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Is Self-Love a Sin?


Eric Snow, sermonette 10-14-2010, Ann Arbor, MI, UCG-IA



Apologize for blunder last month on Feast of Trumpets:  In this case, to be listed the second time on speakers list not the same as second Sabbath!


Is self-love a sin?  Is having self-esteem wrong?  Should Christians love both themselves and their neighbors?  Can you love others without loving yourself?  Does the Bible contradict itself about whether self-love is allowed?


Since Biblical teaching assumes normally people will love themselves, the main moral problem is teaching people to love others, including God.  Most people don’t need lessons in loving themselves or in self-esteem.


S.P.S.  The Bible doesn’t contradict itself when it condemns excessive self-love.


II Timothy 3:1-2


Notice what characteristic is listed first.  By implication, it may be helping to cause the others.  “Philautos” means “loving oneself, selfish.”   Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, “Greek-English Lexicon,” p. 859.


Does this contradict the second great commandment?


Romans 13:8-10


Special laws not abolished by stating the general principle.


HWA:  Love is an outgoing concern for others.  If our love for ourselves exceeds that for our neighbors, then we’ve sinned. 


Anciently, the Chinese philosopher/moral teacher Confucius (died, 479 b.c.) phrased the Golden rule negatively, not positively as Jesus did:   What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."

Instead of turning to the obvious text in Scripture, I cite this version in part because it reveals more clearly how it can be misused.


The second great commandment prevents the perverse misuse of Golden Rule.  That’s because really everyone does love themselves.  Here’s how the Golden Rule can be manipulated.  If you feel bad about yourself, may you be bad to others?  If you feel suicidal, are you allowed to be murderous?  A masochist may not become a sadist. That is, if someone likes inflicting pain on himself, he shouldn’t then think it’s fine to inflict pain on his neighbor.  Furthermore, the desire to avoid pain by ending one’s life still shows one loves oneself.


But didn’t Jesus command self-hatred?


John 12:23-25


Here Jesus discusses loving our future eternal lives more than our present physical lives.  Here “hate” really means, “love less by comparison.”  The issue is a matter of priorities.  C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters,” p. 59.


Is self-esteem a sin?  This modern psychological concept can also be called “self-image” or “self-respect.”  The majority position of psychologists teaches that it is unearned, that people may feel good about themselves regardless of personal behavior, performance, or achievements.  Assumed in part because they assume human nature is good, not evil.  Also can be a simple denial of reality (i.e., a student who thinks he’s good at math when he’s lousy), and lead to pride.  By contrast, the Bible teaches that people should feel bad about themselves until they repent and accept Jesus as their personal Savior.


HWA:  “Faith in God” should replace “self-confidence.”  


Conclusion:  The Bible doesn’t contradict itself when it condemns excessive self-love while assuming  people naturally love themselves.  Clearly, people mainly need to be taught to focus on loving and serving others, not building up their self-esteem in order to feel better about themselves.


Links to elsewhere on this Web site:   /apologetics.html   /book.html   /doctrinal.html  /essays.html  /links.html /sermonettes.html  /webmaster.html     For the home page, click here:    /index.html

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