Balance is such a difficult thing. It requires putting the right amount of stress on the right things and that’s sometimes hard. Take the matter of loving yourself for example.

It’s hard to make sure you have the right amount of self-esteem. Too much is pride, egoism, narcissism. Too little results in diffidence, depression, even emotional problems.

The Bible recognizes that love of self is necessary to the fulfillment of man’s mission on the earth. For instance, Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” On the other hand, Jesus caused Paul to say, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think …” (Romans 12:3); and again, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 3:3).

Humans are inclined more to too much esteem than too little it seems. Selfishness, which is at the base of nearly all sin and which is the result of inordinate self-esteem, is a problem with which all of us must deal from time to time.

Selfishness is seen in covetousness, the selfish love of things. People place too high a value on the things of the world. The Bible suggests that we set our affections on higher things (Colossians 3:1–2), and that we remember that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:16–17).

Selfishness is seen in ambition, the selfish love of power. This kind of attitude results from our wanting to have control of others. Such love for power is not healthy and leads to a disregard for the control of God. In many places today success is measured by how many people we serve, not by how many serve us (Matthew 18:1–4).

Selfishness is seen in vanity, the selfish love of esteem. Self inflation, conceit, and the like are the tools of those who are bent on being popular at any cost. Their talent is very often wasted on efforts to draw attention to themselves. Instead of using it to help others, they are constantly engaged in advertising their wares. Even their acts of benevolence are done to be seen of men (Matthew 6:1–4). Only a foolish person involves himself in such actions, for the taste for popularity can never be satisfied. It craves prolongation.

The parable of the Prodigal in Luke 15 illustrates all these selfish actions.

Covetousness. The prodigal had a burning desire for the new, the unique, the daring, the different. He wanted freedom from restraints so that he could enjoy the “things” which his money could buy. The selfish love of things helped to shape his philosophy for living. It would eventually cause him great heartache.

Vanity. The son elevated himself to a place of prominence far beyond his value. He failed to realize that his real value was made possible by his connection to his father. He was driven by his personal dissatisfaction, his greed and avarice, but especially by his estimation of himself. Such a foolish deduction was to contribute greatly to his downfall.

Ambition. “I can do it better by myself,” he said. He wanted the power to plan his own destiny, to control his own route of pursuit. He wanted out of the magistrality of his father. This selfish love of power was another factor in his eventual demise and he was to find that “to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey …” (Romans 6:16).

We ought to love ourselves. We ought to consider ourselves valuable. But our love for ourselves must be calculated on the basis of our connection to our Father. We must come to realize that our value comes not from what we have made ourselves into, but what He has done for us that we could not do for ourselves. And while we would do nothing to diminish from the fact of our free moral agency, nor from the obvious greatness of the decision each of us has made to voluntarily submit to the rule of our Father, let us be impressed with the fact that our esteem is based on what He has done for us.

Dee Bowman, “Front Lines: Getting Hold of Yourself,” Christianity Magazine (Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine, 1986), 2.

We will explore these topics this Sunday, June 9 based on the story of Jeremiah’s side-kick, Baruch. The story will center around Jeremiah 45.