Too many people think they are not worthy of a good life. A good life being a life of blessings and things to enjoy—not of money, stature, power, sex, and frivoloty. A life where you go to bed at night proud of yourself, sleep well for a healthy amount of time, and are glad to wake up in the morning. This kind of life is a life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—sound familiar? That's the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. These are the products of living by the Holy Spirit and are the best description you can find of a good life.
What do you do when a person feels unworthy of a good life like when a person is so pessimistic about life that they refuse to get out of bed? Well, all questions find their answer in God's word. The Bible, when you know it and believe it in your heart, will make you feel worthy of a good life. This is because God, the Creator of the universe and Sovereign over all, loves you.
The Apostle Paul makes a side-note when talking about the relationship between husband and wife which is based on the relationship between Christ and his church, that is, his people. He is explaining how husbands are to treat their wives how Christ treats his people and how wives are to treat their husbands how Christ's people are to treat Christ. On the husband's side, he is to love his wife just as Christ loves his people, so much so that he died for them. The church, which Christ loves, is also called his body, the body of Christ. His people are part of him. Paul recalls the words of God when describing the first marriage between Adam and Eve, "the two will become one flesh."
The side-note relevant to self-love comes when Paul is explaining how Jesus loves his church like his own body and thus, how a husband loves his wife like his own body. Paul says concerning the husband and his own body,
"In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who
loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes
and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his
body" (Eph 5:28-30 ESV).
Paul emphasizes the illogical act of hating your flesh: he is inclusive of all people, painting with a broad stroke, saying "no one" and then is inclusive of all times, another broad stroke, saying "ever." In my Texan tongue this translates to, "There ain't a person and there ain't a time when a folk hated himself."
Paul's statement seems wrong, right? Aren't there people who hate themselves? There are people who don't like who they are, how they look, or what they do?
Listen to Paul's words in how he explains how people don't hate their own flesh, "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it." Paul is not talking about wishing you were a different person or with a different type of body—he is talking about not even eating. Proof that people love their flesh is that they feed themselves. We can find many people who have low self-esteem or dislike qualities about themselves, but there is not a person starving themselves out of self-hate.
My friend Billy, who, in his depression, slept nineteen hours a day, got up to eat. He did not hate himself to such a degree that he would inflict upon himself perhaps one of the worst pains, starving to death. Paul's words were true even in Billy's life, he didn't hate his flesh as seen in the fact that he nourished it. At the lowest point in his life, in the deepest parts of Billy's heart, there was still some molecule of self-love. This self-love is ingrained in survival for all creatures.
When I say self-love I mean love and respect for yourself so as to seek a good life, live well, and brave the challenges of life. This kind of self-love helps one to love life. However, God reminds us that there is a type of self-love that is not good,
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 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," (2 Timothy
This passage gives a list of bad qualities to have, with which God is displeased. Don't be distracted by the "last days" bit; the time period of the New Covenant, since the book of Acts in the past to the future Judgment Day, is the "last days" (see Heb. 1:1-2).
The list begins with "lovers of self." As opposed to having self-love in believing we are worthy of having a good life, a lover of self is someone who is too intent on one's interest, who is selfish. This is when a person overestimates their own value and underestimates the value of others. Certainly, you are valuable but all the reasons you are valuable make others valuable too.
As a fan of Aristotle's ethics, I recall his theory of the Golden Mean, "The best things are placed between extremes." Every vice is an extreme and in the middle ground between every extreme is a virtue. The two extremes here are 2 Timothy 3's "lover of self" and hating oneself to such a degree that the only self-care you can muster is eating, per Ephesians 5:28-30. What lies between these two extremes will be the virtuous balance of loving self, not too little and not too much: loving yourself but not only yourself. The perfect summation of this middle ground is found in Jesus' second greatest command, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mat 22:39 ESV) and also stated this way, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Mat 7:12 ESV).
It is our challenge to nurture this self-love into a healthy self-respect but pruned down and bridled from being a self-worship.
Bobby Price was born and raised by Christian parents in Perrin, Texas. Bobby decided early in life to become a preacher of God's word. He attended the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas where he graduated in 2015 with his Bachelors of Biblical Studies with a focus in Congregational Ministry. Afterwards, he interned for a year at the valley view Church of Christ in Jonesboro, AR. He is currently working on his Masters of Biblical Studies, through the Sunset International Bible Institute Graduate School.