What the Old Testament Teaches about Self-Esteem

Old Testament, Self-Esteem
The Old Testament Refutes Self-Esteem Philosophy

In Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 I talked about the misuse of Scripture by self-esteem advocates. Now I'd like to talk about the plethora of Scripture that refutes building self-esteem. In this post, I'll cover Old Testament verses and next week New Testament. 

So here goes:
  • Eve wanted to esteem herself and be like God. (Genesis 3:1-7)
  • Cain didn't want God to reject his unworthy offering nor did he think he deserved his punishment when he murdered his brother. He felt he should be esteemed no matter what he did. (Genesis 4:1-14)
  • Before the flood, mankind's thoughts were completely evil. Men esteemed themselves above God and followed their evil desires. (Genesis 6:5-7)
  • The builders of the tower of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves, giving themselves the glory instead of God. (Genesis 11:1-8)
  • In the afterglow of God's miraculous rescue of the Israelites from Egypt, He told them they would be his treasured possession if they would follow Him with their whole hearts. And within a month's time, they were worshipping idols instead of God and making up their own rules. They esteemed themselves and their manmade religions more than God. (Exodus 20, 32)
  • During the time of the Judges, the people esteemed themselves enough to think that they could decide what was right and wrong instead of God. (Judges 17:6; 21:25)
  • The people during the time of the Judges rejected God's love and laws for a human king. They obviously esteemed themselves and other men more than God. (1 Samuel 8:6-9)
  • King Saul once was "small in his own eyes" but when he became king, he changed and thought his way of doing things was better than God's way. He was a better person when he thought less of himself. (1 Samuel 15)
  • Naaman almost gave up a healing from leprosy because he esteemed himself too highly. (2 Kings 5:1-14)
  • Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon is representative of countless kings, queens, dictators and elected rulers throughout history who had opportunity to esteem God but esteemed themselves instead. (Daniel 4:28-37)
  • Many Psalms emphasize the quality of humility and no Psalm talks of improving self-esteem. One example is Psalm 51:17: "The sacrifice that God wants is a humble spirit. God, you will not turn away someone who comes with a humble heart and is willing to obey you."
  • Proverbs contains many rebukes like this one: "Proud and boastful people will be shamed, but wisdom stays with those who are modest and humble." (11:2) but not a single reference to people who think too poorly of themselves. Self-esteem proponents claim that boastful people are really suffering from a low self-image, but God says they are sinful and proud.
  • Jeremiah tells us the only thing that we should boast about in 9:23-24: "This is what the Lord says: 'The wise must not brag about their wisdom. The strong men must not brag about their strength. The rich must not brag about their money. But if someone wants to brag, then let them brag about this: Let them brag that they learned to know me. Let them brag that they understand that I am the Lord, that I am kind and fair, and that I do good things on earth. I love this kind of bragging.' This message is from the Lord."
  • Micah tells us that God requires 3 things of us: to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (6:7-8). Humility is a reoccurring theme in Scripture because we have difficulty being humble.

Aside from some uniquely cruel, abusive situations (which most of us will never experience) we respond to rejection, abuse and mistreatment with a strong sense that we don't deserve it. If we genuinely had low self-esteem, we'd feel we deserved such treatment. 

We don't have a problem with low self-esteem but with high self-esteem and sinful attitudes. This is my greatest problem, your greatest problem, and our children's greatest problem. 

When we build self-esteem in ourselves or our children, we encourage sinful pride. Instead, we should seek to build godly character which includes meekness, humility, and a focus on God, not self. Then, when we focus on esteeming God, all of our genuine needs are met (1 John 2:15-17).

Most of the Scripture verses I've used in this series are New Testament, but I wanted to share this post on Old Testament passages to show that the entire message of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, warns against high self-esteem. Esteeming ourselves damages God's purposes for our lives.

Part 1: The Dangers of Promoting High Self-Esteem
Part 2: Self-Esteem's Twisted Proverb
Part 3: Self-Esteem's Twisted Words of Christ
Part 4: Self-Esteem's Twisted Psalm
Part 5: The Old Testament Refutes Self-Esteem Philosophy
Part 6: Godly Nurture Does Not Promote High Self-Esteem
Part 7: Secular Studies Agree with the Bible


  1. I am loving your self-esteem series, thanks again for sharing it :)

  2. This is an EXCELLENT series. I've never thought to highly of the concept of self-esteem but I had never studied it out like that. Thank you so much for offering such a Biblical perspective. I'm featuring this post at the link-up this week at Walking Redeemed.

  3. "When we build self-esteem in ourselves or our children, we encourage sinful pride. Instead, we should seek to build godly character which includes meekness, humility, and a focus on God, not self. Then, when we focus on esteeming God, all of our genuine needs are met (1 John 2:15-17)."

    I really like the way you expressed this concept in the above statements. My husband and I want to establish godly character in our children, but often, it's hard to discern what is just self-esteem for self-esteem's sake and what is good to help them grow closer to God. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

  4. I appreciate you sharing what the Scriptures are really focusing upon. When we compare Scripture line upon line and precept upon precept we really understand what the content is all about. God is love, He is Spirit and we must worship him in Spirit and Truth. I believe that when we are born again, we are challenged to take on a new view as to who we are in Christ. My old nature and desires compelled me to seek self gratification. My new nature teaches me how to embrace God by pursuing his presence which gives me the opportunity to experience joy in fullness, his nature which is Holy, enables me to seek his standards rather than victimize mine and others from the old Adam's nature,which constantly tries to present itself as who we are. I appreciate you sharing the balance of Scripture. We should search the Scriptures for in them we think we have the keys to eternal life: and they are they which testify of me! It really is all about Christ and what He has done to redeem mankind back to the Kingdom of God! I would love to see how you continue in the Old and New Testament. Especially Proverbs 31.


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