The Second Greatest Commandment and Self-Esteem

John Makujina | May 21, 2010

The current practice of using the second greatest commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” as a biblical justification for self-esteem is widespread enough to deserve closer investigation. The study of relevant biblical material reveals that scriptural data does not support modern formulations of self- esteem. Selfishness rather than self-esteem more accurately represents the forms of self-love in the passages, where self-love refers to a type of self-interest necessary for survival, one that is easily prone to overindulgence. The evangelical treatments of self-esteem, however, capitalize on the imago Dei and God’s redeeming love as motivations for loving and valuing self. Methodological weaknesses in the psychological approach to the second greatest commandment are evident in several areas. An a priori commitment to modern concepts of self-love, which tends to impair careful biblical exposition, usually leads to errors in exegesis.

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