This morning the Washington Post business section ran a column called, “To Me, With Love: Retailers Embrace Valentine’s Day as an Excuse for Singles to Celebrate Themselves.” Among other interesting facts, the article reports that Piperlime, an online shoe store owned by Gap, has a “Be your own Valentine” category. Sales are strong for Valentine’s Day gifts you can give to the person you love the most – yourself.
You may not have the nerve to give a Valentine’s gift to yourself, but you’re probably no stranger to self-love. There is an appropriate way to humbly acknowledge that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). However that is worlds apart from our therapeutic culture which views low self-esteem as the worst of all evils. We’re told we don’t love ourselves enough. In contrast, God warns that in the last days people will be “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). From God’s perspective, we love ourselves too much.
I’ve been using The Gospel Primer, by Milton Vincent, in my private devotions, and the section I read this morning happened to address this very issue. The author points out that self-love is rooted in at least two lies. The first is the lie that no one can love me better than me. If I don’t love myself, who will be left to give me special treatment, watch out for my comfort, and protect me from danger? Who will buy me presents I don’t have to return? A second falsehood is the belief that no one is more worthy of love than me. That lie leads me to think excessively about how people view me, and to react sinfully when people ignore, criticize, or forget me. “I deserve better!” is the common refrain of a self-consumed heart.
In specific ways, the Gospel liberates us from the lie, lure, and lameness of self-love. First, it shows me God’s love is better than mine. “The Gospel assures me that the love of God is infinitely superior to any love that I could ever give to myself. ‘Greater love has no one than this,’ says Jesus while speaking of His love” (p. 33). My fickle, sin-stained, temporary love will never compare to God’s eternal and unchanging displayed in the atoning sacrifice of his Son. Do I think I can love myself better than God can or does? If so, I’m grossly deceived.
Second, the Gospel shows me that God is more worthy of love than me. “The gospel reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God, and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead. The more I behold God’s glory in the gospel, the more lovely He appears to me. And the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can no longer compete for my affections” (p. 34). I can be tempted to think that I should be loved more. But if I’m in Jesus Christ, I can’t be loved any more than I already am (Rom. 8:38-39)! No, God is the one who should be loved more. I should spend my time making sure that people love God, not me.
Every time we gather to worship God is one more opportunity to confront the idol of self-love. We should proclaim that we exist to love God as our duty and delight. We should gladly confess that God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens (Ps. 36:5) and that the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge (Eph. 3:19). We should acknowledge that this is the way we know love: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16). He gave himself as our substitute, securing our redemption and adoption, and overcoming the powers of hell and the grave.
Meditating on God’s perfect and holy love for his people will cause us to see how great God himself is, and cause us to love him more. Do you leave the Sunday meeting in awe that God loves you? You should! It is a glorious truth that Christ loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20). But the fact that God loves me is only part of the good news. I am not the end of the Gospel. God is. And he has freed me from the bondage of loving myself so that I might love and enjoy him forever. THAT is great news!
So don’t get yourself a Valentine’s Day present this year. Or any year. It’s our privilege to demonstrate to the world that we know the Savior who loves us like no other, and who is worthy of our love for eternity.
Thank you so much for posting this! I have been confronted lately in just how utterly selfish I am, how much I love myself. My thoughts have been particularly prompted by comments from Augustine’s “Confessions” 10:40 – “For he loves you too little who loves anything together with you that he does not love for your sake.” How often I, in fact, love myself equally with God! As though he shares his throne with me? Thank God the He is the end of the Gospel! This is great news indeed.
Thanks again Bob for your service in posting these things.
Have you seen sermonspice’s “It’s All About Me” video?
Makes your point well.
A timely and excellent post. I enjoyed it very much, thanks,
While I agree with this post, that we definitely tend to love oursevles way too much, do you think it would be particularly harmful to buy yourself a Valentine’s present?
For instance, if you were struggling with self-worth because you felt like you were alone and no one loved you, but yet bought yourself a Biblical-based study on the worth that is given to us through Jesus, would that be okay? I think so.
Thanks for the post, we do need to remember that love is all about everyone else but us.
This is excellent insight. I am very glad to have discovered your blog. May God give our generation a renewed desire to confront the idol of self-worship in exchange for the unequal treasure of worshiping Him.
I’m not sure how to process buying yourself a Valentine’s day present. If someone is struggling with “self-worth” I wouldn’t suggest they buy themselves a present. I’d encourage them to consider the surpassing worth and excellence of Jesus Christ instead. I’d ask them which is more important to them – their value of God’s? Now obviously, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. But Jesus came to set us free from loving ourselves, not to increase our love for ourselves.
In other words, the answer to struggling with self-worth is dying to my self, not affirming my self (Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:24). And the more I turn my heart, mind, and affections to the greatness of Jesus Christ, the less I’ll struggle with thoughts of inferiority. I’ll know that I have no life apart from my Savior.