How can we find true self-worth?
Have you ever wondered how to have a better sense of self-worth?
Several years ago, there was a fellow in one of my Bible study classes at the Federal Prison, I’ll call him Dan—that wasn’t his real name—who had been brought up by a relative because of issues with his parents. I don’t know what those issues were. But he never felt loved or understood by them. He had a pretty negative view of himself, not just as a kid, but as an adult as well.
Eventually, this got him into trouble and he committed a crime. I never asked what his crime was. I was there simply to try to help him discover his relationship with God and his worth in God’s eyes, not to mention his worth in his own eyes.
But Dan carried around a heavy burden of guilt and shame. And it wasn’t just because of his crime. He had a hard time loving himself, forgiving himself, and believing God could love and forgive him. This made him feel the guilt and shame all over again.
He didn’t feel loved
But it really came down to him not feeling loved. This was the lens he looked at himself through, that he was unloved, by people and by God. His conclusion was that he must not be worthy of love. And on the rare occasion when he felt a glimmer of love and self-worth, it was usually eclipsed by his previous negative views of himself.
I wish I could say he discovered how much God loved him and that he fully embraced his self-worth. Unfortunately, he was transferred to another location after several months. But there were some minor victories along the way. I know some seeds of God’s love were planted in his heart. And I trust those will take root and grow in God’s timing.
Do you ever struggle to feel your self-worth?
More recently, several weeks ago, in an online course I was taking on Zoom, I was really caught by surprise at how many people in the chat box were struggling to see their worth as a person, as well as how valuable they could be in helping others.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-worth lately. What is self-worth anyway? Is it a good thing? Or is it just the puffed up ego?
Why do some people seem so confident about themselves and their abilities to get something done and others have a more negative view of themselves and their abilities?
What does the Bible say about self-worth?
Well, there are lots of opinions on how to answer these questions. But given the fact that this is website (and podcast) about what the Bible has to say, I was curious about what light the Bible could shed on this whole topic of self-worth.
The first person who comes to mind is Gideon. When the angel of God appeared to him and told him God was with him and that he would deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon’s response showed a very low sense of self-worth.
“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Judges 6:15 NLT
Have you ever felt that way, that you’re just not very important, because of where you came from, or your background, or your family connections?
Gideon saw his worth based on his position in society, which tribe and clan he was a member of, and his standing in his own family. He saw himself as the least important person in his family, in the weakest clan, of the smallest tribe of Israel, which was Manasseh.
But Gideon’s negative and limited view of himself did not stop God from choosing him for the task at hand. God saw the qualities in Gideon’s heart. That’s what made him worthy of such a monumental undertaking.
Gideon asked for a sign
But Gideon was still very unsure of his abilities. So he asked God for a sign.
Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”Judges 6:36, 37 NLT
Have you ever asked God for a sign and He gave you one? How did you respond? Did it give you the confidence you needed or the answer you were looking for?
You would think that Gideon would accept this sign and do what God wanted him to. But there was still uncertainty. He wasn’t 100% sure he was the one for the job or that he could do it. So he asked God for a second sign.
Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew. Judges 6:39, 40 NLT
One of the most fascinating aspects of this story is that Gideon and God are constantly having a conversation. At one point, God tells him he has too many soldiers.
The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.” Judges 7:2 NLT
Now if you look at this in the light of self-worth, God doesn’t want Gideon and the Israelites to think of their collective self-worth based on how many troops are in the army.
Self-worth doesn’t come from man’s power. It comes from God’s power.
So God tells Gideon to pare down the troops. He starts with 32,000 and ends up with only 300. Now, the Israelites cannot rely on themselves to defeat the Midianites. The are hopelessly outnumbered. They’ll have to rely completely on God.
Just as Gideon had to learn that h is self-worth was not dependent on being from the most prominent family or the largest tribe, so the children of Israel had to learn their collective self-worth was not dependent on how many able-bodied soldiers were in the army, but on their obedience to God.
How can you and I benefit from that lesson about true self-worth?
Your worth, your self-worth, your value as a child of God, doesn’t come from anything you do, say, or achieve. It’s not based on how much money you make, how successful you are in business, with your family, or at church. It doesn’t depend on where you’re from or where you went to school. It’s not about your physical appearance. Or how famous you are. Or how many followers you have on Social Media.
That may be the way the world evaluates your worth. All too often we go along with that approach. We look at the external things in our lives and think these are the measure and proof of our self-worth. Because we have certain things and have accomplished certain things, we have a higher sense of self-worth. And if we don’t accomplish or have these externals, our self-worth is often very low.
Now you may be wondering if this concept of self-worth is really in the Bible or if it’s something I’m imposing on the Bible from the 21st century. That’s actually a good question. And it may be a little of both. But there are definite stories in the Bible which show how someone saw or didn’t see their own value, as I just mentioned with Gideon.
Self-worth versus self-importance
And I think it’s important to distinguish between a genuine sense of self-worth appreciating the God-given talents and abilities you have, and a sense of self-importance or pride, which is based on those external things I just mentioned.
As long as you base your sense of self-worth on what you have , what you do, where you’re from, etc., your self-worth is really fragile. All those externals can change in a heartbeat.
I had a friend years ago who never recovered his self-worth after he was fired from his job. He couldn’t see his true value, just as a person, unrelated to his position in the company he had worked for.
All the self-assurance and confidence he expressed when he was in a position of authority was not true self-worth. It evaporated when his situation changed.
True self-worth comes from understanding who you are a s child of God. It’s really that simple. Then, whatever the circumstances you can value who you are.
Sometimes the way we value ourselves is influenced by what happened in our past, either by us or to us. I did an episode a few months ago called, “Your Past Does Not Define You.” It’s episode 135. Check it out if haven’t listened to it.
The point I want to make is, your past is just another one of those externals that don’t determine your worth, either good or bad, either high or low.
How do you see yourself?
The more I think about it, the more I’ve realized that our sense of self-worth comes from how we see ourselves, how we identify ourselves.
How do you see yourself? How do you identify yourself first and foremost? Is it all those external things I mentioned earlier, your education, your job, how much money you have, and all that stuff?
Or do you see yourself the way Jesus did? He was talking to people in the crowd, but he was really saying it to you and me as well. Jesus said,
You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:13, 14 NLT
Paul emphasizes this point when he says,
For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 NLT
Do you see yourself as the light of the world, the salt of the earth? In Bible times, salt was a very valuable commodity because it was used to preserve food. And there’s no way to calculate the value of light. It’s priceless.
How does God see you?
The very first chapter in the Bible declares the truth about who we are and how we’re made. It’s so familiar.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:26, 31 ESV
God looked at you and He said, “You are very good.”
This theme is found throughout the Bible. David says,
I will praise you [God] because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well. Psalm 139:14 CSB
Where do our negative views of ourselves come from?
Why then, do we have such a negative view of ourselves, such a low sense of self -worth?
I’m going to cut to the chase here. It’s because we have believed lies about ourselves. And where do these lies come from? It may seem like other people, circumstances, and our past tell us we’re someone besides the image and likeness of God. Sometimes we believe those lies and even start repeating them ourselves. But they are still lies, even if you believe them.
So I’ll ask again, Where do these lies come from? They originate where all lies originate. Jesus describes it this way,
He [referring to the devil] was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 CSB
So when you hear yourself say or think, “I’m no good. I’m not worthy. I’m not enough. I’m not loved” or any other negative thoughts like that, it’s actually the father of lies speaking about his own nature, but trying to get you to believe it about yourself.
On the heels of inspiration
Sometimes right after you’ve had a burst of spiritual insight and inspiration of who you are as the image and likeness of God, the father of lies will try to make you doubt it. This is exactly what happened to Jesus. Immediately after he was baptized by John the Baptist, a voice from heaven said
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Matthew 3:17 NLT
But what happened next? The devil tried to sow the seeds of doubt ass to who Jesus was.
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3 NIV
The devil, the tempter, the father of lies, took the message from heaven that Jesus was the Son of God, and added that little word “if.” “If you are the Son of God…” As if to suggest that Jesus was not the Son of God if he didn’t turn those stones into bread.
Of course, Jesus didn’t fall for that lie. He knew it wasn’t his thinking.
When you hear or think the words, “If I really was the image and likeness of God, I wouldn’t, ____and fill in the blank with just about anything_____ , you can be pretty sure that is not your thought, but a lie from the father of lies, trying to make you doubt who you are and your worth as a child of God.
How do you identify yourself?
Let’s come back to how we identify ourselves.
Paul says we need to quit identifying with the material way of seeing ourselves and identify with who we are as God’s image.
throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT
Paul makes it sound so easy, doesn’t he?
What makes it hard is when, instead of putting off the old, material, sinful nature, we try to improve, correct, and reform this old way of seeing ourselves, the “old man” as the King James version translates it.
Your goal is not to be a little less of a sinner. Your goal is not be a little bit better mortal. Your goal is to get rid of the concept that man is depraved, separated from God, and does not know Christ, to “put off the old man.”
Don’t skip this step
To do this Paul says we need to let the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes. Then we can put on the new nature, created to be like God, truly righteous and holy.
The reason we often have a sense of negative self-worth is because we identify with and we identify as the old man, the old self, a material, sinful concept of man, separated from God. Then we try to improve that concept of man and think that will make us a better person.
Quit trying to be a better version of this material concept of man. We need to identify with how God created us in the divine image and likeness.
You get more of what you focus on. You see more out of the window you look out of.
Focus more on Christ. Look more out of the window of Christ. Look at yourself in the light of how Jesus would see you as the light of the world, the salt of the earth. That’s who you are already.
Your negative thoughts can’t get into heaven
Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Where? Within you. In heaven, there is no record of negative thoughts you or anyone else ever had about yourself. How can I even say this. Well, God says,
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Isaiah 65:17 KJV
All the negative thoughts you’ve ever had about yourself will never enter heaven and you will not even remember them.
Jesus promises that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and within us. That means you can experience freedom from these negative views of yourself right now. So when the father of lies whispers in your ear, “I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough,” or any similar non-sense, your job is simply to bear witness to what is true right now in heaven.
Here’s just one idea of how to defeat this lie this lie that you’re not worthy of good enough: Thank You God that I am made in Your image and likeness. That makes me worthy in Your eyes. When You created me, You saw that I am very good. And I know this is true.
If you have to pray this 500 times a day. Oh well! Just do it.
But it’s not just a thing to say. It’s not a formula. We need to imbibe the spirit of it. This is only one example of how to replace the lie with the truth.
God empowers you
And it’s God who empowers you to do it. You’re not doing it on your own power. Even Jesus said,
I can do nothing on my own. John 5:30 NLT
Now, this is not Jesus saying he feels unworthy. He’s not saying “I can do nothing.” It’s him acknowledging that he can’t do anything without God.
Sometimes we start that sentence and say, “I can’t do anything,” but we don’t add the words, “on my own,” words which imply that with God’s help we can do it.
Jesus knew his oneness with the Father. What makes us conscious of our worth is our oneness with the Father. This oneness, our relationship with God, is unimpeachable and can never be diminished, or deflected, or destroyed.
Would you like some counterfeit money?
The old man, the old sinful nature Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:22 is kind of like counterfeit money. It’s worthless. When you identify with it, you will feel worthless.
How would you feel if someone gave you a counterfeit $100 bill, or the equivalent in whatever country you live? The minute you know it’s counterfeit, you know it’s worth nothing.
Do you take that counterfeit bill and try to improve it so it turns into a real $100 bill. No! There’s nothing you can do to a counterfeit to make it real.
Then why do we spend so much time trying to make a counterfeit of God’s child into a true child of God?
Right now you are God’s child
You are right now the child of God, made in God’s image and likeness, of infinite value and worth. All the lies that the father of lies has told about you, whether you believe them for a minute or for 50 years, are still lies. There is no record of them in heaven, the heaven which is at hand and within you.
You have the ability within yourself to rise above and beyond those lies about you. Your true spiritual identity as God’s pure image and likeness is unblemished. God sees you and says, “This is my dearly loved child, who is very good.”
I’ll close with this verse, which says it all,
we are God’s masterpiece Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Photo credit: Micheile Dot Com
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Judges 6:15 NLT
15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
Judges 6:36, 37 NLT
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised,
37 prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”
Judges 6:39, 40 NLT
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”
40 So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.
Judges 7:2 NLT
2 The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.”
Matthew 5:13, 14 NLT
13 You are the salt of the earth…
14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.
1 Thessalonians 5:5 NLT
5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.
Genesis 1:26, 31 ESV
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Psalm 139:14 CSB
14 I will praise you [God] because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
John 8:44 CSB
44 He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
Matthew 3:17 NLT
17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Matthew 4:3 NIV
3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT
22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Isaiah 65:17 KJV
17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
John 5:30 NLT
30 I can do nothing on my own.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT
10 we are God’s masterpiece