Years ago, for reasons long forgotten, I searched through my Bible hunting for
passages to inspire self-esteem. Perhaps I felt in need of a self-esteem boost myself or, more generously, maybe I had wanted to encourage someone else who was feeling worthless. The only thing I do remember is that my search was fruitless. Imagine my surprise to find that the Bible wasn’t written to make me feel better about myself!
Baby Boomer Theology
New York Times columnist David Brooks, in an insightful article, “It’s Not About You,” calls our cultural self-obsession and pursuit of self-esteem and meaningful self-expression “baby-boomer theology.” He points out that such a view of life is misleading and backwards. “Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.” I sheepishly admit that I had unwittingly adopted such “baby-boomer theology.”
The Bible corrected my error, not by what it said, but by what it never said. The reason there is nothing in the Bible about self-esteem is because we were created in God’s image and for his glory. The Bible is not my story; it is God’s story. It is a redemptive drama highlighting the love, mercy, grace and patience of a God who loves us and who delights in our love for Him. He has a unique and perfectly designed purpose for each of us.
God is not opposed to our satisfaction and fulfillment. On the contrary, he delights in it. He just knows that we’ll never find it apart from Him. The subtle difference between misguided “baby-boomer theology” and true theology is not whether or not we should desire satisfaction and fulfillment, but in whom we should look for it. We will find ourselves when we find Him.
C. S. Lewis said this better than I ever will in an essay entitled “Membership” published in the book The Weight of Glory. I recommend the entire essay, and all the other essays in the book for that matter, but my favorite quote is, “…we have in our day started by getting the whole picture upside down. Starting with the doctrine that every individuality is ‘of infinite value,’ we then picture God as a kind of employment committee whose business it is to find suitable careers for souls, square holes for square pegs. In fact, however, the value of the individual does not lie in him. He is capable of receiving value. He receives it by union with Christ. There is no question of finding for him a place in the living temple which will do justice to his inherent value and give scope to his natural idiosyncrasy. The place was there first. The man was created for it. He will not be himself till he is there” (italics mine.)
I’ve learned a few other things from what the Bible never says. Have you? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned in a similar way and/or your thoughts the source of our self-esteem and ultimate worth.