So . . . what do you think Jesus would say to pop singer Madonna? While former reporter and atheist, now assistant pastor at Willow Creek Community Church Lee Strobel admits he’s “not pretending to have divine revelation from God on what Jesus would say,” his book title, What Jesus Would Say, gives the impression he has a pretty good idea about what Jesus would say. But, we have to wonder what Jesus he’s talking about, because his Jesus sounds more like a pop-psych-pastor than God the Son. Strobel’s Jesus identifies Madonna’s problem as a self-esteem issue. Self-esteem? That’s because it’s easier to get someone to come to church if you identify one’s problem as low self-esteem instead of sin. And, contrary to what so many pastors-turned-pop-psychologist like Strobel would have you believe, the Bible says: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves. . .” (2 Timothy 3:1,2).

Promise Keepers also promote self-esteem and self-love. The following is from Promise Keepers Newsletter, Winter, 1993:

Many Christian single men have fought the battle to build their own self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love. They have learned that it is impossible to have a healthy relationship with others while having an unhealthy relationship with one’s self. Jesus recognized this when He challenged us to love our neighbor as we would love ourself (Mark 12:31).

In their eagerness to embrace psychological teachings of the world, Promise Keepers shift the thrust of the verse and make it sound as if we are commanded to love ourselves. But Jesus gave two commandments: to love God and to love neighbor. Loving self was not a commandment, but rather the manner in which to follow the second commandment. In other words, loving self is the natural human propensity. The very statement of Jesus is built on the fact that people already love themselves (see also Ephesians 5:28,29).

Christianity is about a loving relationship with the Lord and about loving one another. Christ did not teach his disciples to love themselves, but rather assumed that they already did when he said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). Just as we naturally care for ourselves and want what is good for ourselves, we are to care for others and want what is good for them.

An individual wrote to us and asked how Proverbs 19:8; Proverbs 8:35,36; and Proverbs 15:32 might relate to the idea that “we already love ourselves” and “don’t hate ourselves.”

Here is what we understand these verses to mean and how they do or do not relate to self-love and self-hatred. “He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good” (Proverbs 19:8). While everyone already loves himself, not all people are wise. While they may love to indulge themselves in foolishness, they do not care for their soul, their spiritual life; therefore the encouragement is to get wisdom and keep understanding. An analogy might be that we must eat to live, but those who eat unwisely do not properly care for their bodies. This verse does not refute “we already love ourselves.” Proverbs 8:35 continues that same theme regarding wisdom: “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.” These Proverbs offer two options:(1) finding God’s wisdom and thereby living a good or godly life, or (2) refusing God’s wisdom and losing the possibility for living a good life.

The next two verses speak warnings to those who choose option 2. “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36). Those of whom the verse speaks love themselves more than they love God, but in the long run they will destroy themselves. It is not that they actively “love death” or that they hate themselves.

It is that the arrogant self-indulgence of hating God and going one’s own way is spiritual death. The same is true for Proverbs 15:32, “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.” It is not active self-hatred here but rather a warning that one’s soul is in jeopardy if one refuses the Lord’s instruction. The contrast is that those who “heareth reproof getteth understanding.”

The following is from our book Prophets of PsychoHeresy II regarding self-hatred:

Now we are not saying that there are no individuals who genuinely think that they hate themselves. However, what they generally hate is something about themselves or their circumstances. They exhibit actual love for themselves in that they continue to spend most of their time concerned about themselves, even if it is with unhappy thoughts. They generally get to the point where they are unhappy about themselves because a discrepancy exists between their aspirations or desires and their performance or condition. This intensive hate is evidence of high self-interest.

The problem is always the self-focus with people who think they hate themselves or think they need to love themselves more.

In his book Life in the Spirit, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:

The real cause of failure,ultimately, in marriage is always self and the various manifestations of self. Of course that is the cause of trouble everywhere and in every realm. Self and selfishness are the greatest disrupting forces in the world. All the major problems confronting the world, whether you look at the matter from the standpoint of nations and statesmen, or from the standpoint of industry and social conditions, or from any other standpoint—all these troubles ultimately come back to self, to ‘my rights,’ to ‘what I want,’ and to ‘who is he?’ or ‘who is she?’ Self, with its horrid manifestations, always leads to trouble, because if two ‘selfs’ come into opposition there is bound to be a clash. Self always wants everything for it-self. That is true of my self, but it is equally true of your self. You at once have two autonomous powers, each deriving from self, and a clash is inevitable. Such clashes occur at every level, from two people right up to great communities and empires and nations.

Self-esteem teachings distort the Bible, reflect the world, and appeal to the natural man. The Bible teaches believers to esteem others better than self, to love one another as we already love ourselves, and to deny self daily.

(From PAL V3N2)