moses' self-esteem, but only promised to be with him.

Jdg 6:14-16 -- God didn't build up Gideon's self-esteem, but only promised to be with him.

Jdg 7:2 -- God reduced Gideon's forces to such a ridiculously low level that they would have to exalt God, not self, when victory came.

Job 1:8b -- Job's true status, in which he could "rightfully" boast ("a man who fears God and shuns evil").

Job 25:5,6 -- God views man as a maggot and worm -- hardly a "high self-esteem" teaching.

Job 42:6 -- Proper attitude toward sin is self-despising and repentance.

Prv 22:4 -- Humility and fear of the Lord bring honor and life.

Prv 16:5,18,19 -- Pride leads to destruction; better to be lowly in spirit.

Prv 18:12 -- Downfall of man is pride; humility required for esteem and honor.

Dt 10:12 -- God requires a humble walk, and love and service to Him.

Dt 8:17,18 -- Everything comes from the Lord; therefore, have no pride.

Dt 6:4-9 -- Have a God-centered orientation, not self-centered.

Mic 6:8 -- God requires a humble walk.

Psa 62:9 -- On God's balance scale, man weighs less than nothing, i.e., negative weight or worth.

Ezk 6:9; 20:43; 36:31 -- Sin brings self-loathing in one's "own sight" (KJV) (i.e., self-image); therefore, a "proper" self-image in response to sin is a low one (i.e., low self-esteem), not self-acceptance or self-love.

Isa 41:24; 2:22 -- What is man's truth worth -- "less than nothing;" "of no account."

Isa 47:8,10,11 -- Pride/high self-esteem leads to disaster and calamity.

Jer 1:6-9 -- God didn't build up Jeremiah's self-esteem, but promised to be with him and put words in his mouth.

Psa 115:1 -- Don't seek glory for self, but for the glory of the Lord.

Psa 36:2 -- The man who flatters himself, i.e., high self-esteem, is unable to even detect his own sin, let alone hate it.

Psa 34:18 -- The Lord works in the lives of the humble, not those with high self-esteem.

Psa 51:17 -- True worship is with humility, not good self-image.

Psa 101:5b -- God will not tolerate the proud; i.e., those with high self-esteem.

Isa 6:5 -- Faced with God's holiness, Isaiah debases self, not exalts self.

Prv 15:33 -- Humility before honor.

Prv 29:23 -- Pride, i.e., self-esteem, only lowers man, while humility gains honor.

Prv 6:16-19 -- Haughty eyes, i.e., a proud look, listed along with seven other sins that are detestable to the Lord.

Prv 8:13b -- The Lord hates pride.

Prv 11:2 -- With pride comes disgrace, while wisdom comes with humility.

Prv 13:10 -- Pride breeds quarrels.

Prv 21:4 -- Pride is a trait of the wicked, and is sin.

Prv 25:27 -- Not honorable to seek one's own honor.

I Ki 3:5-9 -- Solomon's humble request was for discernment and wisdom (not high self-esteem), which God honored with wisdom and riches and God-esteem.

Prv 26:12 -- More hope for a fool than a man with high self-esteem, i.e., a man wise in his own eyes.

Prv 27:2 -- Don't praise yourself, i.e., high self-esteem, let others instead.

Prv 28:26 -- Those with good self-esteem are trusting in themselves, and therefore, are fools.

Psa 31:23 -- The Lord will pay back the proud, in full.

Psa 18:27 -- The Lord saves the humble, but brings low the proud.

Psa 138:6 -- The Lord looks favorably on the humble, and unfavorably on the proud.

Job 40:4 -- Job recognizes he has no self-worth in God's sight.

Jer 9:23,24 -- Don't let your attributes be the source of your glorifying, or you have chosen the wrong object for your boasting -- the object should be God! Whatever we have is from God, not of our own doing, so our boasts should be towards Him; praise the Lord, not self.

Jer 17:7,8 -- A happy and worry-free man is one who places his confidence in the Lord, not in himself; i.e., no self-confidence teaching, but God-confidence instead!

Isa 66:2 -- God-esteem (the only kind that counts) goes to the meek, humble, and God-fearing.

Psa 139:13-15 -- The Psalmist uses God's wonderful creation (man) to exalt God (the Creator), not self (the creation).

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 10/98