How Should We Think About Self-Worth?

How Should We Think About Self-Worth?

What is self-worth? And whatever it is, do you have the right kind?

Back in 1976, during his college teaching ministry, John Piper was interviewed about the then burgeoning talk of self-esteem. Responding to nine questions, he gives a biblical assessment of what it means to be human and have value.

Read the entire interview.

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For a preview, here are the questions with short excerpts of Pastor John's response:

  1. What does the term “self worth” mean to you?
  2. . . . Man is valuable because he is created in the image of God and is therefore an expression of God's glory. Humans have value in that they unlike all the animals have the unique potential to consciously honor God by thanking him and relying on his mercy alone.

  3. What is your concept of man’s depravity?
  4. I believe that man apart from the regenerating work of God is totally depraved. That is, he is capable of no holy act or thought. Romans 14:23 says, "What is not of faith is sin.". . .

  5. What does it mean that man is in the image of God?
  6. The imago dei is that about man which gives him the potential to be redemptively loved by God and to consciously depend in gratitude on God's mercy. . .

  7. What significance should self-acceptance have for the Christian?
  8. . . . Our joy in this sphere comes not from self-acceptance but from our intense sense of the mercy of God accepting us into his fellowship.

  9. What is your concept of man?
  10. . . . Man ceases to be wholly man when he does not walk in faith, i.e., when he does not glorify God by a life of reliance on God.

  11. How does your concept of man reflect your concept of God?
  12. . . . The nature of man then is that his being is the fruit of mercy since nothing of it is owing to himself.

  13. Given this concept, what do you say to the student overwhelmed with his lack of self-worth? What about the person who is kept from functioning as he should by his real or imagined “club-foot?”
  14. . . . If they are good in math and think they are bad, you may show them the evidence of their God-given skill and urge them to stop desecrating his gift by acting as if it is not there.

  15. How do you help a student to achieve genuine self-knowledge?
  16. My own means of assisting self-knowledge is to assist God-knowledge. . .

  17. How do students become content so that they can be free for others?
  18. The way a student comes to be content with the limitations in which God has put him is by coming to trust his Father's wise and merciful bestowment more than he trusts the radio and T.V. . .

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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.