Thoughts to Ponder

Lovers of Themselves

(2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV) But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. {2} People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- {5} having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

These people don't sound very nice do they? I cannot imagine anyone wanting to have anything to do with them. Yet, sadly many Christians openly endorse some of these qualities.

We as Christians often speak out about the love of money, being boastful, proud, abusive, etc... But do you know the one we seem to have started to endorse?

It is being lovers of ourselves. Now you will probably never hear it put that way, but what is self-esteem, self-worth, self-actualization if not loving ones self? On the surface these look like solid teachings, after all everyone should have self-esteem, right? Well don't worry, we all do, we are born with it and will struggle the rest of our lives with keeping it under control. The danger comes when we fall for the lie that our problems or someone else's problems are caused by low self-esteem. This is widely taught in the church today. So let's take a look...

I want to start with the very first murder in the human race. Was Cain's problem low self-esteem? Did he think too little of himself? Was God's refusal of his sacrifice due to the horrible sin of self-hate by Cain? Of course not, in fact Cain's problem was that he thought too much of himself and too little of God and His commands.

(Genesis 4:3-7 NIV) In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. {4} But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, {5} but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. {6} Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? {7} If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." What was the difference between what Cain brought to God and what Abel brought? Of course fruits of the soil are different than fat portions from the flock, but I am not sure that is the reason God rejected Cain's offering. I personally think it is more likely a problem of the heart. If you notice Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Now look at how Cain's offering is described; some of the fruits of the soil.

Abel thought enough of God to bring the very best that he had as an offering, but it appears that Cain just brought some of what he had without much thought as to giving God his best. But let's say that I am wrong and the problem is that Cain should have also brought an animal sacrifice to God. If that is true, then we can assume that Cain knew this before hand and was capable of doing so, since God tells him that if he does what is right his offering will be accepted too.

What happens next, does Cain hate himself? Is his self-esteem low? Does he need Adam and Eve, or for that matter even God to hold him and explain how much he is loved? No, he needs to obey what he already understands is the right thing to do. But how does he react? He is very angry, but not at himself. He deals with his problem by killing his brother. That is not an act of low self-esteem. Trust me on this, I watched people kill each other on the streets of America as a Police Officer for 7 years. People kill because they have low esteem for other's lives, not because of low self-esteem.

Let me make another point right here, I have witnessed may suicides, and I will tell you that I could not know every thought that went through the person's mind, but I will argue with anyone who tells me that most people who commit suicide do so because of low self-esteem. Many commit suicide because they are empty and don't feel that they have anything to live for. They need Christ to make them realize that they do have something to live for. But feeling like you have nothing to live for is not the same as hating yourself. I hear many people quote this verse by Jesus: (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV) Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' {38} This is the first and greatest commandment. {39} And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' They make the leap that Jesus was commanding us to love ourselves. I don't believe that. I believe Jesus was stating the fact that people do love themselves and should love others in the same way.

How can I say that a person that kills himself does not hate himself? Because I have had to investigate suicides. Most of the people whom I have investigated were very despondent, they may have lost a loved one, or a boyfriend/girlfriend, about to lose their family, etc... But in almost every case suicide was an escape. An escape of the pain they were feeling and the hopelessness they felt, not because they thought they were worthless. I saw people who combed their hair before sticking a gun in their mouth, so when they were found they would not look too bad. I read suicide notes which explained how they wanted their funerals conducted and what they wanted the family to do to remember them. Does that sound like someone who hates themselves? Just before killing themselves they write a note explaining what they want. It is still about them. Are there exceptions, sure I would be willing to bet there are, but don't fall for the lie that self-hate is the reason people kill themselves or others.

The public schools have been teaching self-worth and self-esteem now for over 30 years and where has it gotten us? Lack of respect for each other, lack of respect for authority, more violent crimes by younger thugs, murders in our schools, you name it we have more of it. Have grades gone up now that students think more of themselves? NO, they have gone down, but the good news is that the students don't care because they feel good about themselves.

(Romans 12:3 NIV) For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.(emphases added) We are cautioned not to have too much self-esteem. Think of yourself in sober judgment, if you do won't you realize that you were born a sinner and but for the grace of God you would die a sinner lost for eternity? If you never came to that realization you would never be able to accept the free gift of salvation, because you would never realize you need it. So why after we have realized our depraved state and accepted God's free gift of eternal life do we try to get people to heighten their self-esteem? Aren't we rejecting and contradicting the very message that saved us?

A little while back I wrote a devotional concerning God's love. In it I tried to make the point that if you were the only human being to ever accept the free gift of salvation, I believe Jesus would still have come and still have died for your sins. Let me just back track on that thought and say this. I am not saying anything about our worth, I am contending that this is the depth of God's love for us. That He would and did send His Son to die for our sins. We were not and will never be worthy of that love.

I am not trying to say a person should not have some self-esteem, I am saying that we all do have self-esteem and that is often what causes us to rebel against God.

If you look around you will find the 'doctrine' of self-worth being promoted by some pretty well known Christian leaders. Many of these people are leaders that I deeply admire, but that does not mean that they cannot be mistaken. Many claim it is important for a Christian to know that they are SOMEBODY to God. My question is why? Why do we need to know we are SOMEBODY to God? Do we believe that He sent His Son to die for us? Shouldn't that tell us enough about God and His love for us? When we go out of our way to tell ourselves that WE are important to God, I think we take the focus off of God and His love and put it on US. You shouldn't have to ask Lucifer to know what happens next...

Would it surprise you to read the following statement in a book written by a well known Christian author? There is only one cure for the cancer of bitterness. That is to forgive the perceived offender once and for all, with God's help. As strange as it seems, I am suggesting that some of us need to forgive God for those heartaches that are charged to His account. You've carried resentment against Him for years. Now it's time to let go of it I won't name the author but this is from a book written by one of today's best known and best loved Christian leaders. Now that is self-esteem, when the created being is so arrogant that they think they have anything to forgive the Creator for. I will let God answer this out of His Word: (Isaiah 29:16 NIV) You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "He did not make me"? Can the pot say of the potter, "He knows nothing"?

This same author goes on to say: He [God] has done no wrong and does not need our approbation. But the source of bitterness must be admitted before it can be cleansed. There is no better way to get rid of it than to absolve the Lord of whatever we have harbored, and then ask His forgiveness for our lack of faith. It's called reconciliation, and it is the only way you will ever be entirely free. Absolve God of what? If He has done nothing wrong then why does He need to be absolved? This is not reconciliation! In my book this is blasphemy ("profane or contemptuous speech, writing, or action concerning God")! Wouldn't it be much better if we admitted that the source of the bitterness is our own sinful heart?

Should we have more self-esteem than Paul had? (Romans 7:24 NIV) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I think we should accept the fact that we are totally dependant on God and His mercy for even the breath in our lungs. We should get off our high horse and on our knees. That is the true position of humility, not standing arrogantly patting ourselves on the back feeling good about ourselves.

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These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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