I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:1–3—NKJV)

Self-esteem is neither a positive or negative term, rather it is neutral. Esteem is defined as “to value, to appraise, to estimate.” Its root concept is related to an ancient trade in the Greek world of minting money. It is used of one who cuts metal. With this background in mind, it is quite natural to assume that esteem means only to value highly, as in “have a high regard for.” But it is more to the point of this study to simply use the word in its neutral sense and allow the level of esteem to be modified by the context.

We all know there is such a thing as low self-esteem as well as high self-esteem. Personal estimations are being made constantly, and of everything. As a matter of fact, God commands us to be estimating everything and everyone. John 7:24 states, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” For a believer, proper estimations (including self-estimation) are critical because we must obediently fulfill the command of our Lord found in Matthew 7:8, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” It sounds like nothing short of personal obedience and personal survival are at stake. You are included in that which “is holy!”

Trouble and trials abound when your estimations are out of biblical balance, especially in the realm of self-esteem (since your self-esteem colors the way you see everything else—including God—in life). Your relationship of sonship with God will be skewed toward introspection, your personal expectations will be detached from reality, and your relationship with others (where ministry occurs) will be out of whack. Sinful pride will tend to drive your self-estimation toward self-aggrandizement and arrogance, just as rejecting the facts of God’s revealed graciousness toward you will drive your self-estimation toward self-abnegation and diminished usefulness to Him. Either way, your decisions and your full service for your Lord will be stunted, fractured, and distracted. You will fail to fully reflect the glory of Christ to others (Matthew 22:36–40, Galatians 5:14). No genuine believer will long suffer God’s glory to be muted in him once he has found the cause for this in his life.

There is a middle ground which is called “sober-thinking” in our text. It is structural thinking forged out of the iron in God’s Word with which you build the seaworthy vessel of your life designed to carry you through the all the storms of trouble, waves of decisions, and toward destinations for your divine purpose. God told Samuel that man judges according to outward appearance but God sees the heart. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and this grants perspective for your life. God assesses your worth! Let no one else, and that includes you.

Healthy self-esteem is gained by regularly seeking God’s answers to these fundamental questions:

  • Am I born again? Spiritual birth makes you His child and you become a bearer of His Son’s image. God created you as you are! (Genesis 1:27, Philippians 1:6)
  • Am I seeking to define myself only through God’s Word? Who am I? What is my purpose today? (Psalm 119:105)
  • Am I quickly forsaking sin? Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and thus His peace is removed from our lives. (Philippians 4:4–8)
  • Am I accepting God’s estimation of me? As a child of God under the blood of Christ, God sees you as His Son; His Son’s righteousness is placed on the ledger book of your life in heaven. (Romans 6:11–14)
  • Am I constantly working to identify the tools (new and old) with which God is entrusting me in order to hone and use them for His glory? Your tools in your toolbox (your relationships, talents, resources, education, hobbies, skills, loves, etc.) determine the job God has for you to do. (Matthew 25:14–30)
  • Am I diminishing any of the purposes of Christ by my thinking? Am I selling myself short (making myself of no account) or over-estimating my value (making myself all that matters)? I am only a servant of Christ, but I am a servant of Christ! (Romans 12:1–3)

It may be that you will need a brother or sister in the Lord to help you think with godly sobriety for a while until you can clearly see the hand of God in your life (don’t fight their insights). Do not be shy to seek out godly counsel in this area (Proverbs 11:14). Struggling self-esteem does not generally become whole overnight, but by diligently renewing your mind in the Word of God, you will be conformed to biblical thinking and you will be fit for greater service to the glory of your Master. Trust and obey.