At the end of 1996, the church I was pastoring went through a rather serious financial dip. Even though I had taught on tithing, the 1990s saw an increase of state interference and threats to the security of property rights. These unfavourable developments restricted the freedom of market forces to generate adequate economic growth at a time when the population was increasing rapidly and gold production was falling. Although the political transition leading up to 1994 was a great highlight in the country, the economic fruits were not realized as expected for the general population. This affected the church, and being a down town church within a federation of churches, we had no “big brother” to assist financially.
Having two children at high school (known as a model C school), I visited the principal seeking some form of relief where it came to school fees. He said that he could not provide cuts to my school fees, but I could help with teaching Biblical morals to the children as long as I did not evangelise. This would amount to ½ a teaching schedule, providing me with less than half of my normal salary, but I could not refuse it as my salary was about to be cut considerably.
After the first quarter of 1997, the principal left and so did the “on staff psychologist” who taught various levels of guidance. I asked the new principal whether I could take over that class. I then had a full time teaching post. Although I had permission to shape all my teaching from a Biblical stance, the department of education had certain requirements where it came to aspects of guidance. One was teaching “self-worth/self-esteem”. One of the problems this created for me as a reformed evangelical pastor was the concept of “self”.
Generally, “self” implies an independence from God. How does one create a mind shift from an anti-Biblical position without being offensive and not come across as seeking to take on the educational department? I decided to teach “self-love” from a “self-worth/self-esteem” launching pad. The concept of “self-worth/self-esteem” enforces the idea of independence from God. This was the Adam/Eve strategy once they fell into sin (Genesis 3). Independence from God is seen in those who advocate teachings such as:
- Self-esteem is “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect”;
- “Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves”;
- “Your sense of self-worth helps you to trust your own judgment and make better decisions”;
- “Some of the many causes of low self-esteem may include: Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical. Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence. Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble”;
- Dr. Christina Hibbert explains … “Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves. Self-worth is recognizing ‘I am greater than all of those things.’ It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am loveable, necessary to this life, and of incomprehensible worth”.
People use other yardsticks to measure their self-worth. Here are five of the top factors that people use to measure and compare their own self-worth to the worth of others:
- “Appearance from clothing worn to the kind of attention received by others”;
- “Net worth as to income, material possessions, financial assets, or all of these”;
- “Who you know/your social circle affecting you judging your value and the value of others by their status and what important and influential people they know”;
- “What you do/your career as in a lawyer, doctor or accountant being considered more successful and valuable than an artisan or shop assistant”;
- “What you achieve to determine your worth such as grades at school or university, success in business, sporting ability, etc.”
Did you see the idea of independence from God? Did you see the “self” there?
The concept of “self-worth and self-esteem” excludes a fundamental Biblical teaching … “The Holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.” Although coming into this world having the image of God, our being tarnished by sin generates a perpetual rebellion against God demanding independence from Him. Because of this, man needs to have “self-worth and self-esteem” to feel good and believe he or she has value and is someone of worth in society. This is an unbiblical teaching that has flowed from the secular world into the church without correction.
The Biblical teaching is that although man is created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), he or she is lost in sin and generally has the bent away from God and His holiness. Since we are unable to do anything about this condition, God came to this planet, took on flesh, lived a sinless life and died as the appropriate offering to appease His own anger towards sin on behalf of all who will be called to faith. Faith implies regeneration where man is re-created in Jesus Christ to be everything he could not be in Adam. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
With pardon for sin and the removal of guilt, the love of God is appropriated and experienced. Now knowing I am loved by God so passionately and intimately, I realize that I have value because God values me! He saved me, He forgave me, He made me His child, He gave me citizenship in His kingdom and He assures me of a place with Him in glory forever! He loves me and He values me! I have worth, and this worth comes not from self but from God.
Now, because He loves me I am able to love myself. This is known as self-love, derived from God and because of God and His awesome love at Calvary (Read Matthew 22:37-39, John 3:16, Titus 3:4-7 & Romans 8:39). My worth and value being rooted in Jesus Christ means that because God loves me I can love myself … and because God accepts me I can accept myself! Now I can feel good about myself without people’s ‘generous false’ words of commendation.
Dear God, loving, gracious and generous Father, thank You for Your abundant love and acceptance of me through the blood-stained Cross of Calvary. Although I sin, I am pardoned, loved and accepted by you. My identity is in You. Amen.