The phrase “love yourself before you can love others” is not taught in the Bible. Throughout God’s word, you find the concept of love, self-sacrifice, and self denial. Jesus, the prominent example of self-denial says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25 and Mark 8:34-35).
Paul reiterates this principle of self-denial or not loving self when he sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel and repeatedly risked his life for the sake of spreading the gospel. Note what he says in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul also urges Christians to present themselves as a holy sacrifice to the Lord, submitting themselves to the will of God and not to selfishly hold on to the things of this world (Romans 12:8, 13:14).
Peter upholds love to others and specifically adds that we need to deny ourselves from fleshly lusts that war against the spirit (1 Peter 2:11). The world tells us to love ourselves before we love others, but this stems from a selfish spirit and directly contradicts the Bible.
The scriptures tell us not to love ourselves, but to love others more than we love ourselves and put the interests of others above our own. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
The Bible also cautions us to not love the world, or what the world teaches. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Once we put ourselves aside, we can rest assured that the Lord will take care of us and provide for all our needs. We don’t need to worry about ourselves, God takes good care of His precious children (Matthew 6:25-34).
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In His service,