Bread – Self-Esteem

June 13, 2014


Readings for Friday, June 13, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Gal. 5:25-6:10; Matt. 16:21-28; Psalms 69, 73

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Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia says this in our readings today: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Gal. 6:3

What a put-down. What a self-esteem destroyer!

“Self-esteem” means what it says – that we esteem (think highly) of ourselves. It is not other-esteem (thinking highly of others) or God-esteem (thinking highly of God), but thinking highly numero uno, number one, me, myself, and I. The world worries constantly about whether we have enough self-esteem. It is the reason there are no winners in the modern age, because with winners there are losers and nobody can be a “loser.” They might lose their self-esteem!

But Paul is blunt, these people are self-deceivers – “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

Almost all secular “wisdom” focusses on building up the self, on strengthening our ethnic, social, religious, tribal, family, self-identify. If we can identify our heritage, we can build our self-esteem. If we can graduate from school, we can build our self-esteem (whether you know anything or not is, of course, irrelevant to this argument). If we can more closely identify with our community, our people-group, we can build our self-esteem.

And all the while, Paul would say that we are not building self-esteem, we are building a wall of deception which deceives only one person – me. The world’s efforts to build my self-esteem fool only one person – me.

In our reading today from Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be delivered into the hands of men to be killed, and that after three days He will be raised up. He then says “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matt. 16:24-26

What good is self-esteem if it brings you profit in the world and lose to eternal death?

These views are exclusive. One (the world) says that I am good and can be made better, thereby building my self-esteem. The other (God) says that I am sinful and and must sacrifice my self-esteem, my exalted view of myself, on the rocks of repentance, turning away from myself toward Christ, and accepting the mercy and forgiveness extended to me by Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins on the cruel cross and God’s sovereign will and work to bring me to faith.

The truth is that self-esteem is one of the worse things we can have, because it leads us to believe that we are king, that we are master, that we are God. It leads us to eternal death. On the other hand, less self-esteem leads us to recognition of our sin, our powerlessness, our hopelessness, and our desperate need for help – it leads us into the arms of Jesus.

And the wonderful thing about God’s miracle in our life at our lowest point, when we realize that we have nothing to give, is that we realize that we are in fact esteemed, not by our puny selves but by the Creator, by God, who so loved us that He died for us and saved us.

And that builds our self-esteem … but not on the deception of self and the world … but on the solid rock of faith in Jesus., on the knowledge that God so loved us, so thought us worthy, that He saved us from ourselves.

And that is self-esteem worth having.

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© 2014 GBF

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