thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these
things from the wise
(No. 5 of a series on the commandments of Jesus)
By Edgar Jones
Mk.12:31 FNT The second [is] like [it, namely] thus:
You will agape-love your neighbor as yourself.
Do you love yourself?
Do you know what that means, or rather, what Jesus means by it in his Second Commandment?
On hearing this commandment, a certain man asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?
Jesus responded with the well known Parable of the Good Samaritan and concluded with the question, "Which of them became neighbor to him that fell among thieves?"
"Neighbor" is a reciprocal relationship, and by showing mercy on the injured neighbor, the Samaritan was loving his neighbor as himself. The Samaritan did for the injured man what he would have had done for himself had the situation been reversed. It's the Golden Rule.
Lk.10:37 FNT So he said: The [one] having done mercy to him.
Jesus said to him: Be going and you be doing likewise.
From this example alone, we can conclude that loving yourself means wanting help for an injury or illness, wanting ease for your pain, wanting help to save your life if it is threatened. The victim in the parable, according to Jesus, was left half dead! It means that you seek mercy for yourself. It's the normal thing to do.
Suppose that you have been injured, not so severely as the victim in the parable but such that you can bind up your wounds yourself and pour on your own oil and wine. That is love for yourself.
Again, when you are hungry, don't you feed yourself? That also is an act of love for yourself.
You may have been working very hard at physical labor for a long time, and you have become very tired. If you are a slave and your master did not love you, he would push you until you drop; if he has love for you, he insists that you rest your tired body and mind. Similarly, if working for yourself, would you not rest yourself? That is an act of love for yourself.
I have concluded that loving yourself simply means to have that attitude towards yourself that mandates the desire to be merciful to yourself, and ultimately to take action as necessary to preserve yourself (yourself, not your life in the world) -- as the Samaritan preserved the life of the man he found half dead. This is a near universal attitude to the self that seems to have been generated by the process of evolution that made us what we are. It is to do for yourself what is necessary for your survival. Our ancestors have done that for millions of years, otherwise we would not be here!
Jesus understands that and therefore views self-love as a natural and normal endowment.
Self love is near universal, but not quite. When it fails, we have the sad case of the seriously disturbed and terribly unhappy individual that can no more live with himself, in consequence of which such a one commits suicide. It is a terrible thing to hate yourself in any degree, but to hate yourself so much that you cannot live with yourself is unspeakable terror. I cannot think of a worse fate.
A Great Error
This all seems obvious and yet we find individual Christians, professed disciples of Jesus, who understand and believe that Jesus would have us hate ourselves. It is to show the error of that belief that I write this paper.
These are earnest folks who take their religion much more seriously than most, otherwise they would not even think of hating themselves. Their primary error seems to be, in many cases at least, the equation of self-love with selfishness, being self centered, etc. The following are some ot the sayings of the Lord that they cite to support their view.
Mt. 23:11 FNT But the greater of you will be your servant. 12 But whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Lk.18:14 FNT I say to you this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone exalting himself will be humbled, but the [one] humbling himself will be exalted.
This view then appears to equate humbling oneself with hating oneself. It is not an outlandish thought. A person that consistently takes the last place at the table, or anywhere else, may do so from low self esteem, that in the extreme might become self hatred.
One of the prime sayings of the Lord, cited to support this errant view, is this:
Lk.14:25 FNT But [a] great crowd was going with him, and turning he said to them: 26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yet even his own psyche-life , is not able to be my disciple.
Some modern, liberal Christians translate the New Testament into English in a way that directly supports this view, while at the same time eliminating the objectionable (to them) word "hate." The Message reads for Luke 14:26:
Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters - yes, even one's own self! - can't be my disciple.
This deftly removes hate and replaces psyche (life) with self. To read self here is not unreasonable, though the word is not the Greek for self. The word is psyche, which here means life in the sense of the life that we possess by having a living body. We often identify the two ideas in our minds. If one sees your life in danger, and warns you, he may do so by urging you to save yourself. It is common to identify life with self in this way. It is also a grave error in interpreting the sayings of the Lord. If The Message translators had retained hate in Luke 14:26 and kept the rest of the verse the same, it would have read something like this:
Anyone who comes to me but refuses to hate father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters -- yes, even one's own self! -- can't be my disciple.
Now we read that the Lord is making self hatred a condition for discipleship!
This is normal for those who read this and view the hatred of self as the remedy for selfishness.
There could hardly be a more disastrous error, for it renders one blind to the most fundamental principles of the Gospel. Or, perhaps it is because of the blindness that one believes this. The correct words, the ones Jesus utilized, are rendered correctly by the English hate and life.
Affirmation of Self Interest as Self-Love
With that settled, let's now get down to the brass tacks and provide more of
the abundant evidence of acceptance of and approval of self-love in the Word, and see how it works out in practice. The Second Commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and with this before us it is surely foolish to think Jesus wants you to hate yourself. In that case, simple logic demands that we hate our neighbors as we hate ourselves!
We find throughout the gospels, when Jesus speaks, that again and again he appeals to self interest in such a way as to confirm that self interest, concern for oneself as dictated by the love of oneself, is acceptable to him. Take this utterance, that is similar to the exaltation / humiliation utterances already set before us:
Lk.14:10 FNT But whenever you be invited, having proceeded you lay back in the last place, in order that when he come the [one] having invited you will say to you: Friend, move up higher. Then it will be to you glory before all those reclining with you. 11 For everyone exalting himself will be humbled, and the [one] humbling himself will be exalted.
He wants you to be exalted, and he is telling you how to achieve it. It is not a case of simply demeaning yourself, humbling yourself, and that's it. No, but this is the means to an end, and the end is that one may be exalted. The desire of each person to be exalted is absolutely accepted, and it is this desire for oneself to which the Lord appealed throughout his teaching of the Word. Self interest is a valid interest in the Word!
We first see it set before us in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount -- in the Beatitudes -- and then throughout the Sermon this is the central theme. If one is poor in spirit, or simply poor (See Luke's rendition of the Sermon, Lk.6:20-23) one is blessed because one receives the kingdom of God. If one is meek ( not proud or puffed up), and hungering and thirsting for righteousness, or simply hungry and thirsty (Luke), one is to be filled -- to inherit the land! Notice that in Luke, the adverb, "now" is added after certain conditions, and it is inferred after all of them, and also in Matthew. The merciful (now) shall obtain mercy, the pure in heart (now) shall see God; the peacemakers (now) shall be called the sons of God (hereafter). Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake (now) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (hereafter). We come to the grand beatific finale with Matthew 5:11,12 and Luke 6:22,23.
Mt.5:11 FNT Blessed are you when they reproach you and persecute you and say all wickedness against you falsely because of me. 12 Be rejoicing and be being glad, for great [is] your reward in the heavens. For thus they persecuted the prophets before you.
Lk.6:22 FNT Blessed are you when men hate you and exclude you and reproach you and cast out your name as wicked on account of the son of man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap, for behold your reward is great in heaven, for such [things] were their fathers doing to the prophets.
So, it all reduces to an appeal, a direct appeal, to self interest such as one has who loves himself. One naturally desires to be exalted, to be filled, to obtain mercy, etc., and the Lord is telling how to achieve that ultimate self fulfillment! The eternal self fulfillment, the one that lasts forever, requires the temporal self denial.
Then Luke turns it around and lists the Woes.
Lk.6:24 FNT However, Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your satisfaction. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will weep and cry. 26 Woe when all men speak well [of you], for such were their fathers doing to the false prophets.
Do you see, my reader? The case is such -- it has no exceptions -- that those who seek the best things in this life (temporal), are destined to a reversal of fortunes in the life eternal! It is a major maxim of Jesus, what I refer to as The Inversion Maxim. It is as reliable as natural law, as the law of gravity. Jesus urges on us the highest self interest, and teaches that this means to deny the self in time, to humble the self now so as to receive the everlasting blessings in eternity. It is a case of either / or, not of both / and. If one is truly to love oneself, one must do so for the sake of the eternal blessing, which means to deny oneself in time. Go for the gold!
Another common error is to equate self denial with self hatred. But denial is not hatred, nor is self denial to be equated with self hatred. Here is the text on which the erroneous view rests due to misunderstanding:
Mt.16:24 FNT Then Jesus said to his disciples: Whoever wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his psyche-life will lose it, and whoever loses his psyche-life because of me will find it. 26 For how will [a] man be profited if he should gain the whole world and forfeit his own psyche-life? Or what will [a] man give in exchange for his psyche-life?
The context equates self denial with losing the psyche-life because of Jesus. The one who wants to save his psyche-life will lose it, but this is the one who refuses to deny himself. This is one statement of the Great Principle on which the Word of Truth rests, or that is the foundation of the Word of Truth. Here is another highly relevant expression of it from the Fourth Gospel:
Jn.12:25 FNT The [one] philia-loving his psyche-life will lose it, and the [one] hating his psyche-life in this world will guard it to zoe-life eternal.
The hatred is not for the self, but for the life. We see that both of these statements include a promise -- of finding life or of keeping it for life eternal through losing the psyche-life. While the psyche-life is lost for the sake of zoe-life, it is a matter of profit to the individual. Therefore, the wise individual looks beyond the loss of his psyche-life for his profit. He, the individual, is still there and that is what Jesus wants us to understand. Love yourself to the end of receiving the greatest profit for yourself, which will be in terms of things eternal.
Therefore, when the Lord speaks of self denial in Matthew 16:24 he is not speaking of self hatred. Far from it! Indeed, Luke's parallel has this statement, showing expressly that the self is a thing to be saved.
Lk.9:25 FNT For what does it profit [a] man having gained the whole world but having lost or forfeited himself?
The whole gist of these sayings of the Lord with respect to your "self" is to cause us to save ourselves by losing our psyche-lives for his sake. It is an investment for the sake of a profit for oneself! This is rooted in love for one's self that is fundamental to the Second Commandment.
What profit's one?
It is to save oneself by losing one's psyche-life because of the Lord.
When the Good Samaritan stooped to assist the half dead victim of thieves, he was loving his neighbor as himself, but he was doing more than that if we take into considerations all the circumstances of travelers on the road to Jericho. It was notorious for having bandits attack, for they could do so with little fear or reprisal as they then took refuge in the vast wilderness through which the road passed. There was no Highway Patrol. Therefore, by stopping to aid the hapless victim, the Good Samaritan was putting his own psyche-life at risk. That groaning, motionless form by the wayside could be a bandit, luring him to stop and assist so as to gain advantage over him. It was in his immediate self interest to pass by on the other side, quickly, and move on. Therefore his action also represents, in parabolic form, his hatred of his life in this world -- his willingness to risk that life to assist a neighbor to save this life!
Now we can revisit a statement I set forth above:
I have concluded that loving yourself simply means to have that attitude towards yourself that mandates the desire to be merciful to yourself, and ultimately to take action as necessary to preserve yourself -- as the Samaritan preserved the life of the man he found half dead.
This is true, but only when we view it in the light of the The Inversion Maxim. One is merciful to others, now, so as to receive mercy in eternity. One loves the neighbor as oneself now so as to preserve oneself in eternity. The Great Principle rules all.
Mk.8:34 FNT And calling upon the crowd with his disciples he said to them: If anyone would come after me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross, and be following me. 35 For whoever would save his psyche-life will lose it, but whoever loses his psyche-life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it profit [a] man to gain the whole world and forfeit his psyche-life? 37 For what will [a] man give in exchange for his psyche-life? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of man will also be ashamed of him, when he come in the glory of his father with the holy angels.
It's the Second Commandment of the Lord. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we want for them the eternal blessedness, just as we want it for ourselves. Therefore, witness! Be a witness to the Truth, so all that are of the Truth will hear his voice.