Self-esteem is a term used in psychology and in theology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth, often in comparison and contrast to someone else. People who embrace self-esteem psychology and theology are not hesitant to employ concepts such as, “I am competent,” “I am worthy,” “I am the best.” Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include: “self-worth,” “self-regard,” “self-respect,” and “self-integrity.” All of self-esteem is rooted in “self-love” which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, is “the instinct or desire to promote one’s well-being.” In short, all of life is all about “me”.
The Christian should not be surprised at the rise and popularity of self-esteem psychology and theology for long ago the apostle Paul anticipated its presence. 2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Just how accurate the prophetic words of Paul are is reflected in the disgraced ministry of Robert H. Schuller who built his worldwide ministry on self-esteem. The titles of his books reflect the content of material: Self-Love (1986), If It’s Going to be Up to Me (1998), Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (1983), My Journey: From an Iowa Farm to a Cathedral of Dreams (2002), and Don’t Throw Away Tomorrow: Living God’s Dream for Your Life (2007).
Because belief dictates behavior, it is not surprising to read an Associated Press report, dated November 8, 2012, that 86-year-old Robert H. Schuller testified in the Crystal Cathedral Ministries Bankruptcy Case that he “never gave up ownership of his books and other teachings even though the ministry he founded used them freely, including on the Internet.” The reason for this testimony is that Schuller wants more than $5 million from the bankrupt ministry that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, being $50 million in debt.
The greed of the father is only surpassed by the greed of his covetous and disobedient children who openly engage in bitter family fights over the resources and direction of the ministry.
Though self-esteem theology is contrary to Scripture and sound doctrine, it remains a popular concept, especially in the health and wealth movement. It forms part of the foundation for promoting the prosperity gospel which advocates that God wants Christians to be powerful, successful, wealthy, and famous.
While having a positive view of oneself is not sinful in and of itself; the hyper-emphasis on self, though, as seen in many churches today, distorts the basic truth about Christianity. Theologian Anthony Hoekema has wisely pointed out the difference between the Christian self-image and that of self-esteem theology. “The Christian self-image is never an end in itself. It is always a means to the end of living for God, for others, and for the preservation and development of God’s creation. It leads us outside ourselves. It delivers us from the preoccupation with ourselves and releases us so that we may happily serve God and others” (Created in God’s Image, 111).