If you do a quick internet search on “self-love” you will find a plethora of information: 41 Ways to Practice Self-Love, 13 Habits of Self-Love, and 125 Quotes about Self-Love, just to name a few. According to Instagram, self-love is gym days and expensive vacations, fancy food (both healthy and indulgent), beautiful views, and scantily clad bodies. According to Wikipedia, it is defined as "love of self" or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage" and that’s all only on the first page of the Google search.
We are a culture that is obsessed with self: our own comfort and opinions, our feelings and reputation, our wants and whims. We have whole media platforms that are just that, a glorification of self and through them, we measure our value through followers and likes and our attractiveness through comments and shares. Our lives have become consumed by self. Our time is filled with the pursuit of our own happiness and under the guise of self-love, we have become self-absorbed.
A few years ago, while shopping for my youngest daughter I saw a child’s shirt emblazoned with “love your selfie” in sparkly letters across the front. While I got the point something about it didn’t sit right with me. You see I know that self-love is important, but we have made self-love something that it is not and we are teaching the wrong definition to a whole generation of children. Self-love is not about taking the best picture, or the response that it receives. Self-love is not bubble baths, gym days, spa treatments, vacations or even eating the dessert like Instagram would like us to believe. According to the Bible, the way that we love ourselves is to acquire wisdom.
“To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.”
- Proverbs 19:8 NLT
This isn’t talking about human wisdom. Solomon was not saying go get educated to love yourself. This is about the wisdom of God. In fact, just in Proverbs, the word wisdom is used forty-six times. Sounds like it's a subject that’s pretty important to God. Just like self-love is not found in bubble baths or chocolate cake, wisdom is not found in encyclopedias or TedTalks.
The difference between wisdom and knowledge was my pitfall when I was younger. I knew I was smart; I had a whole lot of book knowledge that I equated to wisdom. I assumed that because I was smart all of my decisions were golden. This, my friends, was not the case! Just because I had knowledge didn’t mean that I was wise. It took me a long time and a whole lot of hard knocks to work that one out.
This parallels our life as a Christian as well. We can know all the things about God, but if we don’t know Him—if we don’t fear Him—then we just have a whole lot of head knowledge with no heart connection to it. We can know all the things and have no application of them. That’s the difference, knowledge is knowing but wisdom is the application of what we know and God is the one that gives it.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
- James 1:5 NLT
So how do you acquire wisdom? Ask. There is humility in the asking. When we ask we’re admitting our own inability—our need. Here’s the thing I love about this whole thing, God is just waiting for us to admit that we need help. It’s at the end of ourselves when our God begins to work. On top of that though it’s important that we have the correct reverence for the God that we are asking.
“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”
- Proverbs 9:10 NLT
I know that isn’t a popular theme in today’s Christianity: fear of the Lord. It sounds scary and like something negative. I’ve seen new believers genuinely struggle with this concept asking, “If God is love, then why are we to fear Him?” and “Why would I want to follow a God that I fear?” So we say that to fear the Lord means “reverential trust” because that doesn't sound nearly as intimidating. Yes, we are to revere and trust Him, with a healthy dose of fear involved. But in the end, it says fear the Lord because we are called to fear the Lord!
This is not a shaking-in-your-boots or hiding-in-your-closet fear. We do not fear because He is angry or vindictive. We fear because He is God and we are not! We fear because when He spoke the galaxies began to spin—because He breathed and a man stood up. That is the God that we follow and we should have a healthy dose of fear knowing He is big and we are not. That is the God that we ask to give us wisdom.
How can we have that healthy fear—that reverence—if we don’t know Him?
“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”
- Colossians 1:9-10 NLT
So back to the topic at hand: self-love. The point of all of this is knowing Him and reflecting Him. Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life is knowing God. This is about the here and now, the relationship that we are now able to have because Jesus died and rose from the dead. What better way to practice self-love than to take time to know the Creator God, the one who formed us in our mother's womb, the one who wrote our names on the palm of His hand, and to reflect His will in our lives? That is where our lives are transformed; that is how we bear every kind of good fruit.
It’s time that we begin a self-love revolution and show the world what it really means to love yourself, by putting our God first. That’s how we will see our families and communities changed. Go ahead and eat the cake, take the bubble bath and book the trip but not at the cost of knowing Him, of fearing Him, and acquiring His wisdom in the process.
Written by Amanda Strauser