Dustin Benge, “You can’t say ‘The Bible is God’s Word’ and then add ‘But this part isn’t as true as other parts.”
Anytime you log into social media, your feed is most likely flooded with quotes such as this:
- “Change the way you love yourself and change your life.”
- “You’ll be amazed at what you attract as soon as you start loving yourself and declaring everything you deserve!”
- “The spark has always been within you.”
- “Build up others’ self-esteem.”
- “Just love yourself.”
- “You can’t love others until you learn to love yourself more.”
- “Just be positive and love yourself!”
First, we must define self-love. This is difficult in a post-truth world where everyone decides their own “truths.” We can, however, look to the Word of God for Absolute Truth.
Today’s self-love movement began during the beatnik/hippie era of the early 1960s and is described as “love of self,” or regard for one’s happiness or advantage. Self-love is akin to narcissism, vanity, pride, egotism, selfishness, and conceitedness, as just a few examples.
The movement spread in the new age era through the hippie movement, sexual “revolutions,” marketing schemes in health and wellness, entertainment, racial and Marxism movements, the modern feminist movements, and most recently, throughout social media, via trends and memes packaged as Christian or inspirational.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 tells us:
“What has been, it is what will be,
And what has been done, it is what will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one might say,
“See this, it is new”?
It has already existed for ages
Which were before us.”
Various self-love movements can be traced back to ancient times in various pagan societies and ages, but it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Eve fell to sin because of “self-love,” aka pride.
In a Crossway article entitled “The Origins of the Self-Esteem Movement,” Jen Osham says:
“There were thinkers and modernist philosophers—writers like Emerson and philosophers like Karl Marx and scientists like Charles Darwin—saying, ”There is no God. In fact, you are God. You decide what is true, you decide what is real, you make your own reality.’ “People threw off the “shackles” of the church and the state and they began to look inward. They began to look to themselves for what is true and what is real. Drawing from this power and self-reliance—even a self-deification—they would go as far as to say that deity lies within yourself.”[i]
The Bible warns of this in the last days, as Paul warns the Church of self-love and the destruction and sins that ultimately result from it.
2 Timothy 3:2-5 (ESV) says, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
Do we avoid such people’s prideful antics, or do we affirm and “amen” their posts? This is a sin; it does not love others.
In a Desiring God podcast, after one-quarter of a century at Bethlehem Baptist Church, John Piper examined one of what he refers to as “the most troubling trends in Christianity – the trend of self-esteem and self-love.”[ii] In the same podcast, Piper explained the history of this demonic New Age movement and how it soon claimed to be the key to post-truth love: love yourself more than you will be able to love others more effectively.[iii]
How this demonic deception spread across the Christian communities is almost too bizarre to imagine. Still, we see it being played out daily by professing Christians on social media and even from pulpits.
“Self-love” teaching is not biblical. It is actually the exact opposite of Christianity: anti-Christ. Jesus never said to love yourself more; He taught we must first love Him, and such a love fuels a love for others (Matthew 22:37-40). In our sinful flesh, we already love ourselves too much, whether our pride allows us to admit it or not.
Matthew 19:18-19, ESV says, “He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Scripture does not contradict itself, so we can look at the other passages to discern truth from the errors of new-age self-love/self-esteem thought:
- Matthew 16:24-26, ESV, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “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 will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
- Galatians 2:20, ESV says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
- Romans 2:6-8, ESV says, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Dr. John Macarthur (gty.org) also addressed this widespread deception:
“The Self-Esteem/Self-Love Cult that goes around saying ‘We’ve got to build up people’s (positive self-images) self-esteem/self-love’ is taking them the OPPOSITE way that the message of the Bible does; because, the more you love yourself, the less likely you are to “need a Savior” (deny yourself and repent of your sins). Self-esteem/Self-love is based on an unbiblical perspective. It is diametrically opposed to the truth of human depravity. Moreover, while scripture commends SELF-CONTROL as a fruit of the Spirit, the Bible has NOTHING POSITIVE to say about self-esteem, self-love, or any other variety of SELF-CENTEREDNESS.”[iv]
In the sermon “Saved or Self-Deceived?,” Macarthur says:
“We learn in Matthew 7, verses 13 and 14, that there are only two possible options. There is a narrow gate that goes to heaven, and there is a broad road that says heaven but goes to hell. The narrow gate is hard to find and hard to go through, because it demands denial of self, denial of self-righteousness, recognition of sin, full repentance, submission to Christ, commitment to obey Him and follow Him no matter what the cost. It’s hard to find that truth and hearing it, it’s hard to act upon it because of the love of self and the love of sin which is natural to the sinner. The true way to heaven is hard to find; it is away from the crowd. It is narrow. You come naked; you come alone; you come penitent; you strive to enter. At the same time, most religious people are on the broad road, and there are plenty of false prophets who are enabling them. They are discussed, by the way, in verses 15 to 20. The false prophets, the false religious leaders, the false representatives of Christ, false agents of God who really are the agents of Satan, they are ministers of Satan disguised as angels of light, leading people on a road that says heaven, but ends up in hell. For all the years of my ministry, there has been nothing that has come to the level of my concern for this issue.”[v]
“Of course it’s a tragedy for Hindus to go to hell, or Buddhists, or Muslims. It’s a tragedy for atheists and Jews who reject the Messiah to go to hell. It’s a tragedy for anybody to go to hell. But it seems to me that the tragedy of all tragedies is the oft repeated Judas tragedy, where you hang around Jesus, but end up belonging to Satan. That’s the real tragedy. There are pastors who fit into this category; they’re not even Christians. And churches are filled with people. Some, quote-unquote, “churches” are made up of almost all non-Christians who are deceived about their true spiritual condition. And so, it’s important for us to hear the words of the Lord. If I’m concerned about this issue, believe me, He’s far more concerned about it as well.”[vi]
My dear sisters, when we share these New Age quotes and sayings, these self-focused ideologies – when we share or affirm others’ posts that twist Scripture or take it out of context (reading ourselves into the stories, for example, which is called eisegesis. What we should be doing is engaging in exegesis, which is reading the text in full context as God intended it to be read. When we don’t give others exegesis, we may be giving someone an emotional high for a moment but not giving them the truth of God’s Word.
In reality, however, when we engage in eisegesis, we teach people false New Age doctrines, not Biblical Christianity, and thereby lead them and ourselves straight into the enemy’s hands daily. It may be a quick fix to make someone feel energized or righteous at the moment, but it doesn’t bring salvation from sin. It embraces and glorifies our sins – the very sins Christ died – the wages of sin is death, not Life in Christ alone.
My concern for all of us: we are placing stumbling blocks before others when we share New Age self-love, self-esteem, and self-focused posts contradictory to scripture. And, we are drawing to ourselves, not Christ, when we feed ourselves and each other such trash and believe these social media fallacies.
This is concerning because James gives us all a very strong warning that we must remember every single day, with every single post:
James 3:1-12, ESV says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b] 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”
We must share the truth with others and warn women and young people in our lives of these New-Age deceptions because women we love die every day and are in danger of a very real, eternal hell thinking they are saved.
In a powerful piece by Emily Saxe entitled “The Danger of Self-Love,” she goes further into Piper’s warnings on self-love and the Apostle Paul’s warnings to the Church in this modern, self-centered age:
“The self was never meant to satisfy us. The self was never meant to find satisfaction in the perception or promotion of self.”[vii] She continues explaining:
“These words belonging to John Piper shake one of culture’s loudest arguments, (which is that) self-love is (allegedly) essential to contentment and satisfaction in life. We read the articles and listen to motivational speakers who say we must love our bodies, accept who we are, and learn how to love ourselves. From a Christian point of view, many articles on self-love promote finding your worth in God. Which is definitely true, but calling that self-love proves misleading. Because we aren’t supposed to love ourselves. At least not in the way culture describes. That kind of love promotes pride and vanity. And it leads to a mindset the Apostle Paul used to describe those who were also abusive, unholy and treacherous, among other adjectives. It’s clear that if we are to avoid lovers of selves, then we certainly must not hop on the bandwagon of self-love. Which is hard to do in today’s culture. Not only because of the self-love mentality coming at us from all directions, but also because social media has created a wonderfully easy outlet for developing lovers of selves. Yes, we use social media to communicate with others or as an easy way to update people on what’s going on in our lives. But how many of us also boost our self-love when we know hundreds of people will see our face and our words on their screens? Suddenly the desire to appear attractive and witty outweighs all else when we hit “post.” And our self-esteem goes up each time we receive positive feedback. Maybe you aren’t concerned with ensuring the life you live looks perfect through your Instagram filter. But we most likely all can admit we’re digging our own self-love graves the more we turn that camera toward our smiles and exalt ourselves.”[viii]
Saxe further explains:
“Self-love has been around long before social media. Since Adam and Eve, really. When you break it down, the concept of self-love means glorifying yourself. It means finding joy within yourself, about yourself. And there’s a difference between loving yourself and accepting who you are in Christ. As followers of Jesus, we shouldn’t degrade or shame or hate ourselves. But finding satisfaction in Christ does not mean promoting ourselves.For the danger of self-love is the ease with which we go from accepting who we are in Christ to searching for happiness in who we are. We begin to reach for achievement in a life we can love, a body image we can be proud of, a personality that draws all the right attention. Even when we feel content with who we are, there’s that voice in our mind telling us to ensure people know we’re content. That we don’t need the attention. But wouldn’t that be an unhealthy form of self-love, too? Searching for self-love is an exhausting task. And one of the saddest aspects of it is we’re trying to achieve something we already have in God. Our Creator doesn’t want us to fight against the rest He provides. We all long to experience happiness and satisfaction with who we are. But we’ll never find those things until we use our self to exalt Him instead of us. Until we realize God didn’t create us with desires and longings so we could feel good about this life (2 Timothy 2:22). Our desires are for Him. May we rid ourselves of the need for self-love. It’s not that we’re worthless or unlovable. It’s that there’s nothing we can strive for in and of ourselves that we can’t find in God. So rest in Him today. Know we were never meant to satisfy ourselves. We were never meant to be the object of our joy or happiness. Those desires are not meant for ourselves, but for Christ.”[ix]
Suppose we do not turn back to Christ and the Word of God and instead turn to our friends and to false teachers’ opinions and inspirational quotes. Instead, we must open our Bible read and study them and learn to discern truth from God’s Word and to rightly handle the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). By not rightly engaging the Word of God, our families, friends, and children are going continue living, and dying in a world where they believe these lies and “motivational quotes” – the lives we portray and words we profess – all over social media are the true gospel, are biblical truth, because their moms, grannies, friends, Sunday School teachers, etc. post, “like” and share them nonstop all day long.
We exist to feed the sheep, not entertain the goats.
This is what God says about these trends, false doctrines, and those who spread them in 2nd Peter 2:17-22 (ESV):
“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves[a] of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
Instead of being self-focused, Christians are to deny themselves. The Holy Spirit is at work in the life of the Christian to help you honor and follow Christ in all of life. Now, THIS is a blessed life! And this is how you truly love others enough to tell them the truth, even if they hate and mock you for it! It’s hard to be prideful and focused on yourself when you realize who you are in light of who Christ is and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. It is hard to be self-focused when your heart is focused on Christ and on loving others. Only when there is such an overflowing love for others will you have no room to be focused on yourself. Only then, will you live life more abundantly because Christ is sufficient and always will be enough for you. Only then can we be rightly oriented to and, with the right motivation, be compelled to expose falsehoods and share the gospel.
Psalm 5:1-12, “Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
[i] The Origins of the Self-Esteem Movement, Jen Oshman. Crossway. https://www.crossway.org/articles/the-origins-of-the-self-esteem-movement/
[ii] You Don’t Need More Self-Love, John Piper, Desiring God. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/you-dont-need-more-self-love
[v] Saved or Self-Deceived, Part 1 – Grace to You. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-326/Saved-or-SelfDeceived-Part-1
[vii] The Danger of Self-Love — To Unearth. https://www.tounearth.com/articles/danger-of-self-love
I live in Drew County, Arkansas. I have been married for 24 years to Chris Lawson. I’m a former tutor and newspaper reporter, and an elementary Sunday School teacher at Enon Baptist Church. We enjoy spending time with our daughter and son-in-law, Becca and Clayton Cheshire, and granddaughter, Madeline Jayne. I enjoy spending time in the Word of God and mentoring ladies who have left various charismatic teachings.