What Is “Yourself” Worth? 5/23/99

II Timothy 3:1-5

Jesus Christ was asked what is the first and greatest commandment. He answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37 – 39).

With incredible agility we have managed to hurdle the first two commandments and make a third to which our generation is inclined to give full devotion. It is the “as yourself” part where we pause and express devotion.

Self-esteem is the issue of the hour. It is the latest educational fad sweeping the country. This movement, which professes to help students make better grades and people in the work force be more productive, began in California. Because of the notoriety given the program, the state of California commissioned a study entitled, “The Social Importance of Self-Esteem.” In part, the critical study revealed “One of the disappointing aspects…is how low the associations between self- esteem and its consequences are in research data.” NO connection was found between promoting self- esteem and enhanced educational performance. The study did expose a false assumption and showed there is no consistent link between low self-esteem and other factors commonly thought to be associated with poor academic achievement, such as child abuse, teen pregnancy, crime, welfare dependency, and substance abuse.” (Marietta Daily Journal 2/27/91, as reported from the “Providence Journal”).

No persons in our society have a greater reason to enjoy a good healthy self-image than Christians. Knowing we human beings are the object of God’s uninhibited love should give dignity and a sense of self-worth like nothing else can.

One of the most thrilling thoughts to course across my mind is, “I am loved — by Almighty God.” W-O-W!

Self-esteem is based on how we perform and what people think of us. It is performance based.

With the rash of violence sweeping our nation answers are being sought. Even some national news casts have made positive reference to the need for a return to moral values. Comments have been made regarding the removal of prayer and the Bible from schools. The removal of virtually any acknowledgment of God and Biblical moral values coupled with the self-esteem indoctrination has left many frustrated.

In the history of the English language the term self-esteem didn’t emerge until early in the 1970’s.

The removal of a Biblical world view has deprived youth of the concept of self-worth. It is needed because none of us can look, perform, and speak sufficiently to gain the approval of the majority. That being true it is inevitable that sooner or later some persons are going to lack self- esteem. At this point they look for some way of gaining popularity.

They confuse being popular with gaining attention. They think that by getting attention they will have good self-worth. Let me illustrate in an absurd way the difference. If I were to have come out on this platform wearing nothing but my yellow polka dotted bikini, I would have gotten your attention. That would not have necessarily made me popular.

A good, wholesome self-image is crucial to mental and social stability. Two extremes afford snares that entrap us and rob us of a balanced self- image. One is egotism; an inflated opinion of self. The other is self-effacement; an inability to accept self. Both are brutal and unforgiving attitudes.

A low self-image is common. Many modern influences dehumanize human beings and make people feel worthless.

Sooner or later self-esteem breaks down.

There is a self-image that gives stability at all times. It is called self-worth. Recently on national TV a golfer leading the field approached the final hole and was spoken to by the commentator. Hear this well. It is what is meant by self-worth. The commentator said the change in his game occurred in 1985 after a dismal round. At that point he and his wife sat in their old car and he changed his spiritual values. He noted the golfer said he had always thought of himself as a golfer and gained his self- esteem from that. When he changed his spiritual values he began to think of himself as something more than a golfer.

What the commentator was saying in closely guarded terms was He became a Christian and as a result came to see himself as being of infinite worth in the eyes of God and that gave him a sense of self-worth. You —- every person —- is of great enough value to God that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. That means a golfer who plays good or bad has a stable sense of self-worth.

Until that moment of transformation the golfer’s self-esteem rose and sank depending upon his golf score.

Evolutionists’ thought that we consequented from some green slime in a primordial swamp gives no dignity to our origin. The idea you are created in the image of a loving God is lofty and refreshing.

Ethologist (one who treats origins and relationships of human beings) Desmond Morris tells us we are nothing but animals. The Bible tells us we are to have dominion over them.

Behaviorist B. F. Skinner says we are only machines programmed to make automatic responses to external stimuli. The Bible says we are created by God and have a free will.

I cannot assert strongly enough my support for a good self-image. However, self-esteem suggests narcissism. That is, an inordinate love of self. In some instances, it may be just a matter of semantics, but often it is much more.

NARCISSISM is a colorful synonym for egotism. The word was coined for a fictional person who had an inordinate love for his own beauty. Before the advent of mirrors he would frequent a bridge over a pool. Leaning over, he would admire himself in the reflective pool. One day he became so enthralled with his beautiful image, he lost his balance and fell in and drowned in his own image. There is a little limerick which states:
“There once was a nymph named Narcissus,
Who thought himself very delicious;
So he stared like a fool
At his face in a pool,
And his folly today is still with us.”

There is even a manner of speaking today called “selfist jargon.” It involves terms that express preoccupation with “Me-ism.” Paul Vitz, in his book “The Cult of Self-Worship,” cites the following as a summary statement of this cult: “I love me. I am not conceited. I’m just a good friend of myself. And I like to do whatever makes me feel good….”

The two commandments given by Christ need to be considered:

Grammatically. Jesus did not say “the second and third commandments are that we are to love our neighbor and our self,” but that the second commandment is to love our neighbor as our self. This marks self-love as a fact to be accepted, but not a virtue to be accented.

Linguistically. AGAPE love means self- sacrifice in the service of another considered precious. Therefore, it cannot be self-directed.

Theologically. Self-love is Biblically considered sin. Our text speaks of persons who have inordinate concepts displeasing to the Lord and one is that they are “lovers of self” instead of “lovers of God” (II Tim. 3: 2a & 4b).

The Bible speaks on several occasions about esteeming others but has nothing to say about self- esteem. It is a worthy manual on Self-worth.

Having reservations about the term “self- esteem” because of some of the ways it is being used today by New Age advocates, I want to talk about the vitality and virtue of self-worth and a good wholesome self-image. Strange as it may sound, aids are:

In an era when there is a mindset expecting life to serve our every self-centered emotional need or whim, self-denial is unpopular. Self-absorption defines the climate of our culture. Narcissism has become one of the central themes of autobiographies.

Self-denial is ridiculed by advocates of the “me” and “now” orientation as is the loss of concern for others and the future.

Self-fulfillment, not self-denial, is the message of the hour.

The more we focus on self, the less we are available to God.

Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

This verse suggests three steps in self-denial:

1. Making up your mind = “IF any man will…”

2. Giving up your autonomy = “let him deny himself”

3. Taking up Christ identity = “take up his cross”

Get yourself off your mind and your mind off yourself.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me, will save it” (Luke 9:24).

Self-denial is a synonym for self-discipline. One of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:23 is “self-control,” that is, self-discipline.

Our text notes those who are lovers of self are without self-control (3:3).

Through the course of history, a few people have forgotten themselves into immortality. Those who forgot themselves are the ones we remember.

We love the music while often failing to apply the lines by Francis of Assisi:
“It is in giving we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Many egotists have a poor self-image because they know their gluttony, greed, selfishness, and covetousness isn’t right, and that produces guilt.

Self-denial doesn’t simply mean not permitting our self to have a few luxuries or some favorite wholesome activity; it means denying we own ourselves and admitting we are bought with a price. It is simply a personal acknowledgment that we belong to our loving Christ and our fulfillment is found in pleasing Him.

There is a difference in denying self a few things and denying self.

To truly deny self is to disown, that is, crucify everything within our self that is incompatible with Jesus Christ. Nail it to the cross. True self-denial is the denial of our fallen or false self. This does not mean to deny the reality. It means to disallow the control of it over your life. This isn’t the road to self-destruction, but the road to self-discovery.

No person who has objectively read the Gospels could conclude Jesus had a negative opinion of people or ever encouraged a negative opinion. Consider:

A. HIS TEACHINGS. He talked about our value. He said we are “much more valuable” than birds or beasts (Matt 6:26 and 12:12).

He taught that you are worth more than the universe when He said, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).

In 1975 a delightful little book came out entitled, “The Christian Looks at Himself.” The author, Anthony Hoekema, tells of a young man, who in his fight against inferiority, put a banner on his wall reading: “I’m me and I’m good, ’cause God don’t make no junk.”

B. HIS ATTITUDE. He loved everybody. His love cut across races and ages. He loved the sick, the prostitute, the thief, the religious bigot, the leper, the poor, the hungry, the rich and society’s outcasts. He accepted those the world rejected. He accepts you also. As a child you may have been rejected by a parent, you may have been an outcast in your social order, or you may have been spurned by your peers, B-U-T Jesus loves you. That should do something for your self-image.

C. HIS MISSION. He came to serve and to save (Mark 10:45).

Your worth should be based on what you are worth to God, and that is a remarkably great deal because Jesus died for you.

Christian psychologist, Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr., describes our need in this manner: “The basic personal need of each person is to regard himself as a worthwhile human being.”

Knowing that not all of us will win an Olympic gold medal or have our name entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, how can we be enabled to feel fulfilled?

Sculpture these three concepts on a granite wall in the corridors of your memory:
1. It is not important that you be the best at anything, but that you be your best at everything.
2. Avoid comparisons. You can always find someone you are better than and get an ego buzz. You will always find someone better than you and that leads to depression.
3. God does not call on us to be successful, only faithful.

If our happiness hinges on “doing,” we will inevitably be miserable. Biblically, it is contingent on “being.” It is found in being all that God wants you to be. These are internal traits.

If you have the capacity of being a “C” student, be the best “C” student you can be. If you have the ability to be an “A” student, be the best “A” student you can be.

If you are an hourly laborer, be the best hourly laborer you can be.

If you are a corporate executive, be the best corporate executive you can be.

The only standard against which you should be measured is the “you” God made you to be.

Christ said He came that we might have abundant life (John l0:l0). The secret to that abundant life is not your ability, but your response to God’s ability.

Resolve: “God I want to be all you want me to be. I want to become all you saved me to become.”

Your self-worth is closely tied to your awareness of your worth to God.

Our worth lies in the fact that our sins were paid for by Christ’s blood; therefore, you can be reconciled to God — accepted by Him. We are accepted by Him on this basis alone.

If God will accept us, if in His sight we are of infinite worth, surely, we can accept our self.

God rejoices when we accept His acceptance. Then we can accept our self.